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Free Range Chicken

The BoneThe Bone Posts: 14
edited November -1 in EggHead Forum
Hello, folks. Did a free range chicken, spatchcock style on the egg this weekend. I was not very happy with the result. The chicken was very tough. Rubbery. Could it be that despite it's expense and humane treatment, that a free-range chicken just doesn't taste as good as a good old Foster Farms Chicken? Or I wonder if I messed up cooking it? Jeez, chicken is easy to cook. I can't believe I messed it up.... :(

Comments

  • AZRPAZRP Posts: 10,116
    I don't think you screwed up, several years ago I paid a small fortune for a Heritage free range turkey. The legs and thighs were so full of tendons they were inedible. The breast was very small and somewhat tough. I won't waste money on free range again. -RP
  • Austin EggerAustin Egger Posts: 256
    Yep, I've tried some of the free range turkeys and have not been impressed at all. All of the free range turkeys that I have tried have been tougher. Almost a completely different animal....
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,168
    It was tough and rubbery because during its limited lifetime that chicken actually used its muscles to do natural chicken-like activities such as walking around and pecking the ground eating bugs, maybe even a small amount of flying up to roost.

    Mass produced birds are pretty much cage bound from birth.

    Like comparing the texture of veal (the real stuff, not just a young calf) to an old steer. When the muscles are used they develop, strengthen, and have a different texture.
  • Dimple's MomDimple's Mom Posts: 1,740
    True, Fidel. That said, I've had much better luck with free range chickens than I have with heritage free range turkeys. Given the expense of humanely raised turkeys and their poor eating qualities, I'm pretty much ready to go with the vegetarian Thanksgiving. It's all about the sides anyway!

    It's a dilemma with the chickens. We keep chickens for eggs and let me tell you, they do not like to be cooped up. Once they've had a taste of 'freedom,' they become very :angry: if they're ever confined (which we had to do briefly after a hawk discovered them and until we could build another coop in a safer location). They were really unhappy, squawked all day long and completely stopped laying until they were given their freedom again.

    When you see chickens in the crowded conditions they are so often raised in, it's truly disgusting and is enough to put anyone off chicken. :sick: We don't buy it nearly as often because I only want free range organic and it's expensive. It's a lot harder to cook and get it right, but it's doable if you're careful. Not letting it get even a little overcooked is key. When we do buy it, we end up ruining it a lot of the time. :(
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    guessing, too, that we have been conditioned to think that roasting a chicken, cooking it fast, isthe only way to do it, simply because the factory-farmed chickens do well that way. it's frankly what they are 'designed' for.

    but if one were an old lady in a french farmhouse, ca. 1890 or so, you'd probably make coq au vin. slow cook that tough old rooster until it fell apart, rather than try to cook it like it had never used a muscle in its life.

    btw, are you ok with it, rod, if i think of you as a little old french lady?
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • not to disagree with you stikey old boy, but if you read jacque pepin's book "the apprentice", he talks about the best chicken he ever ate being a farm raised bird that is roasted at high heat (and i've learned that when he says high heat, he's talking in the 425/450 range), simply with butter/salt/pepper, and it being so tasty....i've done this many times now with free range birds, or with kosher/hallal birds (very fresh, natural diet). ...the texture and taste are phenominal...

    so i wonder if our friend here just got himself a "bad" bird, or over cooked it a bit....
  • JohnBJohnB Posts: 171
    I spatchcocked a FR bird and it was tough. The next time I cooked one I roasted it after brining it 24 hours. It was delicious. This is the recipe I used:

    http://www.food.com/recipe/french-chicken-in-a-pot-americas-test-kitchen-349883

    Still, it is a bit of a leap to pay so much more for a chicken, but if prepared properly you can get excellent results.

