Get to Know Your Chicken...
Chicken is one of the most popular and widely consumed meats in the world. Because of the popularity of chicken, chickens are literally mass produced today often in ways that are unhealthy for both the animal and the consumer. It is therefore extremely important to have an understanding of where your chicken comes from and how it has been handled. Because the labeling on chickens is often inconsistent and unreliable, the best option is to purchase your chicken at a place that knows where it came from and how it was raised. If this is not possible, however, you are best off looking for chickens that are free range, organic, and raised without hormones or drugs.
A Cut Above: Learn to Speak Chicken
Chicken is sold in a variety of sizes and packaged in numerous ways from the whole bird to individual parts. Typically whole chickens less than four pounds are referred to as fryers or broilers; anything over four pounds is called a roaster. Very large chickens are often called stewing chickens and should be used only for braising or stewing because these chickens are older and the meat is often quite tough.
Techniques for Cooking Chicken
Depending on which parts of the chicken are being cooked, different cooking techniques should be used. The white meat, or breast, is extremely lean and not all that flavorful. Dry rubs, brines, and marinades are all good ways to impart chicken breasts with flavor before cooking them. Cooking them with the skin on and the bone intact helps retain moisture and maintain flavor.
Boneless skinless breasts have a very low moisture content and tend to dry out no matter which way or how quickly they are cooked. Chicken breasts are best cooked at high heat for a short amount of time. Grilling, saut�ing, and roasting are all good options. Dark meat, or leg meat, is far more flavorful than white meat and cooks up moist and tender regardless of which technique is used. Slowly braised dark meat chicken, such as in a Moroccan tagine or stew, is full of flavor and moisture, but chicken thighs cooked on a grill or saut�ed are just as moist and delicious. Because of its mild, neutral flavor, and rapid cooking time, chicken lends itself to unlimited flavor combinations and cooking techniques.