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Ultimate Guide: How to Choose Fresh Chicken

How to Choose Fresh Chicken

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When it comes to people who want to start living a healthier lifestyle, chicken is the number one meat choice. Chicken not only offers a great texture and is easy to season, but has much lower levels of saturated fat compared to red meat. Which combined with its naturally high levels of protein, vitamins and minerals make it a great pick for people who are conscious about their health.

Chicken is an easily available source of protein, vitamins, and minerals (such as vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and minerals including zinc, iron, and copper). It is also a healthy alternative to other forms of meat including red meat. It contains low amounts of saturated fat and is high in the healthy Omega 6 fats as well. There may be numerous ways in which chicken may be served throughout the world.

Chicken can be skewed or served in sausages. It may also be used in a variety of curries or grilled using electrical or traditional grills. Chicken recipes may be deep-fried or breaded or can be used in salads. Almost all cooking methods may be used for preparing chicken recipes. These methods include baking, roasting, and frying. Recipes like chicken nuggets, fried chicken, Buffalo wings, roasted chicken and chicken lollipops are quite common chicken recipes served in the USA. However, no matter what chicken recipe or meal you prepare, it is important to have fresh and good quality chicken.

Knowing what fresh chicken looks like

Choosing a quality and fresh piece of chicken, meat, fruit, vegetable, or seafood is quite important. A variety of options are available when you are trying to buy chicken. These options may include organic, free-range, frozen, and pasture-raised, among others. Any form of chicken you purchase should not carry any odor. Meat should be undamaged and plump, and its skin should have a natural look and yellow tint to it. If a chicken has some strange or bad odor, you should never buy it.

What is a "fresh" chicken?

The fresh labeling of a chicken may mean more than what meets the eyes. Chicken that is labeled as “fresh” will have an internal temperature above 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Thawing and freezing can change the texture of chicken and other foods as well. A chicken that gets frozen once can taste differently. Apart from texture, the water content of the chicken may also get impacted due to activities like thawing and freezing.

What is a fresh chicken

1. Frozen chicken

As the name implies this refers to chickens that have been kept frozen for preservation. While frozen food is easy to keep stored and lasts a long time, it always ends up losing flavor. Freezing and thawing chicken makes it lose a lot of water, and as such frozen chicken ends up losing most of its natural juiciness.

2. Organic chicken

Organic is a standard that ensures food is free of certain chemicals. In the case of chicken if it’s been labeled as organic this means that the chicken themselves are raised with organic food and are raised in a more natural environment. All kinds of organic food, as labeled by the USDA, help you avoid sewage, synthetic pesticides, and genetic engineering. Organic food including organic chicken provides for conservation and sustainability. However, organic meals may be more expensive.

3. Free-range chicken

The chickens that are given access to the outdoors (as approved by the USDA’s Food and Inspection Service) are called free-range chickens. It is found that humane treatment of chickens may provide for a more pristine meat. The free-range chickens get a good diet and a low-stress breeding environment, and so they are healthier than other kinds of chickens. Therefore, a free-range chicken can be a good option and it is quite popular as well.

4. Pasture-raised chicken

Pasture-raised chickens may not carry approval by the USDA. Therefore one may not know what the offering entails. Because the pasture-raised chickens may not have any official definition, the label may not mean much. If you are looking for fresh and healthy chicken meat, you should stick to the free-range chickens. The “farm-raised” label also does not mean much and maybe just as vague and ambiguous.

Other Labels on Chicken Meat

There may also be certain other labels on the chickens that you should know about. For instance, the use of antibiotics in chickens may increase human resistance to antibiotics. Thus, it is better if you go for chicken meat that carries the label of being “antibiotic-free”. On the other hand, the “hormone-free” label may not be necessary as all the chicken being sold legally in the USA has to be free of any kind of hormonal treatment.

Chicken Grading

Do not be astonished if you find grades on the chicken you buy at a grocery store. These grades are provided by USDA. Grade A chicken is devoid of all kinds of deformities, has a good amount of fats and is fleshy. This chicken will be devoid of broken bones, tears, cuts, or discoloration. However, chicken grades including Grade B and Grade C may have a relatively more number of deformities and some other issues as well. Hence the lower grades may not make for ideal choices.

How to check the freshness of the chicken

While labels do help, retailers can freeze “fresh” chicken to avoid it spoiling on their shelves; as such it’s important that you can tell on your own if a chicken truly is fresh. The flesh of the chicken is the best sign, a fresh chicken will always have a pink color, and any other shade means there’s something wrong with the chicken. Similarly fresh chicken is naturally “springy”, if you press down on it it should recover its shape in a matter of seconds. So if it doesn’t it’s old.

