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Chicken

Illustration

Preparation, uses, and tips

Wash chicken thoroughly in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Chicken should always be cooked until well done. For best results, particularly when roasting a whole stuffed chicken, use a meat thermometer inserted in the meatiest part of the bird. Internal temperature for a whole chicken should be 165°F (74°C) when the chicken is done.

You can make a visual check to see if the chicken is done by piercing it with a fork. You should be able to insert the fork with ease, and the chicken juices should run clear. Chicken is thoroughly cooked when it is no longer pink inside.

Roasting

Wash whole chicken inside and out under cold running water, then pat dry with paper towels. Mix together 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; sprinkle over outside of whole chicken and inside body cavity, or stuff with bread crumbs, herbs, spices, and vegetables if desired. Hook wing tips under the back of the chicken. Place chicken breast side up in a shallow pan. Roast in preheated 350°F (180°C) oven for 1 hour or until internal temperature reaches at least 165°F (74°C). Let stand 10 minutes before carving.

Frying

In a plastic bag, mix together 1/2 cup flour (60g), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add cut-up chicken parts, a few at a time, and shake to coat. In a large frying pan, heat 1/3 cup (90mL) cooking oil to high temperature. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook, uncovered, about 10 minutes, turning to brown all sides. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook about 20 minutes more or until chicken is brown and fork tender.

Oven-frying

Melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine in a small pan or microwavable dish. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. In a shallow dish, place 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs. One at a time, dip cut-up chicken parts in butter or margarine, and then in bread crumbs, turning to coat well. Place chicken pieces in single layer on lightly greased baking sheet, skin side up. Bake in preheated 375°F (190°C) oven about 50 minutes or until chicken is brown and fork tender.

Simmering

In a large pot or Dutch oven, place 1 whole chicken or 1 cut-up chicken, 3 to 4 pounds (1,350 to 1,800g). Add enough water to cover (2 to 2 1/2 quarts or 1.89 to 2.5 liters), 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 1 small onion, sliced; 1 bay leaf; and 3 celery tops, if desired, for richer broth flavor. Cover and simmer about 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until chicken falls off the bone. Remove chicken from pan and let cool. Separate meat from bones. Discard skin and bones. Cut chicken into desired size pieces.

Steaming

Place chicken pieces on a rack above simmer cooking liquid (broth, wine, or water). Simmer for about 45 minutes; test for doneness.

Broiling

Preheat broiler. Line broiler pan with foil for easy cleanup. Spray the rack of the broiler pan with nonstick cooking spray, if desired. Place chicken halves, leg quarters, parts, or boneless, skinless chicken pieces on rack set in broiler pan. Position oven rack so that chicken pieces on the broiler rack are 6 inches (about 15cm) from the heat source. Broil, turning over several times, until juices run clear and internal temperatures reflect properly cooked chicken. Boneless chicken takes approximately 4 to 5 minutes per side; bone-in pieces, depending on the size, take about 20 minutes per side. Use tongs to turn chicken over to prevent piercing and loss of juices during cooking.

Grilling

For more uniform thickness and even cooking, flatten chicken halves with the heel of your hand before placing them on the preheated grill. To preserve chicken’s natural moisture and to prevent dryness, leave the skin on during grilling and remove it before eating, if desired.

Place chicken halves, quarters, or parts on a prepared grill with the rack about 8 inches (20cm) from the heat source. Grill, turning frequently (using tongs to prevent piercing skin), about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or until fork tender. Chicken drumsticks, thighs, or whole legs (thighs with drumsticks attached) require a longer cooking time than do chicken breasts. Homemade or bottled barbecue sauce (or other glazes) may be brushed on chicken during the last 10 to 20 minutes of grilling time.

To test the temperature, place your palms above the coals or heat source at cooking level. If you have to remove your hands after 2 seconds, the temperature is hot; after 3 seconds, medium hot; and after 4 seconds, medium. More than 4 seconds indicates the grill has not reached cooking temperature.

