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12 February 2010 @ 07:10 pm
Chicken Help Requested!  
Dear meat-cooking faction of my friends list,

I would like to make some chicken. I want it to be a mix of white and dark meat, something that I can easily convert into small pieces, and fairly tender (not dry, not very chewy). It does not need much of a sauce, because most of it will go into the freezer for Earthling Chicken Salad. (Chicken pieces + diced fresh tomatoes + olive oil + choice of flavoring.) Ideally, it should keep all the fat it came with.

What do I need to buy? (Keep in mind that I am buying this for Tiny Alice Waters, and thus should probably go for higher-quality chicken, if there is a variation in quality amongst chickens; also, for reasons of personal moral qualms, I am willing to pay more for more humanely-treated chicken, if that exists.) Where should I buy it? What do I need to do? How can I make chicken happen?

Please keep in mind that although I am a good home cook, I have never made meat. I was a vegetarian long before I learned to cook, so meat has always been a total blind spot in my kitchen vision, if that makes sense. If there is a ritual anointing that anyone would know to do? I don't know it. If there's some safe-handling thing that is so insanely obvious that no one ever mentions it? I won't do it unless you tell me to do it. You know those exercises you had to do in school where you had to pretend the teacher was an alien (generally not much of a feat of imagination, there) and explain to her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Please pretend I am an alien, because I am. I have never visited Planet Meat before. I need a very thorough travel guide.

I have a crockpot, and if a crockpot can produce this kind of food, I would prefer to use it, since mine has three crocks and one can just become the Meat Crock. But if there is an easy, non-crockpot method for producing chicken, I would also enjoy hearing about it. (Please nothing that requires setting fires. I would prefer to emerge from this with all my parts basically intact.)

I would really appreciate your help. (And Tiny Alice Waters would, too.)

Abyssisabyssinia4077 on February 13th, 2010 03:43 am (UTC)
Boneless will probably be easier to work with, though I'm not sure dark meat comes in a boneless variety. However, cooked chicken comes right off the bone, so I expect (having never used a crockpot) you could cook the chicken in a crockpot (with some liquid?) and then shred it from the bone with your fingers (easy to do when I'm making matzoh ball soup...). If you don't use a lot of liquid, most of the fat, etc should stay on the chicken and you can freeze the shredded bits and pull out as needed.

Do you have any kind of local butcher? That might be your best bet for finding good chicken and they could give you some advice in that regard. Alternately, Whole Foods would be an option. I would buy a whole chicken (fryer/whatever the store calls it) which looks like a chicken with no head, feet, or feathers. It will probably come with "giblets" (heart, liver, kidneys, neck) in a bag which you can either toss or boil for broth. You should be able to stick the chicken, whole, in a crockpot with some water or broth and cook all day (again, I'm not sure about crockpot settings, but the internet should know). Then once it cools you can rip it apart with fingers, remove bones and cartilage and skin, and rip the cooked meat into smaller bits and freeze like that.

Chicken looks very different cooked vs. raw - raw is pink and vaguely slimy looking, while cooked is drier looking and, um, not pink or slimy? So you can easily tell while shredding if it's cooked. If it's not, just boil it in water a bit.

Mostly if you leave the skin on and chicken whole while crockpotting it you won't lose much fat and the meat won't get as dry.

I....have no idea if that helps.
Abyssisabyssinia4077 on February 13th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)
Oh, and safe handling-wise, anything that touches raw chicken should be carefully cleaned with soap and hot water. I've known people who pour boiling water on anything that touched raw meat, but it's never seemed necessary personally.
(no subject) - grey_bard on February 13th, 2010 04:44 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - rydra_wong on February 13th, 2010 09:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
Mara: Alton Brownmarag on February 13th, 2010 03:44 am (UTC)
Honestly, my favoritest thing in the world is to buy a cut-up chicken (i.e., somebody else cut off the legs, breasts, wings, etc., and put them in a nice tidy package).

Then I just pull it out, cut off any loose bits of skin hanging around, spray it with some oil, sprinkle on salt and pepper, put it on a broiler pan, and bake it at about 450 for 30-45 minutes. (You want to put it with meat side down for about half the time, then flip it over about halfway through.)

For some variation, you could brush on a mixture of brown sugar, fish sauce, and coriander near the end of cooking time. Or just about any bottled sauce.

