Chickens are classified by their age and weight. In addition, chicken can be packaged as individual pieces such as breasts or thighs.
Just a little bit of understanding about the various options available to you when buying chicken goes a long way when looking for the right chicken for that perfect dinner.
- Broiler-fryers– 7 to 10 weeks old 1-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds. Best for frying, broiling or roasting. An average fryer (also called broilers) will yield 3-5 servings.
- Roasters– 16 weeks old 4 to 6 pounds. Best for rotisserie and roasting. Depending upon the size, a roaster will yield 4-8 servings.
- Stewing Hens– 1 to 1-1/2 years old 4-1/2 to 7 pounds. Tough chicken, but flavorful. Best for soup stock or stews. Again, depending on the size a stewing hen should yield 4-8 servings.
- Tenders– A commercially produced cut of skinless chicken, usually from the underside of the breast.
- Pieces– Every part of the chicken can be purchased individually. These are usually broiler-fryers. Great if your preference is white or dark meat. A good rule of thumb with chicken pieces is to figure a half pound per serving.
The younger the chicken, the quicker they cook. When grilling, a young chicken cooks very quickly, yet a stewing hen can produce a better tasting chicken if indirect and slow cooking methods are utilized.
Fresh chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. If your plans to use the chicken is longer than two days, ti’s best to freeze it right away. Chicken can be safely stored in the freezer for up to two months in its original packaging. If longer storage is planned, it’s best to double wrap it in freezer paper, plastic wrap or freezer bags.
Frozen chicken should be thawed in the refrigerator. Never thaw a chicken at room temperature. There could be a chance for bacteria growth. Thawing a whole chicken will take approximately 24 hours. Plan about 4 hours per pound for chicken pieces.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness truly applies when it comes to handling chicken. Salmonella is a serious threat with raw chicken. Anything that comes into contact with raw chicken should be washed in hot soapy water. This includes, cutting boards, utensils and knives, counter tops and your hands. Never put cooked chicken back in the dish that contained it when it was raw without washing it first.
Always cook chicken completely and for safety’s sake, invest in a quick read meat thermometer to check doneness. The thermometer should read 160-degrees F. Insert into the thickest part of your chicken, like the thigh or breast.
For more information about the chicken than I could ever present here, visit the USDA’ s Food Safety and Inspection Service.