Common mistakes you’re making when preparing chicken

You can buy fresh and good-quality chicken meat if you are attentive while you purchase your meat. Here are some common mistakes that you should avoid when you are buying and preparing chicken.

1. Choosing bad chicken

Chicken that has a bad odor smells foul, and has a slimy feeling to it should not be bought or consumed. Also, avoid any chicken that is moldy or has any other growth on it. Fresh chicken (that has not been frozen) will come back quickly to its original shape after you press it. The fresh portion of chicken should have a pink hue as well.

2. Sticking to the breast

Most people may prefer the chicken breast for its tenderness and ease of cooking. However, the chicken thighs may be far easier to cook. Chicken thighs may also be seasoned easily, have a nice texture, and taste better.

3. Washing it

Washing chicken meat may not be an appropriate thing to do, but only when you don’t have a reliable source of water. When raw chicken is run under tap water, it may expose it to certain pathogenic and dangerous bacteria such as the campylobacter bacteria.

Poisoning due to the bacteria may result in certain diseases and symptoms including diarrhea, stomach pain, and vomiting. Rare complications including irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, and nervous system damage may also occur. The cooking process alone will kill all the bacteria in a chicken, and there may be no need to wash or rinse it.

4. Thawing the chicken on the counter

You should not thaw the chicken on the counter after you pull it out of the freezer for defrosting. Bacteria present inside the chicken may start to multiply during defrosting. The best thing to do is to put the chicken in the refrigerator itself for slow defrosting.

5. Not brining the chicken

Brining can add flavor to the chicken, bringing in more juiciness as well. The brining process will also ensure that the meat is not overcooked. Wet bran can be prepared by making a solution of water, sugar, salt, spices, herbs, and aromatics. The mixture is first boiled and then cooled. The chicken pieces can then be added to it. Dry brining uses seasoning sugar and salt, and the mixture is rubbed right onto the meat itself.

6. Not tenderizing the chicken

Tenderizing can be quite important when you have chosen the chicken breast for your recipe. It may however be good for other chicken parts and recipes as well. Many of the issues of chicken cooking and preparation can be avoided if tendering is done beforehand. Tenderizing and chicken pounding will spread the thickness evenly, which subsequently will also provide for quick and even cooking. Your recipe may also be tastier and juicier due to tenderizing.

7. Improper use of the marinade

Marinating can be good for the chicken recipes, but may also make the meat stringy and mushy if done for a long time. However, if the chicken is marinated for less than sufficient time, it will fail to soak up the spices. The maximum time for marinating the chicken is 24 hours, and it should never go beyond that.

8. Not measuring internal temperatures carefully

When cooking chicken, you need to measure its temperature form time to time so you ensure that its cooking well inside. You may need to measure the internal temperature for ensuring that it carries appropriate warmth, and an instant-read meat thermometer can be used for it.

Poultry only has one USDA temperature standard for cooking which indicates that poultry is not recommended to be cooked at different temperatures for different tastes. This could be a measure to ensure food safety, especially since chicken is a poultry product. According to teh USDA, poultry should be cooked at a temperature of 165ºF/74ºC for a perfect cook. Anything more will give you a dry chicken meat and anything less and you’re at risk of consuming undercooked meat.

9. Not providing any rest to the chicken meat

Resting for a chicken recipe and preparation means that the chicken should sit somewhere between 10 to 20 minutes after it is cooked. Resting ensures that the chicken carries enough moisture and juiciness, and is cooked appropriately for enough time. You may need to measure the internal temperature for ensuring that it carries appropriate warmth, and an instant-read meat thermometer can be used for it.

Chicken is a winner every way you look at it. Chicken meat is incredibly healthy with much lower fat content than its competition, but it’s still delicious and filling. Since chicken doesn’t have a particularly strong flavor it fits most tastes, and it’s also very easy to season.

Chicken recipes are favorites across the world for many reasons. They are a good alternative to dangerous meats including red meat. A chicken recipe is high in protein and also contains vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fats.

Chicken in general doesn’t demand much of a cook. Some salt and water are all you need to bring out its flavor. But if you want to go for more advanced spices it takes to them without issue as well. Cooking chicken is honestly very rewarding, and you can try out complex recipes or go for a basic but delicious cut if time is an issue. One way or another, you’ll enjoy a healthy and delicious meal, and as long as you choose the right chicken every meal will be very well worth the effort.

If you are interested in learning more recipes, practical tips, or just be up to date with the most important food news then make sure to subscribe to ThermoPro‘s newsletter. Each article is an opportunity to discover new food and improve on your favorites, so stay connected for more content.

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