Microwaving

In a shallow microwave dish, arrange 1 cut-up chicken (or equivalent parts), skin removed, in a single layer, with meatier parts toward the edges of the dish. Brush chicken with 1 tablespoon (15mL) melted butter or margarine. Cover with waxed paper and microwave on High 18 to 20 minutes or about 6 minutes per pound (450g), rotating the dish a half turn after 9 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. When microwaving a whole chicken, use the Medium setting.

Buying and storing tips

Check the “Sell By” date on the package. This date indicates the last day the chicken should be offered for sale. Meat and poultry should be prepared as soon as possible after the date of purchase, and used beyond the Sell By date only occasionally, if at all. Fresh chicken should have no detectable odor; the flesh should feel firm, and the surface should not feel slick.

Store chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Raw poultry can be refrigerated for two days. Cooked chicken can be refrigerated for three days. If not served immediately, cooked chicken should be kept either hot, between 140°F and 160°F (60°C and 71°C), or refrigerated at 40°F (4.5°C) or colder.

When transporting cooked chicken to another dining site, place it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to eat. If a cooked chicken is stuffed, remove stuffing to a separate container before refrigerating leftovers.

Freeze fresh chicken if you do not plan to cook it within two days after purchase. Wrap chicken parts individually in foil or freezer bags before freezing, and label the package for ease in selecting just the right number of parts to thaw for a single meal. Be sure to press the air out of the package before freezing. You may also freeze chicken in its original wrapping. Whole uncooked chickens may be kept for about 6 months in a freezer compartment or 12 months in a deep freeze; chicken cut in parts and frozen is best when used within 3 to 6 months.

Cooked chicken parts may be frozen in the same way as fresh. However, if the dish is made with a sauce or gravy, pack it tightly in a rigid container with a tight-fitting lid.

Thaw uncooked chicken in the refrigerator or in cold water. Never thaw chicken at room temperature. In the refrigerator, a whole chicken (4 pounds or 1,800g) should thaw within 24 hours; cut-up parts require 3 to 9 hours, depending on the size and number of parts. To thaw more quickly, place chicken (wrapped in a watertight bag) under cold water. Change the water often. A whole chicken should thaw in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

For fastest thawing of uncooked or cooked chicken, use the microwave. Thawing time will vary according to whether you’re thawing a whole chicken or parts, and the number of parts frozen together. Use the Defrost or Medium-Low setting, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Turn the chicken and separate parts as they thaw, taking care the chicken does not begin to cook. Repeat as needed.

Varieties

Chickens can be purchased whole, with weights that range from 3 to 10 pounds (1,350 to 4,540g); cut in parts such as breasts, thighs, legs, and wings; and even as ground meat. Some chicken parts are available boneless and skinless. Chicken is usually sold fresh, but in some supermarkets it has been frozen and thawed.

Cornish game hens (also called Rock Cornish hens) are tender, young hens that are specially bred to be smaller-boned and meatier; they have a more delicate flavor. Broiler-fryers are young (about 45 days old), tender birds. Roasters are older, about 10 weeks old. Capons are large (8 to 10 pounds or 3,600 to 4,500g) castrated male chickens that have been kept confined so their meat is tender. Fowl or stewing hens are older, laying hens, and give excellent flavor to soup or broth.

Nutrition Highlights

Chicken, 1 cup (227g) (meat only, roasted)
Calories: 234
Protein: 35g
Carbohydrate: 0.0g
Total Fat: 9.3g
Fiber: 0.0g
*Excellent source of: Selenium (34.4mcg), Niacin (11.0mg), and Vitamin B6 (0.57mg)
*Good source of: Zinc (2.1mg)

*Foods that are an “excellent source” of a particular nutrient provide 20% or more of the Recommended Daily Value. Foods that are a “good source” of a particular nutrient provide between 10 and 20% of the Recommended Daily Value.

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