Choosing chicken (in the U.K.)
Raised in well-lit, well-ventilated chicken houses. They should have wood shavings or straw to move around on and constant access to food and water.
These chickens are allowed to roam in a fenced area in the open air for at least part of their lifetime – 56 days. (not necessarily a meadow!) It does not address food sources or chemicals.
Traditional Free Range
These chickens come from breeds which thrive outdoors and have a slower growth rate. They must have access to open air for half of their lifetime – a minimum of 81 days.
Free Range Total Freedom
These are the same as Traditional Free Range, but they must have access to range without fences.
Use of no chemical fertilizers, pesticides, additives or animal by-products allowed in the production of the meat. Access to outdoor space to exercise and comfort areas.
A good quality chicken can be recognized by the skin of the thigh which should be much redder than the rest. This shows the chicken has had exercise and been allowed to run freely. If a chicken has huge breasts for its body size, it often shows that the breed has been chosen for fast growth rather than quality and taste.
Remove the wrappings around a chilled bird and put it on an upturned saucer on a plate (this will allow the bird not to sit in any liquid which avoids bacteria multiplying), then place at the bottom of the fridge and cover with cling film to prevent it from drying out, for no more than 2–3 days.
Thawing a frozen bird
A 3½ lb bird will take about 1½ days to thaw. Pierce the wrapping and place on a plate.
Never thaw any chicken at room temperature. Thaw in refrigerator.
Poultry should be thoroughly cooked but not overdone. Test by piercing a skewer deep in a thigh – the juices should run clear, not red. The flesh should never be dead white in colour – if cooked to this point, it will be chewy and tasteless.
Conserves moisture and adds flavour. Much of the flavour of the chicken comes from its fat and much of this fat lies beneath the skin. Therefore, keep the skin on during cooking and remove it afterwards.
Only use sweet basting sauces towards the end of grilling, as they tend to burn.
Chicken is usually coated with flour or breadcrumbs. It is then cooked in oil. Do not overcrowd the pan, as the cold chicken reduces the temperature of the fat. If the temperature of the fat is too low, the chicken will absorb the fat and the coating will become soggy.
The liquid used to poach chicken, usually bouillon, is heated to just below the boiling point – a slightly lower temperature than that used for simmering.
To sauté chicken, cook it in a little fat over medium to high heat, stirring often, for 3–4 minutes.
Herbs for chicken
In a casserole use Herbes de Provence, basil, sage or tarragon.
In sauces use basil, oregano, sage or thyme.