How to Buy, Store and Prepare Chicken?

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Australians eat more chicken every year than any other meat or protein. It can be a nutritious and tasty choice, but raw chicken often contains nasty salmonella. If not handled properly, the bacteria could make someone really sick! Poultry is a product that deteriorates quickly, so it’s important to know when it is fresh or not. Here are some hints to find the freshest chicken and the best way to store it.

Buying Chicken

  • When purchasing chicken, make sure there’s no ‘off’ smell. Fresh poultry should have very little, or no aroma.
  • If buying a whole bird, ensure the skin, flesh and bones appear undamaged.
  • Chicken breasts should be plump with a very pale pink flesh.
  • Chicken thighs have a darker meat. They should have a dark pink flesh and a little white fat.
  • Make sure to purchase from a reputable supplier who has been approved by local authorities.
  • Check that the chicken is delivered at 5C or below.
  • Confirm that frozen chicken products are completely frozen and inspect the packaging for any signs of thawing.
  • Don’t accept any chicken that is soft, discoloured or sticky. Pay particular attention to the wings and joints.

Storage

To store chicken, leave it in its original packaging or place in a container and cover completely. Store on the bottom shelf (or the coldest part) of your the fridge for up to 2 days. This helps prevent contaminating any foods below. Cook any raw chicken within two days of purchase and freeze whatever you don’t use. Ensure to wrap your chicken in airtight packages. Label, date and keep refrigerated at 5C or below, or frozen at -15C or below.

If freezing fresh portions, do so immediately after purchasing (in its original packaging) for up to 2 months. Alternatively, separate the chicken into serving portions, thoroughly wrap in plastic bags or cling film and freeze for up to 2 months. It is very important to thaw chicken completely before cooking. To defrost, place the chicken in the fridge on a large plate (in its original packaging). This will take between 12-24 hours. Never refreeze chicken that has already been thawed. Cooked chicken can then be frozen for later use.

Commonly Used Cuts

Whole Bird

A whole chook can be used for roasting, poaching, making stock or dishes like Vietnamese pho or Hainanese chicken rice. Alternatively, you can flatten or “butterfly” a chicken. This is a great way to roast or barbecue a whole bird, that promotes quick and even cooking. The secret to a delicious chicken is buying the best quality you can find, such as free-range, locally sourced or organic.

Breast & Tenderloin

Chicken breast is such a versatile cut of poultry. It’s a white meat with very little fat, perfect for throwing into stir-fries, grilling, steaming, pan-frying and oven roasting. They are also great for poaching to be used in salads, soups or sandwiches. Another method brilliant for cooking a chicken breast is crumbing. Not only do the breadcrumbs keep the chicken moist, but they also give a wonderful, crunchy texture (as seen in a chicken parma or katsu). 

Chicken breasts found in the supermarket tend to be quite large with the tenderloin attached. This can make them difficult to cook through perfectly, without drying out. To ensure your chicken cooks evenly and remains juicy, you can slice the breast into even cuts or use a rolling pin to slightly flatten it out. There’s nothing worse than eating a dried-out piece of chicken, so the key is to keep it moist without overcooking. Chicken is cooked through when a temperature probe reads 73C.

Tenderloins, found underneath the breast, are a delicious and speedy cooking option. They are slightly more tender than the whole breast and are great crumbed, fried, baked, or quickly marinated and chargrilled.

Thighs

Thighs can be bought as fillets (with or without skin) or cutlets with the bone attached. Chicken thigh meat is generally darker and has a little more fat than the breast. It’s a working muscle and therefore has more flavour comparatively. Diced chicken thighs are great for BBQ skewers, slow cooking, stir-frying or thrown into soups and curries. Use the whole thigh or cutlet for roasting, bakes, barbecues and stews.

Chicken Maryland is a cut where the thigh and drumstick are attached. Marylands are good for roasting, poaching, braising and baking. They are ideal for cooking slowly over a barbecue or char-grill.

Drumsticks & Wings

Chicken wings and drumsticks are typically cheaper per kilo but are often seen as the most flavourful. They are great baked, fried or simmered in a sticky glaze or marinade and eaten with your hands. The skin to meat ratio is greater in these cuts, so the outside gets nice and crispy, while the inside stays juicy. No matter what you do with this part of the chicken, it’s bound to taste good! It’s also really difficult to overcook wings and drumsticks, making for less stressful cooking.

Mince

Chicken mince can be used in making patties, rissoles, burgers, meatballs, or cooked in Chinese dishes like wontons and san choi bao, or in Thai stir-fry’s and salads. You can substitute chicken mince in almost any recipe where pork or beef mince is used.

How to Buy, Store and Prepare Chicken?
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