As for safe handling tips, be sure to wash the knife, cutting board, and your hands with hot, soapy water before you use them for anything else.
Sophie: doctor!alias_sqbr on February 13th, 2010 03:49 am (UTC)
I don't own a crockpot, but from my experience of oven poaching chicken and what recipes I've seen you can just chuck a whole chicken in a crockpot with some soup/stock stuff (salt, pepper, onion, carrot etc) and have it come out nice.

You can also poach or oven roast bits of chicken (pieces, breasts, thighs etc) Google "poach chicken" or "roast chicken". Those are the easiest methods I've found.
What the Monkey?svilleficrecs on February 13th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
http://www.amazon.com/Taylor-9842-Commercial-Waterproof-Thermometer/dp/B00009WE45 A digital thermometer is totally worth the 14 bucks if you're getting into the world of meat. So much easier just to check if the middle's done this way rather than wonder or cut, etc.
What the Monkey?svilleficrecs on February 13th, 2010 03:52 am (UTC)
Also, I love foodgawker for inspiration. http://foodgawker.com/?cat=9&s=chicken something here should catch your fancy.
zillah975 on February 13th, 2010 03:51 am (UTC)
I am not much of a cook
But here are my thoughts:

You could poach it. That's probably the easiest way to get chicken that can be easily put into salads and stuff.

When I cook chicken, typically I'm doing the boneless skinless chicken breast thing, so I have very little experience with cooking chicken with fat. However, when I cook chicken, I typically mix some spices into olive oil (usually tumeric and a little curry and salt, but you can use whatever sounds good, I think) and then smear the olive oil onto the chicken breasts and cook them in a glass baking dish at about 425 for around 30 minutes. The olive oil helps keep the chicken from getting dry.

Cook it just until it's no longer pink inside.

On the safe-handling thing, here are my tips:

If you buy it fresh, cook it within a day or so of buying it. If you buy it frozen, thaw in the refrigerator, not on the counter, and cook it when it's thawed.

If you're going to cut it up before cooking (I recommend buying pieces, not a whole chicken, because I'm afraid of cutting them up), use a different cutting board than you cut your veggies on if you can. Either way, be sure to wash the cutting board thoroughly in hot soapy water afterwards. Basically, keep chicken juices away from other things and clean up thoroughly whatever the chicken gets close to.

Rinse the chicken before using it, including rinsing under the skin. Rinse the chicken! I'm not sure everyone does this, but I wouldn't think of cooking chicken without rinsing it.
Merlin Missy: Pancakesmtgat on February 13th, 2010 03:54 am (UTC)
Let us talk. Chicken is surprisingly easy.

First, buy a whole one (I buy about five pounds for a family of four, with leftovers for two-three days of all of us eating or a week with just me). If you can find one that meets your ethical standards at the local Whole Foods, TJ's, or co-op, go for it. If it is frozen, defrost it in the fridge for 1-2 days and, if necessary, remove the bits from the chest cavity after defrosting. (Sometimes there are necks and giblets stuffed in there. You can make gravy, make stuffing, cook them up and feed any carnivorous pets, or just toss them. If you toss, do it on Trash Day, 'cause they'll smell.) cadhla has a gorgeous recipe for roasting a whole chicken that involves ginger ale. You can also marinate it while it defrosts in something salad dressing like. (Discard the marinade when you're done. NOT EVERYONE DOES THIS. THEN THEY DIE.)

Preheat your oven to about 350-375 F. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. If you're going to use the skin for food, toss a sprinkle of salt and pepper on it, option on a little garlic and onion powder. If you're feeling *really* adventurous, now is the time to slide in pats of butter(like substance) between the skin and the meat. It can make it extra juicy. Your call.

If you have a nice covered baking pan, put it in, put on the lid, and cook for about two hours, until the internal temp measured with a meat thermometer in the thigh reaches over 180 F (I go to 190), or until the meat is falling off the bone. If you lack that, you can use a 9x13 baking pan, though covering the pan and the chicken with aluminum foil will help lessen the mess and keep in the juices.

When it's done, let it cool and denude the bones. (It may have a blood pocket or two; these are cooked and only look gross. If you buy kosher chicken, it shouldn't be a problem. You're more concerned with if it's pink beside the bones. If you cook until fall-off-the-bone is reached, it shouldn't be an issue.)

I am no good with crockpotting a full chicken, but I'm positive it can be done with similar prep and a much longer cooking time.

Good luck!
Girlfriend Resplendent Valentineimkalena on February 13th, 2010 06:59 pm (UTC)
Plus if she buys kosher chicken, it'll be the most delicious thing ever, because of the brining. :) Keeps it moist and tender.

