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Food Prep 101: Preparing poultry properly
March 6, 2013 - Anita Hanaburgh
Did you read last week’s column? Dressing should be applied to a green salad right before eating. Last week, we talked about meat, primarily beef, pork and lamb. Today, we will talk about meat that comes from birds.
Poultry is a category of birds raised or hunted for their meat for consumption. Poultry is the second-most widely eaten meat in the world. It accounts for 30 percent of meat production worldwide, after pork, which accounts for 38 percent.
Poultry includes birds such as chicken, turkeys, duck, emu, geese, ostrich, pigeons, Cornish game hens, doves and game birds such as pheasants. Being inexpensive and versatile, chicken is the most commonly consumed bird.
About 30 percent of the chicken is fat and bones. The meatiest parts of a bird are the flight muscles on its breast and the walking muscles on the segments of its legs called the thigh and drumstick. Because they are active, the leg and thigh muscles have more myoglobin (protein juice), making the meat dark. Besides breasts and whole legs, chicken also is sold as the whole bird or half, full-wing, divided wing (drumettes and flat), necks, bone-in and boneless.
Like all meats, birds are a good source of protein. During the cooking process the meat protein coagulates, making an edible product. As with all meat, poultry is made up of connective tissue, muscle, fat and myoglobin. As cooks, we are concerned with:
= The species of bird — thicken is prepared differently than its cousin turkey or Cornish game hens.
= The parts or sections — the bird presents a dilemma when it comes to cooking. A lean animal with little or no marbling, it has little fat to keep it juicy when cooked. Fortunately, birds have a strong fatty skin that helps add flavor and protect the juiciness of the meat. The thighs have more fat and juice than the breasts, so if the bird is incorrectly cooked when whole, one part (the breast) could be tough and dry. Different sections should be cooked differently.
= The age or type of the bird — in chickens, a broiler is a young but tender bird about 9 to 12 weeks old and about 1 to 2 pounds. A fryer is older and heavier; a roaster is 7 or 8 months and weighs 2 to 5 pounds. A Cornish game hen is under 2 pounds. A capon is a desexed male that is tender, and stewing chickens are older and tough.
= Cooking the meat thoroughly — poultry, especially chicken, has a high incidence of salmonella poisoning, so it must be cooked thoroughly. (No medium-rare here!)
We determine doneness by:
= Temperature — use an instant read thermometer. Insert into the thickest part of the meat away from the bones, it should read 165 F at the coolest point.
= Touch — when poultry is done it will have a firm texture, resisting pressure and spring back when pressed with a finger.
= Looseness of joints — when bone-in poultry is thoroughly cooked, the leg will begin to move freely in the socket.
= Color of the juice — poultry is done when its juices run clear. Forking a side of the leg will show clear juice. The degree of doneness is known in French as “a point.”
Poultry is a very versatile meat. It can be used as an elegant main entree or a minor part of a soup. It can be cooked with dry methods — grilling, pan frying, roasting — or moist methods such a stewing.
Here’s some poultry vocabulary to use to impress your friends:
Bantam, banty: a very small bird
Biddy: An affectionate or slang word for a hen.
Brood: to care for a batch of baby chicks, or a name for the actual chicks themselves.
Cape: The few narrow feathers that fall between the neck and the back of the chicken.
Cock: A male chicken or a rooster.
Cockerel: A male chicken less than 1 year of age.
Comb: The fleshy and usually red outcrop of skin atop the chickens head.
Coop: A coop is the structure that houses the chickens.
Cygnet: A baby swan
Dusting: When a chicken rolls around in the dirt, flinging it on itself and in between its feathers as a method of cleaning.
Fowl:?Domestic birds generally raised for food.
Pecking order: The social ranking within a flock of chickens.
Perch: The elevated place for a chicken to sleep at night, also called a roost.
Plumage: The set of feathers on a bird.
Poulty: A baby turkey.
Pullet: A female chicken under one year of age.
Sickles: The long and curved tail feathers of roosters.
Straight run: Newly hatched chicks that have not been sexed.
Task to Try:
Lemon Chicken Pan Broiled
4 Bone-in chicken breasts, butterflied
8 fresh basil leaves
Salt and white pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chicken stock
Juice of 2 large lemons
2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
4 tablespoons butter, cut into l pieces
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, minced
Gently ease your fingertips between the skin and the meat to loosen the skin, Insert the basil leaves under the skin. Season generously all sides with salt and pepper. When it smokes slightly, place the chicken skin side down in the skillet. Sear, undisturbed, to golden brown. With tongs, carefully turn. Cover and reduce the heat cooking until done, 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove chicken. Pour off all but a thin glaze of fat from the skillet. Return the skillet to high heat, add chicken stock, lemon juice, and scrape with a spoon to deglaze the pan. Boil the liquid until reduced by half. Lower the heat again, add mustard, and, stirring with a wire whisk, slowly add the remaining butter, to make a creamy sauce. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and stir in the parsley. Drizzle over chicken. Yum.
Quiz: Beef cuts with alot of connective tissue should be: A) pan broiled B) stewed C) grilled D) fried.
To learn more, watch this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zW5BFvCmV7k.
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