Discussing what Rob feels are the top 10 mistakes people make when using chicken
There are a few essentials one must understand when working with chicken. Most of us understand the characteristics of chicken but there are other factors to consider once you start working with it. I’ve compiled a list of gentle reminders that serve as my Chicken Watch Points Bible or the “No-No’s” when working with this bird.
- Mixing cutting boards for raw and fresh ingredients can cause cross-contamination. Always work on a cutting board dedicated to chicken and chicken only.
- Always cook to a temperature that falls in line with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) guidelines. For proper doneness cook to an internal temperature of 180°F or 82°C. For an accurate reading keep handy an instant-read meat thermometer.
- Given that chicken is perishable it should be used within a 24 hours although this could vary depending on how it is stored. Don’t leave your chicken unrefrigerated for an unnecessary lengths of time and try not to keep longer than 4 days.
- If it smells a little off or is discoloured it’s best to not use it. In the restaurant industry we like to say, “When in doubt, throw it out.”
- Difficulty in judging doneness is particularly challenging when roasting a trussed bird. What happens typically is the leg meat is undercooked leaving the breast meat overcooked. To overcome this chicken conundrum cut between the bottom of the breast meat where the thigh intersects exposing it and allowing a more even cook.
- Although marinating or applying a rub to your chicken can create a bigger flavour profile resist doing so for extended periods of time. I’d like to recommend capping it at 2 hours although my jerk chicken marinade benefits from a 24 hour soaking yielding tastier results.
- Keep your bird from a bad burn by using indirect heat with a drip tray underneath. This will also save you loads of time and effort cleaning up your BBQ.
- Air dry chicken in the refrigerator when cooking whole and if it doesn’t have a wet or dry marinade. It will render a better finish coming out of either the oven or off the grill.
- If you don’t have a meat thermometer here are a few markers to look for that will turn your no-no’s into yes yes’s. Signs that point to doneness include joints moving freely in their sockets, juices running clear and/or flesh separating from the bone. When in doubt use the thermometer.
- Tough old bird won’t give you the same results as a spring chicken. Try purchasing from reliable shops and/or butchers that are able to tell you the age of the bird. Don’t misunderstand me; there are wonderful time-honoured recipes for those vintage birds such as one of my favourites, Coq au Vin.
The next time you’re thinking about that chicken recipe that makes you lick your lips; I want you to remember it’s just a short hop from idea to plate. Take a page from my book and create smart dishes that will make you hungry.