A Guide to Cooking and Using Chicken

Heather says:

Some of you may know that I have weird taste in fiction, one of my favorite authors is Margaret Atwood who specializes in near-future dystopia -think of it as the opposite of utopia. In two of her novels, science has reached a point where the chicken has been engineered to be little more than a mouth that produces meat called chickie nobs. I suppose it’s supposed to be a dark parody of our society. Lots of people I know will only eat the hygenic, pre-frozen 15% sodium solution boneless skinless chicken breasts; I can’t help but wonder how long until someone introduces the chickie nob concept.

Some would say we’re already there. To counter that I want to challenge you to try something new with chicken.

I believe if you’re only consuming the chicken breast that you’re missing out on the best the chicken has to offer.  I also think those of us who choose to eat meat ought to be at least mindful of the process and part of that is not being wasteful.

Did you know that cooking chicken on the bone yields more tender and flavorful chicken?

Bones contain a lot of moisture and when the chicken is heated, this moisture is released. Think of it as internal basting without all that pesky effort. *Note* I do not actually recommend basting as a technique with chicken, it’s more effective to just leave the oven door closed.

What’s the difference between light and dark meat in chicken?

In chicken, white meat is the breast and wings. White meat has less connective tissue and fat than dark meat. White meat can be cooked by many methods, but over cooking will leave it dry due to its lower fat content.

The thighs and legs of a chicken are the dark meat. These parts contain more fat and connective tissue than its white meat counterpart. Lower heat and wet cooking methods will give the most tender results IF the bird is mature. In the US most chickens are butchered quite young, so the maturity and tenderness concern is usually a non-issue.

More Chicken Recipes

Do you have a recipe for one type of chicken that you would like to use for another?

Great, I found a wonderful chart explaining how to convert chicken recipes and cooking times.

Whole Chicken Ideas

How to Roast a Chicken – this is a great first step. Roasting is a great technique that can be used for company meals and simple dinners at home, it’s a technique all cooks should master.

How to Spatchcock a Chicken – use a sturdy pair of kitchen shears to cut out the spine of a chicken. This allows to the chicken to lie flat for roasting or grilling. With more surface area, this technique significantly reduces cook-time.  It’s also sounds like a dirty word which adds to the fun.

How to Cut Up a Whole Chicken – If you purchase chicken from a local farmer, whole chicken may be your only option. Cutting up the chicken gives you many more options for preparation. For others, sometimes purchasing whole chickens is simply more economical than buying parts.

Recipes for Cut Up Chicken

Chicken Marinated in Balsamic

Chicken with Onions, Peppers, and Mushrooms

Chicken Bog

Chicken on the Cheap

Chicken Thighs and Legs with Garlic and Brown Sugar

Chili Honey Chicken Thighs

Oven Fried Chicken Thighs

Garlic and Soy Chicken Thighs

Pineapple Grilled Chicken

How to Remove a Chicken Thigh Bone – only do this if chicken thighs are somewhere around half the cost of boneless skinless chicken thighs and save the bones for stock.

Using All of the Chicken

Save your bones, wing tips, and chicken backs to make homemade stock. You don’t have to make the stock the same night you cook the chicken. Keep the leftover bones in a freezer bag or other container in your freezer until you have enough for this project. You can use either raw chicken bones or cooked. Some people even roast the bones prior to making stock to get a darker, richer stock. It’s all up to you.

How to make chicken stock – the Asian method

How to make chicken stock – the French method

More thoughts on making chicken stock

Why does my chicken stock taste like water?

How to Use Leftover Cooked Chicken

Chicken Noodle Soup + How to make dumplings

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Salad– please keep in mind I took that picture well before I knew *anything* about food photography.

Jambalaya – did you know most Cajun recipes were simply methods of making the most out of what was on hand? You don’t need the exact recipe, think of it as a technique and feel free to substitute to your heart’s content.

Chicken Pilau

A Final Note

If you’re a bit squeamish, know that familiarity helps. It won’t make the process enjoyable, but the more you have to deal with it, the easier it gets. If you’re pregnant, pass the job on to someone else. I couldn’t bear to deal with poultry during any of my pregnancies. It’s a temporary situation and it will pass . . . eventually.

Feel free to share your techniques in the comments.



5 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Johns on July 10, 2015 at 11:38 am

    I have a question concerning prepping chicken legs. My family LOVES chicken legs but the unsightly blood that sometimes comes along with chicken legs leaves us all a little disgusted. I’ve read about & tried the salt brine method for removing the blood but have had almost no success. Any tips?

    • Heather Solos on July 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

      I’ll turn the answer into a full post. It has a lot to do with the age of the chicken, how the meat has been stored, and the preparation method.

  2. HeatherSolos on March 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I'm the only person in my usual group of people to read her. So weird by locale / peers.

  3. Claudia on March 18, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    Oryx and Crake was my first Atwood book and it is a very good book, but no, not "happy". The chickie nobs idea is really interesting though, especially (in Oryx and Crake) the main character's reaction to seeing actual chickie nobs in the lab as a child, then eating them with no remorse as a teen.

  4. Gregory Pittman on March 11, 2011 at 11:47 am

    For grilling chicken, a very simple and tasty marinade is a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, juice from a lemon, and garlic to taste. Don’t worry if you don’t like garlic. While the garlic is what flavors the chicken (the lemon juice and oil just add moisture) it doesn’t taste “garlicky.” Cook the chicken at a temperature of anything between 350 and 400 degrees. No higher than 400! Cook to an internal temperature of between 165 and 170 degrees and your chicken will be so tender you’ll think it’s still raw. It isn’t raw, because you’ve cooked it to the proper temperature, but it’s delicious and moist and tender. Cut the chicken into slices and top a salad with it or eat it as is.

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