Martha Wells: SGA Hugmarthawells on February 13th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)
Food Network has tons of chicken recipes. And they tell you the level of difficulty, time it takes, etc. And they should have crock pot recipes, too.

I always try to buy organic, cage free chicken, which you should be able to get at most Whole Foods.
shayheyredshayheyred on February 13th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
I've discovered that pretty much any chicken parts, white, dark or a mix, in a crock pot with a liquid (chicken, vegetable or any other stock, plus general spices (salt, pepper, maybe sage and/or onion, or what is packaged as "poultry seasoning") will come out succulent and delicious. If you put in more stock you will get something like stew - even more and it will be virtually chicken soup. I've never had it fail.

Also? Everyone's notes about hygiene with chicken are very important, as is the need to cook it until it is no longer pink or red near the bone. And I would choose chicken on the bone, rather than boneless, for taste.
Sanjsanj on February 13th, 2010 03:58 am (UTC)
Check with ellen_fremedon, because this is her thing, not mine -- but she does this thing where she takes a whole chicken, washes it off, and puts it in the crockpot. Maybe with some salt, pepper, and lime. The juice in the chicken and the steam in the cooker poach it and it produces meat that is very soft and perfect for chicken salad.

Just get the best little organic chicken you can and stick it in there. Tiny Alice Waters should approve.
Sienamystic: castlesienamystic on February 13th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
Couple of teaspoons of lemon juice and some honey works nicely too.
misspamela: crockpot- toocuteiconsmisspamela on February 13th, 2010 03:59 am (UTC)
Crockpot a whole chicken! It's super easy, you keep all the fat, and the chicken just kind of falls apart without any weird...butchering. (Says I, who was vegetarian for 12 years until last year.) It will be incredibly tender. You just need to buy a whole chicken, pull the bag of giblets out of the inside, salt and pepper the crap out of it, and cook it in the crockpot for 8 hours on low. If you want garlic, lemon, herbs, whatever, you can add that. If not, it's still delicious!
Miss Molly etcmissmollyetc on February 13th, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
First off, poultry of any kind should be kept separate from all other cooking ingredients during preparation. Wash knives after use if you're going to then cut vegetables, and make sure to wash your hands before you touch anything else, if you've touched the poulty.

Secondly, chicken thighs are a good source of light/dark meat and have quite a bit of fat to them so you don't have to add as much oil or fat to the cooking process. You can get them boneless, or with the bones still in. Generally, I get them without the bones simply because it cuts down on processing time.

Cook until it's no longer pink inside, usually I'd say four-five minutes on each side. If you cut into the chicken before it's all the way cooked the juices will escape and it will no longer be as juicy (this does not stop me from doing it when I cook chicken, but oh well!) If you don't want to pierce the chicken, you can test the done-ness of the meat by pressing on the chicken from time to time in the cooking process; the more firm the chicken, the more cooked it is.

Poaching a chicken will work, but it will lose a lot of its flavor because you're basically making chicken stock. All the flavor goes into the cooking water. Generally, I recommend baking chicken, it doesn't require a lot of thought and comes out well.

Before cooking, put a thin coat of olive oil in the bottom of an oven-safe dish, so that the chicken doesn't stick to the bottom of the dish.

Put the chicken in the oven-safe dish

Add spices if you want (Salt, pepper, etc.)

Heat oven to 350 degrees, and cook chicken until done (usually about half an hour to an hour depending on how many chicken pieces there are.)

If you want to cook it in a crock pot, that recipe works rather well too, I think. I've never used a crock pot before, so I can't be certain.
.hackthis on February 13th, 2010 04:03 am (UTC)
To agree with everyone, but give it a different name. Mark Bittman, the author of How to Cook Everything (which also has a vegetarian version) does this AWESOME recipe called (quite fittingly) Chicken in a Pot scroll down a bit for the recipe. I just had this for the first time a few months ago and it was utter bliss.
zillah975 on February 13th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
(I love that book. My sister gave it to me for Christmas one year and it's the reason I can cook at all.)
Doctor Science: food pornmecurtin on February 13th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
Given your level of non-expertise, I recommend *not* getting a whole chicken. In my considerable experience, they require extra (rather disgusting if you're not used to it) cleaning that you don't want to do.

