Almost every part of chicken can be used, and only a basic knowledge of butchery is needed to get the most out of it. When cooking chicken, always season it first - you can keep it simple with salt and pepper, or rub in butter or oil laced with garlic, herbs or spices. Use a meat thermometer; it’s not essential but will give a more consistent result. It is necessary to cook chicken through completely before eating. Don’t forget to allow the meat to come up to room temperature before cooking, and leave it to rest for at least 10-15 minutes after cooking - this allows the meat to relax, and the chicken will be juicier and more tender as a result.
Slow cooking is a great way to get the most out of chicken. The legs, thighs and whole bird are most commonly slow cooked cuts, with roasting, braising, poaching and confiting being popular methods. Poaching chicken provides very succulent meat and can be done in any flavoured liquid you chose, providing a great opportunity to add flavour.
You can cook chicken quickly by pan-frying or in the oven, with the breasts and livers proving the best quick-cook cuts. Overcooked chicken is unpleasantly dry and almost powdery in texture, so try not to over-do it.
Chicken breasts are conveniently sized, one-portion cuts. To add more flavour before pan-frying or roasting, marinate the chicken breasts overnight, or cut a pocket into the flesh, stuff it with herbs and butter and wrap with bacon before baking.
Chicken is one of the more versatile meats around, which perhaps explains its immense popularity. Traditionally, the bird is roasted and served with a variety of vegetables and roast potatoes. Chris Horridge's roast chicken recipe, however, is slightly more innovative, serving roast chicken with pine nuts and potato purée, while Geoffrey Smeddle's roast chicken calls to be served with a cider sauce.
The mild flavour of chicken is often well supported by stronger, piquant flavours, which may explain while Chicken tikka is now a staple dish. Simon Hulstone plays on this combination to create a glorious Curried chicken Kiev.
Chicken is wonderful in salads, as demonstrated by Tom Aikens' classic Coronation chicken salad and Nigel Mendham's chargrilled chicken and avocado salad. As mentioned before, chicken curry is a national favourite, or for something less spicy try a glorious chicken and mushroom pie.
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