Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Which Chicken (White or Dark, Bone-In or Boneless) to Use?

A client/friend sent me an email yesterday asking about what kind of chicken to use in a chicken cacciatore dish I had shown her how to make a couple months ago:
"My parents are coming and I want to make the chicken cacciatore, but my mom doesn't eat dark meat. Would you suggest I make a whole chicken (cut in parts) or just chicken breast? If chicken breast, boneless or bone-in?"
Since my reply skipped the dark meat conversation, I'll offer a longer answer here that touches all bases:

In my opinion, use dark meat on the bone whenever possible. Its flavor is a little more pronounced and bone-in meats tend to remain a little juicier. Also, contrary to regurgitated popular belief, dark meat contains more nutrients than white meat

Cooking the whole bird (cut into parts) would work as well, but know that white meat cooks faster than dark meat, so removing some parts before others is necessary to ensure uniform doneness.

If you are going to cook boneless chicken breasts (my absolute last choice), make sure to get thick breasts that will have a better chance of remaining moist. And be super vigilant about not overcooking them. Click here to learn about carryover cooking.

Inherent in this conversation is the need to avoid chicken given feed laced with antibiotics. Thankfully, antibiotic-free chicken is becoming more readily available. In the United States, federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones when growing chicken, so don't be fooled by some manufacturers' misleading labeling

Antibiotic-free, though, does not mean organic. Non-organic chickens, even if antibiotic-free, will most likely be eating feed containing genetically-engineered and pesticide-laden corn and soy. Organic chicken will not be tainted by genetically-engineered feed or pesticides.