Do not get boneless-skinless chicken breasts, they're not fatty enough for Earthingly-age humans. Go to whatever local grocery is more upscale. You want to get the pricey, free-range-type chicken, a package of breasts (white meat) and a package of some combo of thighs and/or legs. However, if they have boneless-skinless dark meat (thighs or legs), those pieces will be fatty enough for Earthling nutrition, and probably a good deal cheaper than white meat. There's a lot of fat in thigh meat in particular.

Even free-range-type chicken should be treated like toxic waste. I am not kidding. Cook the chicken within 48 hours MAX of getting it home. Take it out of its package and rinse it in the sink under cold water. Pat it dry with paper towels.

For your purposes, you may well be quite successful just poaching the chicken in the microwave. Put your chicken pieces in a microwave-safe bowl at least twice as large as the chicken, put in water to just cover, add a bay leaf and a sprinkle of thyme. Do not add salt, it will toughen the meat. Cover the bowl. Nuke for 10 minutes on high, poke it to see if it's done, nuke in 3 minute increments until the dark meat is non-pink all the way through. Post a picture to your LJ if in doubt.

When it's cooked, let it cool and then strip the meat off the bones (if any) and chop it into Earthling-bits. I strain the broth and freeze it (and leftover bones) to incorporate into homemade stock, but that's a whole 'nother production and more of a commitment to the carnivorous lifestyle.
Sunspotsunspot67 on February 13th, 2010 02:29 pm (UTC)
This one!
As a parent of toddlers with feeding/growth issues myself, I heartily second this advice and recipe! This will be simple, quick, and should be earthling-friendly. One addition, you may want to not only wash with hot soapy water but also treat surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw chicken with a 1:10 bleach/water (new slash pairing?) solution (after washing). Overkill perhaps, but it doesn't take long, and why take chances, especially with small people around?

And definitely get the most organic, free range, everything-hinky-free chicken you can buy. It will be better for the earthling, and you won't go through all this then have him not able to tolerate it.
Nora Bombaynorabombay on February 13th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
Ok: I'm going to suggest cheating.

Do you have a Trader Joes? Or a whole foods? Both sell chicken, cooked in pre packaged containers. Pick the unflavored kind, and dice it up.

Option: Rotisserie chicken. Most grocery stores sell it. It's got all the skin and fat, is often made essentially spice free, and it comes to you cooked! No raw chicken issues.

Let it cool, take it apart- the meat will basically fall right off. Cut meat and skin up. Feed earthling. Peruvian Charcoal chicken is the same general thing, only even tastier.

But for feeding a child? The standard grocery stuff should be fine.

You may also find fully cooked chicken breasts/other parts either in the deli section or frozen- I just got a big bag of frozen grilled teriayki chicken thighs from Trader Joes. There are several kinds that are made organic and almost especially for children- check the local organic type store.

Chicken isn't the easiest thing to cook well. And if it is going to wind up being chopped up for salad? Than it almost doesn't matter how you get it. I would avoid all the issues of raw chicken entirely, and just purchase it previously cooked.

ETA: IF you have to deal with raw? Buy some of the nice single serving packets of the boneless skinless thighs. Fatty enough, flavorfull enough. and least gross.

Edited at 2010-02-13 04:12 am (UTC)
Girlfriend Resplendent Valentineimkalena on February 13th, 2010 07:17 pm (UTC)
I think she's got the best idea of all! *points up*

Does not lighting fires mean no putting stuff in the oven?

Another easy chicken idea is my best friend in the world, the Roasting Bags. They live around the Saran wrap/plastic containers aisle in my grocery store. Take a whole chicken. Pull out the giblets and neck and anything else not nailed down. Prepare the bag as per directions -- it's got to have that teaspoon of flour or for some reason the bag can burst. I have no idea what the scientific basis is for this. Don't forget to snip a couple v. tiny holes in the top of the bag.

Leave it in the oven as timed according to the Roasting Bag directions. It doesn't hurt anything if it's overcooked 15-20 minutes; it won't get dried out or tough.

Take it out, open the bag, and let it cool enough to touch, then just tear it apart at will. Be prepared for a lot of chicken grease. As in, wear something old for this process. :)

(no subject) - mecurtin on February 15th, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Susan: catastrophist since 1982: cookie cuttersdaydreamer on February 13th, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
The other day I tried to explain to someone that I wasn't very good at making pasta, and she looked at me like I was insane. But I've never really *liked* pasta, so I didn't learn how to make it. This means I make it even less, so I have to read the box very very carefully each time instead of just boiling some water and throwing in a handful of pasta until it seems done, which I believe was my mom's recipe.

In summary, I don't have any chicken advice beyond what others have said, but I sympathize.