“What are the different types of chicken that I’ll find in the grocery store?”
The four main types of chicken are…..
1) Broiler-Fryer. These are very young chickens ranging in age from 7- 13 weeks and weigh any where from 1¼ - 4 pounds. The meat is very tender and they can be cooked just about any way that you choose, i.e., baking, frying, grilling, roasting, etc. One of these chickens will normally feed 3-4 people. This is the most common type of chicken sold in the supermarket today.
2) Roaster. This is another fairly young chicken, 3-5 months old and generally weighs 3½-7 pounds or more. The meat is tender and more flavorful than the Broiler-Fryer and can be cooked using the same methods. A good sized Roaster will feed 5-7 people. More grocery stores are starting to carry Roasters from different processors all the time.
3) Stewing Hen/Chicken. This is an older chicken, 10 months or more in age weighing in the 4-7 pound range. The meat is tasty, but it is tougher than that of the Broiler or Roaster. It is best used in stews, soups and fricassees. These can usually be found in the frozen food section beside the turkeys.
4) Capon. It is a male chicken that has been castrated. They are usually 5-8 months old and weigh 5-9 pounds each. The Capon has a lot of white meat, but it also has more fat content than the Broiler or Roaster, which makes it the tastiest of all chickens. These are best served roasted in the oven or the grill. One Capon will feed roughly 6-9 people. These will be found in the frozen food display with the turkeys. Some stores do not sell them until the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season arrives. In your larger metropolitan areas, some of the upscale markets will sell fresh Capons.
Let’s not forget the Cornish game hens, and poussin, also known as spring chicken. Cornish game hens are very small pump chickens that are a cross between a Cornish and Plymouth Rock chicken. They produce a greater amount of white meat in comparison to their dark meat, than other birds and the meat is very tender. The Cornish hen generally weighs between 1 and 2 pounds and is prepared as a single serving. A poussin is an extremely young, small chicken, and it provides a very mild flavor. Because it is so young, it has very little fat. The Cornish hen can be found both fresh and frozen at your supermarket.
Chickens are also classified according to the method used to raise them. Each method has an effect on the quality of meat. Shown below are some of the methods used.*
1) Natural. Chickens can be labeled as "natural" if it does not contain any chemical preservative, artificial coloring or flavoring, or any other synthetic substance. It can be processed using traditional methods, such as freezing, smoking, roasting, and drying. These minimal USDA standards allow even chickens that have been treated with antibiotics and growth enhancers to be classified as "natural."
2) Free Range. Chickens labeled "free-range" have only one requirement, which is that it must have had access to an outside environment. Free-range chickens are thought to have more flavor meat, but it is generally tougher. The chickens may have been exposed to antibiotics, growth enhances, and steroids.
3) Organic. Chickens labeled "organic" must be certified by a certification entity. To be certified the chickens must be fed organic feed that is made up of grains and soybeans that have been grown in soil that has not been exposed to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or other harmful chemicals. They cannot be treated with any drugs or antibiotics, and they must have outside access. Organic chickens are available for those concerned with consuming a healthier meat and promoting a healthier environment for animals and humans.
4) Kosher. A kosher chicken must be raised and processed with strict guidelines under rabbinical supervision. The chickens are fed only grain and are free-range. They are never given any antibiotics and they are individually inspected. When they are processed, the chickens are soaked in a salty brine solution to give the meat a unique flavor.
5) Conventional. Conventionally raised chickens are raised under confined conditions without exposure to natural sunlight or access to the outside environment. Due to these conditions, growth enhancers are sometimes used to promote growth and the need for antibiotics is greater. Often the conditions are overcrowded and the feed used has potentially been exposed to harmful chemicals. Chickens raised under conventional methods have less flavorful meat than those raised by other methods, such as free-range or organic.
*Information courtesy of Hormel Foods.
Ask-A-Butcher’s “Greek Style” Chicken
8 boneless thighs (or 4 boneless breast halves)
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 gallon size plastic food storage bag
Wash chicken in cold water, pat dry. Rub the chicken pieces with equal amounts of the pepper, garlic, oregano and then just a dash of the Kosher salt. Place chicken into the plastic bag. Whisk together the olive oil and the lemon juice; dump over the chicken. Place the bag into the refrigerator for 4-6 hours, while the chicken takes on these wonderful flavors.
Remove chicken from the bag; let pieces ‘drip dry’. Place the pieces in a 400° grill and cook them INDIRECT (away from the heat side) for approximately 15-20 minutes. Now, move them to the DIRECT side and finish cooking them, about 5-10 minutes or until the internal temperature of the breast is 170° or 180° in the thighs.
Serve with grilled veggies and/or a baked potato.