Chicken Tips: Everything You Could Possibly Want to Know!
These tips will cover everything you could possibly need to know about chicken, but first I'd like to share this fond memory.
Being the son of a preacher, I enjoyed many Sunday dinners as a guest in friends homes eating....you guessed it! When we said grace we somtimes prayed for steak, but it seemed a rumor had been started about preachers liking chicken so I can only guess the congregration didn't want to disappoint the Reverend!
Over the years it has always been a main staple for food, so with that in mind we have prepared these tips for you.
One of the most important tips to remember is
"ALWAYS wash your hands before and after handling raw meats!!!"
Read the package label! This should provide the following information: What parts are contained in the package, a product description, the total weight, a "sell-by" date, and nutritional information. The "sell-by" date is 7-10 days after it was slaughtered, and if properly refrigerated, it should remain fresh 2-3 days after that date. If it is a "use-by" date, the meat should be cooked or frozen by that date.
Appearance: Choose plump-looking pieces. Look for skins that are not transparent or patchy in appearance. When choosing fresh chicken, avoid the packages that show signs of freezing; do this by feeling or looking for ice formation. When buying it already frozen, select one that is rock hard and shows no signs of freezer burn.
Use moisture-proof wrap or bags when freezing chicken. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used because it would not hold the moisture in the meat.
Be sure all packages are marked with the content and the date it was frozen.
Wrapping individual parts in foil or with freezer wrap and then placing in a freezer bag will allow you to take out only the number of pieces you will need.
Freeze your fresh meat as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
Store frozen meats in a freezer unit to obtain maximum storage time.
Thaw frozen chicken using one of three methods: (1) In the refrigerator; (2) in a cold-water soak, changing the water out for fresh cold water every half-hour; or, (3) in the microwave. CAUTION: NEVER thaw at room temperature as this causes bacteria to grow and will cause serious illness.
Be sure the meat, particularly a large whole bird, is defrosted thoroughly to ensure proper cooking. Place a hand inside the cavity of the bird to check for ice crystals. If any crystals are present, more thawing time is needed.
Thawed meats should be cooked as soon as possible. If not using the chicken immediately, store in the refrigerator and use within 24 hours of thawing.
Remove the giblets from the cavity of a whole bird as soon as thawing allows.
While it is thawing, be sure drippings do not contaminate other food or preparation surfaces.
If the stuffing will be cooked in the cavity of the bird, use the following guidelines. However, it is recommended that the stuffing be cooked outside of the bird in a separate dish to reduce the risks of bacterial growth.
Thoroughly rinse inside and outside before stuffing.
Before placing any stuffing inside the cavity of the bird, make sure the stuffing has had time to cool completely.
Be careful not to overstuff the bird because the stuffing expands while cooking.
The stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Once the meat and the stuffing are both done, remove the stuffing from the chicken immediately.
CAUTION: NEVER stuff the bird in advance. Stuffing in advance will increase the risk of bacteria growth. Stuffing can, however, be made in advance and refrigerated separately from the chicken and then inserted just before cooking.
Tips for Checking Doneness:
When cooking a whole bird, the skin should be golden brown and the legs should move easily in their joints.
When pricked in the thigh or breast, the juices should run clear with no pinkish coloring. Tilting a whole bird up, so the juices from the cavity run out, should also show clear juices.
To ensure doneness, check the temperature with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh or breast should produce a temperature of 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
When a slit is cut into the thickest part, it should show meat that is opaque in appearance.
Tips for Frying:
For the best, mouth-watering fried chicken, it is best to leave the skin on while cooking. If desired, remove the skin before eating to save calories.
When pan-frying, cover for the first 5 minutes of cooking and then uncover for the remainder of the cooking time. Covering for a short period of time will help cook the chicken thoroughly.
Use tongs or a spatula instead of a fork when placing the pieces in the pan or when turning the pieces. Piercing the pieces with a fork causes the juices to escape.
Be sure all utensils and equipment are dry before they come in contact with the oil. Water will make the oil splatter when heated.
Using canola oil provides a milder taste, plus it contains healthier amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
Remove the cooked pieces from the oil as soon as they are done. To keep the meat warm while the rest of the pieces are cooking, set the pieces that are done on a baking pan covered with paper towels and place it in the oven at a low temperature.
Do not cover it once it has finished cooking, because covering will cause the coating to loose its crispiness.
More Tips for Frying:
Dip the pieces in evaporated milk mixed with a little egg before dipping in the dry coating mixture.
Use a Ziploc-type plastic bag or even a brown lunch bag for coating the pieces with the coating mixture before frying.
To add fiber to your diet, as well as texture to the coating, add some wheat germ or bran to your coating mixture.
To help the coating stick to the pieces better, go ahead and prepare it to cook and then refrigerate (uncovered) for up to an hour before frying.
You can use cracker crumbs or try unsweetened cereals (i.e., Corn Flakes) for coating mixtures.
For extra-crispy fried chicken, use a 50/50 mixture of cornstarch and flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder along with your favorite seasonings.
For a drier, crispier coating, fry just until browned and then finish cooking in the oven at a temperature of 350 degrees.
The parts of the bird you're not using can be put in a pot with some parsley, carrots, and enough water to cover. Simmer these ingredients until the liquid portion has been reduced by about half, strain and refrigerate. After it has chilled, skim off the fatty layer covering the top and use what's left for soups and sauces, or freeze it.
Great Grilling and Broiling Tips:
To prevent dryness, leave the skin on during cooking, which helps preserves the chicken's natural moisture.
Be sure racks are clean and coat them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray to help prevent sticking.
When grilling, aromatic wood chips such as hickory, mesquite, apple or cherry, can be added to the preheated coals to give the meat a distinctive flavor.
