Interestingly, chickens were first domesticated in India in about 2000 B.C. For many, many years early poultry production consisted solely of family farms and households having backyard flocks of dual-purpose chickens. These chickens supplied eggs and an occasional chicken for Sunday, a special occasion or holiday dinner. Chicken was a delicacy.
This all changed in the 1920’s -1930’s when Chicken, previously a subsidiary of the egg industry, began with the development of the broiler – a chicken raised specifically for its meat. Mrs. Wilmer Steele of Sussex County, Delaware, is often cited as the pioneer of the commercial broiler industry. In 1923, she raised a flock of 500 chicks intended to be sold for meat. Her little business was so profitable that, by 1926, Mrs. Steele was able to build a broiler house with a capacity of 10,000 birds. The meat poultry industry was born making chicken less expensive and easily accessible to the masses.
Chicken is now the most popular type of poultry in the world, and a great source of protein. Breast meat is popular because of its low fat content. An average American will buy about 85 lbs. of chicken a year!!
Here are some of the most popular types of chickens:
-Stewing hen, an older hen over 10 months old. The meat is tougher than a younger chicken, yet very flavorful. This is best used for making stock, soups, braising, or stewing.
-Roaster, a young chicken between 8-12 weeks of age, and weighs in at about 4-7lbs. They will yield more meat than a broiler/fryer. They are best roasted whole.
-Broiler/fryer is the most popular chicken found in butcher shops and grocery stores. It is a young and tender chicken between 6-10 weeks old and weighs about 3-4 ½ pounds. You can prepare these chickens using any cooking method.
Chicken cut options:
Whole Chicken- When you purchase a whole it is a better value than just buying individual parts. You can save the backbone and wing tips for making stock at a later date. You can do so much with a whole chicken!
Spatcock- butterfly it, is to remove the backbone, thus allowing it to be completely opened out and flattened. Doing this reduces the cooking time significantly and allows the whole bird to be cooked in different, speedier ways, such as grilling or pan frying.
½ Chicken- just that, one half of a chicken we have all gotten at the Renaissance festivals or Medieval nights.
Quarters-these usually consist of the leg and thigh together.
Organ meats-which include heart, liver, gizzards, and giblets.
Don’t be intimidated, it is a lost kitchen art to be able to 8 cut a chicken. Here is a great video to walk you through some of the basics.