These 2½-month-old chickens weigh up to 3½ pounds and are best when broiled or fried.
A higher fat content makes these ideal for roasting and rotisserie cooking. They range between 2½ and 5 pounds and can be up to 8 months old.
Also called hens or boiling fowl, these birds are 10 to 18 months old and can weigh from 3 to 6 pounds. Their age makes them more flavorful, but also less tender. They're best cooked with moist heat as in stewing or braising.
This is a rooster that has been castrated before 8 weeks old, fed a fattening diet and brought to market before it's 10 months old. Ranging from 4 to 10 pounds, capons have full breasts and tender, juicy meat that is best when roasted.
Rock Cornish Hen
These miniature chickens weigh up to 2½ pounds and are 4 to 6 weeks old. Best broiled or roasted, each hen is usually one serving.
Squab Chicken (Poussin)
These tiny birds are 4 to 6 weeks old and weigh no more than 1½ pounds. They are best broiled, grilled or roasted,
Older in age, this bird is rather tough. They're more appropriate for making soups or broths.
Range chickens are given twice the pen-space and allowed to roam outdoors. They are also fed a special vegetarian diet free of antibiotics and hormones. They are about 4½ pounds and generally 10 to 12 weeks old. Thought to have a fuller flavor, they are more expensive than mass-produced chickens.
GradesThe United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grades chicken quality with the classifications of A, B and C. Grade A, most often found in markets, is the highest quality, indicating a bird that's defect-free. Grade B chickens are less meaty and grade C is usually given to scrawny turkeys. The grade stamp can be found within a shield on the chicken's packaging or sometimes on a tag attached to the bird's wing.
Buying TipsAvailable fresh or frozen, chicken is sold whole or cut into separate parts like wings, thighs, breasts, whole legs and drumsticks. When buying whole, choose chickens that are meaty and full-breasted with short, plump legs. The skin should be smooth, cream to yellow in color and free of tears or bruises. Avoid any chicken with an "off" odor and check the date on the label for freshness.
Storage TipsStore fresh chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator for up to two days. If not using right away, loosen the packaging or remove it and re-wrap in waxed paper.
To freeze, wrap tightly in foil or seal in an airtight freezer bag for up to six months.
Usage Tips• Thaw frozen poultry in the refrigerator, allowing five hours for every pound.
• Frozen poultry can also be thawed by submerging in a container of cold water. Allow 30 minutes for every pound and change the water often.
• To prevent bacteria growth, prepare your stuffing separately and stuff the bird when it's done cooking.
• When grilling or broiling, leave the skin on for more juicy results. It can be removed after cooking, if desired.
• As a general rule, chicken is done with the juices run clear and the meat near the bone is no longer pink. Cook boneless chicken to 179º F and bone-in chicken to 180º F.
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