In her book Pasture Perfect: The Far Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs, and Dairy Products from Grass-Fed Animals, Jo Robinson explains how products from animals raised on pasture are great for our health. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my basis for choosing food to just be that it does not contain harmful substances such as hormones, antibiotics, or pesticides. I want to go much farther than that, and choose food that is nutrient-dense.Continue Reading
When we purchase pastured chickens from our local farmer, we always buy them whole. Many farmers only sell whole chickens, although ours does offer the option of purchasing them cut up. It is a considerable savings to buy them whole and cutting up a chicken into parts takes only a few minutes.Continue Reading
Long Way on a Little, Shannon Hayes 4th book, is for meat lovers. It convincingly argues that we can lower our food costs and still pay farmers fairly by reducing waste and using all of the animal. The book is full of recipes for cooking pastured poultry and pork, and grass fed beef and lamb. But Long Way on a Little is more than a cookbook. Hayes, in an interesting and concise manner, discusses the role that grazing animals have in maintaining both our health and that of the earth. She teaches us “how to make each animal fully count”.Continue Reading
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 are not as tender.
With a lot of trial and error, I have learned the secret to cooking a tender chicken. The answer is simple. 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.
To every gallon of water, I stir in 3/4 cup of sea salt. I find that a gallon of water is generally just enough to cover an average size chicken. Sometimes I add onion or bay leaves to the water. Sometimes I don’t. I don’t find that it makes a huge difference. I add the chicken to the brine and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. I then remove the chicken and pat it dry. I season according to the recipe I am using but I omit the salt in the recipe.
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.|