Chicken is a versatile and affordable food and lends itself to many different recipes and styles of cooking. It is also a good source so protein and minerals such as potassium and phosphorus and, without its skin, is very low in fat.
Chicken Buying and Storing Tips
When buying chicken, look for pieces with flesh that looks light pink and moist and is free of blemishes and bruises. Free-range and corn-fed chickens are available from specialty poultry shops and, while generally smaller and more expensive, tend to have a better flavor and texture than intensively farmed chickens.
Whole chickens are sold by a number that relates to their weight. For example, a No. 14 chicken weighs 1.5kg, and so on. As a general rule, a No. 15 chicken will serve 4 people.
Try to buy chicken last when you are out shopping to minimize the amount of time it is out of the refrigerator. If you are buying a frozen chicken, make sure it is frozen solid and tightly wrapped.
If it has even slightly defrosted, do not try to refreeze it as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria. Continue to defrost it on a tray on the bottom shelf of the refrigeration where it cannot drip onto any other foods. Thawed chicken should be cooked within 12 hours and must never be refrozen.
Fresh chicken should be taken out of its packaging, covered loosely with foil or plastic wrap, and kept on a plate in the bottom of the refrigerator where it cannot drip onto any other food.
Fresh chicken should be used within 2 days, or, alternatively, frozen for up to 8-12 months. When freezing, be sure to expel all the air from the freezer bag before sealing.
- 1kg-13 hours
- 1.5kg-15 hours
- 2kg-17 hours
- 2.5kg-20 hours
- 3 kg-24 hours
- 3.5 kg-28 hours
Whole chickens should be defrosted in the refrigerator. Chicken pieces can be defrosted in the microwave (with the thickest portions to the outside of the plate), but don’t defrost whole chickens in the microwave, as they will defrost unevenly and some parts may start to cook while others remain frozen.
Never defrost chicken at room temperature and never thaw under running water. Bacteria such as salmonella can be activated if a defrosting chicken gets too warm. And it must be fully thawed before cooking begins.
Of course, you can also buy pre-cooked barbecue or chargrilled chicken.
There is plenty of good-quality ready-made chicken stocks or stock cubes available, and chicken consommé can usually be used as a substitute. However, nothing really beats the flavor of homemade stock.
Chicken bones can be bought from a butcher or chicken shop and the neck and giblets of roasting chickens can be added as well. You can also use chicken wings.
To make chicken stock, put 2 kg chicken bones or wings, 2 quartered, unpeeled onions, 2 chopped, unpeeled carrots, 2 chopped celery sticks, including leaves, and 3.5 liters of water in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to the boil.
Skim any scum off the surface as required and add 1 bouquet garni (a bay leaf and sprigs of parsley, thyme, and marjoram tied together with string) and 12 black peppercorns.
Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 3 hours, skimming the surface regularly. Ladle the stock in batches into a fine sieve sitting over a bowl. Gently press the solids with the ladle to extract all the liquid.
Let the stock cool, then refrigerate until cold and spoon off any fat from the top. At this stage, you can reduce the stock to concentrate its flavor (dilute before using) and store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 8-12 months. Makes 2.5 liters.
Other Cooking Tips