There are a lot of misconceptions with chicken cookery – I can understand why when I look through the internet and see what all the “experts” have to say on the matter. There is one person that I trust with most food science and general knowledge, that’s Herald McGee. He has a book called On Food and Cooking where he answers this timeless question as well as many others: So, how do you cook a really great chicken?
When I am looking for a chicken in the market to cook at home, the three most important things are:
- Know your farmer – in an age where a farm has to buy their Organic status from the FDA, the idea of organic has really lost its meaning and attaining an official status is cost prohibitive to many small farmers. The best way to know if your chicken is being raised well is to know the farmer – go to a local Farmer’s Market, say hi, ask questions and try their goods. If the chicken is right, the eggs will be too!
- Look for Pasture Raised – chickens are not naturally vegetarians. They are omnivores and eat small bugs from the ground while they peck around for seeds and stuff. If you let them run wild they are able to eat their natural diet of both plants and insects, leading to better bird health, better taste and nutrition in the meat and a happier life for the animal.
- The last thing I look for is the size of the chicken – does it seem bloated or puffy-looking? If yes, it’s probably water. Commercially raised chickens are fed many hormones and they start to retain water (just like people). What you want is a skinny chicken, one that looks like it’s spent a lot of time being active and foraging in the pasture – all bone and meat!
These are just a few tips, but they have served me well, I hope they help you on your quest for the perfect chicken.