All About Chicken
The age and weight of a chicken at the time of slaughter determines how it will be classified for marketing as well as the kind of cooking method intended for it. Generally, young birds are more tender and lighter in flavor than older ones. The young birds are best for broiling, frying, roasting and sauteing. Older chickens are better suited to longer cooking methods to tenderize their meat and develop their full rich flavor.
Free-Range Chicken –We feel that these chickens are the most desirable and flavorful. They are not mass produced in over crowded chicken houses. Free range birds are allotted square feet of space as opposed to 1 foot of space for mass produced birds. These birds also have the freedom to roam outdoors. Importantly these birds a feed a special vegetarian diet which are free of antibiotics, animal by products as well as hormones. We feel that even these chickens are somewhat more expensive the represent the best value for healthy eating and overall taste.
Broiling /Frying Chickens – Also called broilers or fryers. These chickens are 7 to 9 weeks old and range in size from about 1 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 lbs. They are tender, mildly flavored and can be broiled, fried or roasted.
Roasting Chickens – Also called “roasters”. These birds are about 16 weeks old and usually weigh between 4 and 6 lbs. They are tender and are excellent for roasting but also can be fried or broiled.
Capons – These are male chickens that have been castrated. They are approximately 16 weeks old and generally range in size from 5 to 7 lbs. They are meatier, more tender and flavorful and contain more fat than roasting chickens. They are excellent for roasting.
Stewing Hens – Also called “soup chickens”, these adult chickens range from in age from 1 to 1 and 1/2 years and and in size from about 4 and 1/2 lbs to 7 lbs. Their meat is richly flavored but tough and stringy, so they must be cooked by a moist-heat method. They are ideal for soups and stews.
Rock Cornish Game Hens.-These birds are usually 4 to 6 weeks old and range in size from 3/4 to 2 lbs. They are very tender and mildly flavored. They can be roasted, broiled or fried.
Fresh, uncooked chicken can be kept up to two days in the refrigerator. If you are not certain it will be cooked within that time, it should be frozen as soon as it is brought home from the store.
Chicken that has been packed in plastic bags or on trays and heat-sealed in plastic may be kept in the refrigerator in the original packaging. Chicken that has been wrapped in meat market paper should be removed form its original paper, rinsed in cold water and repackaged in plastic bags, clear plastic wrap or food storage containers before refrigerating.
Chicken should never be allowed to remain in it’s original store packaging; it should be repackaged. The best materials to use for wrapping chicken are those that are moisture-proof and vapor-proof. These include specially coated freezer paper, freezer bags, vacuum packing bags and heavy duty aluminum foil.
To prepare whole uncooked chickens for freezing remove the giblets from the body cavity, rinse the chicken with cold water and pat dry with paper toweling. Trim off any excess fat. Fat may be reserved for another use. Wrap the chicken in moisture-vapor proof material then place in a freezer bag. Label it with contents and date. Freeze the giblets and chicken fat separately.The same procedure should be followed to freeze the chicken parts, but they should be packed a few pieces to a package so they freeze quickly.
Cooked chicken can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. It should be cooled slightly after cooking, wrapped in plastic and placed in food storage containers.
Maximum Storage Time for Freezing Chicken at zero degrees F.
Whole chicken 8 to 12 months
Cut up chicken and chicken parts 6 to 9 months
Giblets 3 months
Cooked chicken 1 month
Cooked chicken, in main dishes or casseroles 3 to 6 months