General & History
The hundreds of varieties of domestic chickens (Gallus gallus
domesticus) were all developed from a single subspecies of Southeast
Asian red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus gallus). The first really hard
evidence of domesticated chickens is from China about 6000 BCE, but in
regions not suitable for red jungle fowl, so they must have been
domesticated elsewhere. Evidence now points to Vietnam about 10,000 years
ago. Photo of jungle hen by Adamantiaf distributed under license
Chickens were found not only highly susceptible to domestication but
tolerant of various climates - and they eat just about anything. They
arrived in Egypt about 1430 BCE from Babylon and entered the Greco-Roman
world in about 500 BCE, but are not mentioned in the Hebrew/Christian Old
Testament so they probably were not kept in the Levant.
Chickens were brought to North America by Europeans, but are now proven
to have been introduced to South America by Polynesians in
pre-Columbian times - settling once and for all the question of Polynesians
traveling to the Americas (sorry,
Types, Sizes & Uses
Unlike turkeys, you don't have to chose between hens and toms because
they aren't marked. Several sizes of chicken are available on the market
to be used in different ways. Growers generally use different varieties for
each size, the object being to select varieties that "plump out" (develop
thick breast meat) at different ages and weights. From youngest to oldest:
Parts & Yields
- Poussin: [Coquelet] A really young chicken (less than 28 days)
weighing around 1 pound (400 to 500 grams) - enough for one person if
there's plenty else to eat. While quite common in Europe they're not to be
found in US markets, save perhaps in some specialty shops serving
the high priced chef set.
- Cornish Game Hen: [Game Hen, Rock Cornish, Cornish] A young
chicken (30 to 40 days) of special breed weighing between 1 and 2 pounds
(450 to 900 grams). They are very common frozen in US supermarkets, often
packed two to a tray. A large one (2 pounds) can serve two persons if there
is a side dish, soup or salad. Cornish game hens were developed in
Connecticut and are pretty much an American item, as difficult to find in
Europe as Poussins are to find here. They were originally a cross between
a Cornish cock and a Plymouth Rock hen, and are in no way "game".
- Fryer / Broiler: A young chicken killed at 7 to 13 weeks and
weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. This is your standard supermarket chicken,
sold both fresh and frozen in mass market, boutique and kosher formats. Serves
3 to 4 people.
- Roasters: A mature chicken killed at 3 to 5 months and weighing
between 4-1/2 and 8 pounds. Often parts are too thick to fry and some consider
them less than ideal for roasting as well, but I figure if you can roast a
turkey you can probably roast a large chicken. Serves 5 to 7 people.
- Capon: A rooster that's had his rocks cut off in childhood so
he grows up big and soft and doesn't bother the hens or fight with other
capons. They are generally killed at under 8 months when they will weigh 6
to 9 pounds. The meat is tender and considered the finest flavor of all
chickens, but the bird will have more fat than others. This is a specialty
shop item - I've never seen one in Southern California markets.
- Stewing Chicken: Over 10 months old, 5 to 8 pounds and not
generally found in the supermarkets. They're often a byproduct of the egg
industry - hens beyond their peak laying age.
- Old Hen / Old Rooster:
Old Hen is a barnyard chicken generally at the end of her egg
production. Tasty but tough and should be long cooked in soup or stew. Old
Rooster (Photo) is even tougher. It's said you can boil him until the bones
dissolve and the meat will still be tough. I've cooked old hen and that
was tough enough, thank you.
Photo © i0030.
A very unusual chicken with fur-like feathers,
blue-black skin and black bones. It is used mainly by Chinese and
Southeast Asian peoples, often to make a tonic soup combined with medicinal
herbs and roots. Details and Cooking.
Photo © i0031.
- To replace the meat of a whole chicken with skinless/boneless meat
you need a little over half the weight of the whole chicken called for.
Use good stock instead of water in the recipe to replace flavors
expected from the whole chicken.
- To replace skinless/boneless meat with the meat of a a whole chicken,
you need a chicken weighing (after removing giblets) a little less than
twice the weight of the meat called for.
- Simmered meat will weigh about 64% of the weight of the raw meat.
By poaching (190°F/88°C to 198°F/92°C) and cooling
in the broth, you can get as high as 70%.
- For making stock, the fat goes into the pot along with the skin and
bones. Chefs have found much of the flavor we expect from fat is
water soluble. Remove the fat from the strained stock using your
gravy separator. For details see our
Soup Stock / Broth
This table below is for a chicken sold packaged as 6.12 pounds (5.8
pounds unpacked). A smaller chicken will not yield as high a percentage
of meat. A 3 pound chicken may yield as low as 80% of the table
percentage (42% instead of 52%)
Example: To know how much weight in whole chickens you
must buy to have 5 pounds of breast meat, use the Whole Chicken
table. divide 5 pounds by 0.28 (28%) to find 17.9 pounds of whole
chickens. Conversely, to find out how much skinless, boneless breast
meat your 5 pound chicken will yield, multiply 5 by 0.28 to get 1.4
pounds (1 pound 6 ounces).
Example: To find how much weight in whole thighs you
need to buy to yield 3 pounds of skinless, boneless thigh meat, use the
Parts table. Divide 3 pounds by 0.55 (55%) to find 5.45 pounds of
whole thighs. Conversely, to find out how much meat a 4.5 pound tray of
thighs will yield, multiply 4.5 by 0.55 to get 2.48 pounds.
|Whole||93 oz||77.6 oz - 83%||48.4 oz - 52%||32.4 oz - 35%|
|Breast, boneless||29.38 oz - 32%||26.8 oz - 28%||26.8 oz - 28%||18.8 oz - 21%||Tenders 4.3 oz (1)|
| Bone||4.2 oz|
|Thighs||17.8 oz - 19%||15.1 oz - 16%||11.6 oz - 12%||5.2 oz - 6%|
|Drumsticks||11.4 oz 12%||10.5 oz - 11%||7.3 oz - 8%||4.9 oz - 5%|
|Wings||9.8 oz - 11%|
| Drumettes||4.8 oz - 5%||4.0 oz - 4%||2.3 oz - 2.5%||1.5 oz - 1.6%||First wing joint|
| 2nd joint||3.3 oz - 4%|
|For Stock||44.6 oz - 48%|
| Skin & Fat||18.4 oz|
| Bones, etc.||26.2oz|
Parts (tray or bag)
- Chicken Tenders: [Chicken fingers,
Chicken fillets, Chicken strips] This is the strip of breast
meat found under the main breast meat. We included in the breast weight
as that's the way it will normally be used in the home.
|Raw Meat||Simmered Meat||Skin||Fat|
|Thighs 5#||2# 12 oz - 55%||1# 13oz - 35%||13 oz - 17%||7.7 oz - 10%|
|Drumsticks 4#||2# 6oz - 59%||1# 8oz - 38%||5 oz - 8%||1.8 oz - 3%|
|Drumettes 4#||1# 15oz - 48%||1# 4oz - 31%||11oz - 17%|
|Leg Quarters 5#||2# 5 oz - 46%||1# 4oz - 25%|