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When chickens are raised for meat, they are typically referred to as either “broilers” (also called “fryers”) or “roasters.” Fryers and broilers are usually bred for rapid growth and may reach a weight of four to five pounds in as few as five weeks. Roasters are typically fed for a longer period of time (12 to 20 weeks) and are not processed until they reach weights of six to 10 pounds. When not being raised for food, the natural lifespan of chickens is approximately five to 10 years, although some chickens can live much longer.

Popular breeds for broiler chickens include Cornish, White Rock, Hubbard, Barred, Cornish Cross and Cornish Rock. There are fewer breed choices for broilers than for layers. (Among the many breeds available for egg laying are White Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Golden Comets, Red Sex Links, Isa Browns, Australorps, Black Star, Red Star, Light Sussex, and Plymouth Rock.)

Some New Research

Pasture raising of chickens (with plenty of time allowed for pecking, foraging and moving around outdoors) has been recently analyzed with fascinating results by a team of researchers at the University of Perugia in Perugia, Italy. In their study, conventional indoor raising of chickens was compared with organic raising (some outdoor access, but mostly higher quality feed) and also with “organic plus” raising—meaning organic feed with meaningful time spent outdoors.

While organic standards—all by themselves—were sufficient to increase the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in breast meat obtained from the chickens, it took more than organic standards to improve the breast meat in two other important respects: increase in total antioxidant nutrients and a decrease in the risk from fats. These additional benefits were not observed in the comparison of conventional to organic breast meat, but only in the comparison of pastured organic meat. It’s worth noting that in this study, “pastured” not only meant time outdoors foraging, pecking and moving about but also the presence of outdoor space that averaged 10 square meters /107 square feet per bird. The authors concluded that pasture activities were directly linked to the health quality of the meat.

Buying Chicken

When purchasing whole chickens, look for ones that have a solid and plump shape with a rounded breast. Whether purchasing a whole chicken or chicken parts, the chicken should feel pliable when gently pressed and it should not have an “off” smell. Do not buy chicken if the sell-by date on the label has already expired. The color of the chicken’s skin, white or yellow, does not have any bearing on its nutritional value. Regardless of color, the skin should be opaque and not spotted.

If purchasing frozen chicken, make sure that it is frozen solid and does not have any ice deposits or freezer burn. Additionally, avoid frozen chicken that has frozen liquid in the package as this may indicate that it has been defrosted and refrozen. Buy certified organic chicken and, if possible, pasture-raised.

Form of Chicken Amount Calories Total Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Cholesterol (mg)
Breast with skin 100 grams 197 7.78 2.19 84
Breast without skin 100 grams 165 3.57 1.01 85
Leg with skin 100 grams 184 8.99 2.45 127
Leg without skin 100 grams 174 7.80 2.11 128

Tips for Preparing Chicken

Be careful when handling raw chicken, so that it does not come in contact with other foods, especially those that will be served uncooked. Wash the cutting board, utensils and your hands very well with hot soapy water after handling the chicken.
If your recipe requires marinating, you should always do so in the refrigerator as chicken is very sensitive to heat, which can increase the chances of spoilage. When defrosting a frozen chicken, do so in the refrigerator and not at room temperature. Put the chicken on a plate to collect any liquid drippings.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas

Chicken salad can be prepared in numerous ways and can be served for lunch or dinner. A favorite recipe is to combine the chicken with fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Then mix in garden peas, leeks, almonds and dried cranberries or cherries.
Add pieces of diced chicken breast to white bean chili to up its protein and nutritional content.
Wrap cooked chicken pieces in a whole wheat tortilla, sprinkle with chopped tomatoes and onions, top with grated cheese and broil, making yourself a healthy burrito.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts

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This dish pairs well with couscous. You can access the basic recipe from my post on 4/28/14
http://jovinacooksitalian.com/2014/04/28/cooking-couscous/ Round out the meal with a tomato salad.

4 Servings

Ingredients

  • 5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lower-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet that has a cover over medium-high heat. Add spinach to the pan; cook 1 minute or until the spinach wilts, tossing constantly. Place spinach in a colander; press out all liquid. Wipe skillet clean. Combine spinach, cheese, nuts, thyme, juice and garlic in a bowl and set aside.

Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket. Stuff 3 tablespoons of filling into each pocket. Seal with wooden picks. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until brown. Add broth and cover the pan. Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano

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Ingredients

  • 1 lemon
  • 4 large or 8 small boneless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 sprigs fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine 
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Very thinly slice half of the lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges and reserve. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Coat a large ovenproof skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook until brown, about 10 minutes.

Place half of the lemon slices under the chicken and scatter the remaining slices over the top of the chicken.

Transfer skillet to the oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and lemon slices on the bottom of the skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer chicken pieces and caramelized lemon slices from the bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened top layer lemon slices in the skillet.)

Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; return to the heat and cook until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes.

Squeeze lemon wedges over the sauce and season with salt, pepper. Drizzle with the 2 remaining teaspoons oil. Return chicken to the skillet to rewarm.

Serve topped with lemon slices.

Oven-Baked Chicken With Parmigiano-Reggiano Crust

oven baked

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive spray oil
  • 1/3 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 8 pieces chicken (a cut-up small whole chicken or a combination of thighs and drumsticks)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Line a baking pan with foil and place a wire rack on top. Spray rack with oil.

Place milk and egg in a shallow bowl and whisk to combine. Combine panko, cheese, thyme and salt in another shallow bowl. Coat 1 piece of chicken with egg mixture and then roll in panko mixture, pressing gently to help coating adhere.

Place on the baking pan rack and repeat with remaining chicken. Discard any remaining egg and panko mixture. Spray chicken lightly with oil and bake until crispy and cooked through, about 35 minutes.

Grilled Chicken With Fresh Herbs

grilled chicken

This dish pairs well with a potato salad.

Ingredients

  • 3 whole chicken legs (thighs and legs attached)
  • 3 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme

Directions

Preheat an outdoor  grill. Oil grill grates.

Put chicken into a large bowl, add oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Arrange chicken on grill grates, turn down heat to medium  and cook, turning occasionally, until deep golden brown and cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

While still hot, toss chicken in a large bowl with lemon juice, mustard, chives, oregano, rosemary and thyme. Transfer to a platter and serve.

Chicken and Artichokes with Farro

farro and chicken

Farro is a classic Italian whole grain that goes well with this dish, but you could prepare brown rice, pasta or couscous instead.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
  • 3/4 cups white wine
  • 1 -9 oz box frozen artichoke hearts, defrosted 
  • 1 1/4 cup cups farro
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Sprinkle chicken on all sides with 1 teaspoon salt.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and brown on all sides, turning pieces occasionally. Transfer pieces to a roasting pan. Discard excess fat from the skillet, then add garlic and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Add wine to the pan and reduce slightly, scraping bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Pour wine over the chicken.

Cut artichokes in half and nestle them around the chicken in the roasting pan. Cover securely with foil and roast until chicken is cooked through and artichokes are tender, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring 2 cups water and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt to boil in a medium saucepan. Add farro, lower heat, cover the pan and simmer until farro is very tender and water is absorbed, about 35 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Place chicken and artichokes on top, ladle the sauce in the pan over the top and sprinkle with basil.

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