Nutritionally, a pastured chicken is far superior to traditionally raised chicken. Chickens that are running around on pasture eating insects, worms, and forage have a great taste, but they also have muscle tone. And chickens with muscle tone may not be as tender.
With a lot of trial and error, I have learned the secret to cooking a tender chicken. The answer is simple.
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Brining the chicken results in moist and tender meat. There are numerous scientific explanations available on the internet as to why this works. Whatever. I’m interested in how.
Before I learned this secret I was slow cooking the bird in order to tenderize it. Every meal tasted like chicken soup.
I like chicken soup. When I’m eating chicken soup. But not every time I eat chicken.
I find that I can now cook chicken a variety of ways with success. For roasting, it is generally best to cover your roasting pan.
The dark meat lends itself beautifully to braising and the boneless breasts are wonderful for stir fry. Or I may cut the chicken into pieces and grill it or roast it covered in homemade barbecue sauce.
Let me know if you try this method and what you think. And if you have any tips, let me know. I’m always open to new ways of cooking pastured poultry.
Update: A reader, Diana, commented and provided some extremely helpful information that is worth adding directly to this post:
|We raise free-range, pastured poultry, and yes, they have more muscle tone. BUT they are still extremely tender. Not tough at all. One thing most people don’t know is that the chicken needs to “rest” in cold, but not freezing conditions, for 1-2 days before freezing. Many processors boast that their birds get frozen immediately after processing, and customers get the impression that this is a safer, better product. All it does is make for a tough bird that needs brining. The chemicals responsible for rigormortis have to break down a little before being frozen. That said, we usually roast ours whole. No brining, just some olive oil or butter, herbs, usually some lemon. Trick is to start with a HOT oven, (425) for 15-20 minutes, then push it down to 350 for the remaining 45 minutes. Thermometer in breast has to read 165, at least. THEN, let bird rest again for 10 minutes before carving, to keep more of the juice inside the meat.|
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How to Brine a Chicken
- Mix the water and sea salt in a large pot until the salt is thoroughly dissolved. Add the bay leaves, if using.
- Add the chicken to the brine. If you are using a very large chicken or a turkey, mix more brine using the same proportions. Be sure the chicken is covered in brine.
- Place a lid on the pot and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- When ready to cook remove the chicken from the brine and pat it dry. Continue with your favorite recipe, but omit any salt.
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