Place the smaller pieces of meat around the outer edges, further away from the main heat source, to allow them to cook slower.
Do not use a fork to turn the pieces as they cook. The piercing causes the juices to escape.
To reduce grilling or broiling time, partially cook it in the microwave first. Microwave on high approximately 4 to 5 minutes per pound, or 3 to 4 minutes if using cut up parts. Grill or broil the microwaved pieces of chicken immediately to finish cooking.
Marinate before steaming to give the meat a distinctive flavor.
Other flavor can be transmitted into the meat by adding ingredients such as celery, carrots, onions, or fresh gingerroot to the steaming water.
Making a few cuts through the top and bottom surface of the chicken will allow the heat to penetrate more evenly throughout the cooking process.
Other ingredients, such as vegetables, can be steamed with the chicken, but do not overcrowd.
Avoid removing the cover to the pot during the cooking process. This will allow heat and steam to escape, resulting in extended cooking times.
For additional flavor, season the liquid with sage, dried rosemary, dill, thyme, tarragon or other such herbs. Other flavorings such as garlic, onion, and ginger can be also be added for even more flavor.
Rubbing the chicken with lemon juice and then poach in water containing lemon juice or white wine vinegar will help to keep the flesh of the meat white when cooked.
If the poached meat is to be eaten cold or added to another dish, allow the meat to cool in the liquid to provide a moister texture. However, this procedure should be avoided in warm weather because the meat then should be cooled as quickly as possible and then refrigerated.
After cutting the cooked meat off the bones, return the bones to the liquid it was cooked in and simmer longer to increase the flavor of the broth.
Cut ingredients into small even-sized pieces. Using the same size pieces will assist in a more evenly quick cooking of all ingredients. For your convenience, you can purchase the vegetables pre-cut for stir-frying but be prepared to pay more for them.
To make the cutting of chicken into thin strips easier, place the meat in the freezer for up to an hour to firm it up, or if it was already frozen, cut it into the thin strips before it is completely thawed.
Use metal or wood utensils for stirring and tossing ingredients while cooking and avoid using plastic because it might melt when exposed to the high temperatures used for stir-frying.
After cutting the chicken into thin strips, be sure to properly clean the work area. Wash the cutting boards in hot soapy water after each use and use a mild bleach solution periodically.
To eliminate any additional moisture loss, avoid freezing if possible. Thawing causes moisture loss which, in turn, results in less tender meat.
When storing chicken in the refrigerator, keep it wrapped tightly. This keeps it from drying out which causes toughness of the meat.
To increase tenderness, leave the skin on the chicken when cooking it; this helps to keep the juices in, increasing its tenderness.
Place a piece of foil overe the breasts to keep this area from drying out as it roasts. Remove the foil during the last 30 minutes of roasting time so that the skin is allowed to brown properly.
Cook to the proper temperature, because undercooking the chicken will cause it to be tough and overcooking the chicken causes loss of moisture, making the chicken drier.
Let roasted chicken set for 10-15 minutes before carving to allow juices to be distributed throughout the meat. Standing the chicken up with bottom end up allows more juices to run into the drier breast area.
Cutting meat across the grain will produce slices with shorter fibers, resulting in more tender pieces.
When adding cooked chicken to dishes that have a long cooking time, it is best to use dark meat because it will stay moist longer than white meat.
"Light" Cooking Tips:
Roasting chicken on a rack, broiling and grilling are cooking methods that allow fat to drip away from the meat. Poaching, steaming and microwaving are methods of cooking where no additional fat is used. All provide for less fat content in the meat when it is done.
When frying or browning chicken in a pan, use a nonstick skillet, which requires less added fat, or use a nonstick skillet with a fat-free nonstick cooking spray to reduce the amount of fat used.
Reduce added fat by seasoning chicken in marinades that are low-fat or fat-free. Use ingredients such as wine, juices, low-fat yogurt, spices, and herbs for marinating.
Removing the skin before eating chicken eliminates about two thirds of the fat content.
When stewing chicken for soup, let broth cool and then discard fat that forms on top before reheating to serve.
When adding chicken to a recipe that calls for a measured amount, determine how much chicken is needed by following this standard rule of thumb: One pound of boneless chicken will equal approximately 3 cups of cubed chicken.
When roasting a chicken, an untrussed chicken will cook faster and more evenly than a trussed chicken.
Covered chicken takes longer to cook in the oven than uncovered chicken.
When grilling, frying, broiling, sauteeing, etc., remove the smaller pieces as they become done so as to avoid overcooking; the larger pieces will obviously take longer to cook. However, keep in mind that white meat and smaller pieces, such as breasts and wings, will get done faster than the dark meat pieces, such as legs and thighs.
For a quick test of doneness when roasting a chicken, hold on to the leg, move it around, and side-to-side. The leg should move freely at the joint if it is done. Be sure to use other methods for checking doneness also!
Do not overcrowd the pieces when cooking. Leaving space between them will allow them to brown and cook more evenly.
If basting with a marinade, be sure to set some of the sauce aside for basting before putting raw meat into it for marinating. CAUTION: You should NEVER reuse marinade for basting if raw meat has been marinating in it. This can contaminate your food.
Always use sharp knives while carving or cutting up this mean. Using sharp knives makes the job a whole lot easier and faster, especially when cutting in and around the jointed areas, and provides more neatly cut pieces or slices of meat.
Whether you are just learning to cook or you've been cooking for many years or somewhere in between, we hope you learned something new in these tips that you can use the next time you're in the kitchen!
After you finish you meal take the left over chicken bones and scraps and place them near the ant mound. Within an hour the bones will be covered with ants, simply spray the ants with an insecticide and you will kill a large portion of the colony. Repeat this step several times in a month and soon all the ants will be gone. Make sure to pick up the bones so pets wont eat them.