    Finally, to sort of chime in on the humane side, my girlfriend was a photo assistant for the Tyson annual report photo shoot a few years back. The #1 cause of death among the chickens (before they head to the slaughterhouse, btw) was stroke, due to a combination of drugs and hormones to get them to reach full weight in 6 months and the "living conditions".
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,244
    i just buy the cheapest i can find, i stay away from pricey free range chicken and especially stay away from those yellow orange ones :laugh: its just chicken, it tastes like chicken, wouldnt pay more than i needed for chicken :whistle:
  • stikestike Posts: 15,597
    i wouldn't disagree.

    i am just saying that the factory farmed stuff is maybe more fool-proof. more suitable to how we have been 'trained' by marketing types to cook a chicken.

    i always scratch my head when someone asks how to cook venison so that it masks the "gaminess", or that they prepare salmon in such a way as to remove the salmon flavor. come on people. why must it all be white meat brined to within an inch of being a salt-water balloon :laugh:

    could be too that the rubbery chicken is in reference to the skin (a notorious side effect of the BGE's moisture-retaining ability)
    ed egli avea del cul fatto trombetta -Dante
  • JohnBJohnB Posts: 171
    someone linked to a video a while back where a chef cuts a FR bird and an industrial farm bird and compares them. It would be great if somebody could track that down.
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,168
    stike wrote:
    btw, are you ok with it, rod, if i think of you as a little old french lady?

    I'd honestly have it no other way.
  • right you are....i think what is more important than whether or not the bird is "free" to roam, is what the bird is fed....food tastes like what it eats....the deer you hunt is gamey tasting partly based on its diet ....if its eating old stale berries and twigs its gonna have a different taste than a deer thats out in a field eating fresh grass and/or hay...

    same for a chicken, even if its a nice fresh bird, if its been raised in a pen eating fresh grains/corn, rather than just processed food/chemicals, its gonna taste better....thats why, rather than necessarily looking for something marked 'free range' which really isn't indicative of the diet, go buy a kosher or halal bird. ..it may have been raised in a pen, but it is likely to have been served a better diet, leading to better flavored meat....

    i always loved the way Perdue advertised the wonderful golden color of their birds over the white color of other birds. ..it was all simply due to the fact that they stuff their birds full of marigold pedals!!!!..turns the skin and flesh that lovely gold color....has nothing to do with flavor or health of the birds!
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,168
    I think the original discussion was more based on texture than flavor, Max. Any animal that is allowed to use and normally develop its muscles is going to have a different texture than one that is not. Granted the diet and amount of protein can play into it somewhat, but generally speaking you take two birds from the same hen and keep one in a 18"x18" pen and allow the other to wander about the farm - even if you feed them the same feed - one will have a firmer, tougher texture than the other.

    Why do you think the tenderloin is such a tender cut? Because it is a seldomly used muscle. Same reason shoulders and briskets are tough - they get used a lot in the daily movement of the animal.

    I'll save my comments on the "food tastes like what it eats" discussion for another day.
  • you're right rod, i got off track a little there ...i guess my point was that free range doesn't necessarily mean better taste...there are other factors to consider..so when paying more for an "upscale" bird, the fact that its free range doesn't necessarily mean better taste ....thats what i was getting at. ..
  • The BoneThe Bone Posts: 14
    FYI, thanks to all for your input. The rubbery-ness I was referring to was the meat itself, not the skin. The skin was very crispy and good. I think the comment about slower cooking methods and the extra musculature of the free range bird, to me, make sense. Ironically, I've had very good luck with free-range turkeys, go figure... :unsure:
  • FidelFidel Posts: 10,168
    that I will absolutely agree with. I don't understand the muddling of politics, ethics, and food...but this is coming from a guy that prefers to kill and butcher his own meat.
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,244
    those empire kosher turkeys are some of the best. not sure about the halal though, this was the van load of halal lamb, picture a van load of halal chickens

    c5f7f530.jpg
  • LOL ...the lamb at my local halal market is second to none...raised fresh on a local farm in virginia, the flavor is fantastic....

    as for chickens, if i really want to roast up a good one, i also head for the halal market. ..simply because the nearest kosher market is about a 30 - 45 minute drive away, where as i have 3 or 4 halal markets within 10 minutes of the house....funny thing is that kosher practice and muslim practice is almost identical regarding meat raising/killing....
  • fishlessmanfishlessman Posts: 16,244
    ...and transporting, sending a few vans down your way ;) this was from a local farm as well, guy was po'd when i snapped the pic, can only imagine what he thought i was doing :laugh: there was ice packing in there but...
  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,309
    Good point Max. Low and slow is not the only way to break down collagen. The stuff melts much faster at higher temps...of course, at the risk of moisture loss.

    Cheers
    Chris
    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
  • Nature BoyNature Boy Posts: 8,309
    But perdue chicken still tastes perdy good!
    DizzyPigBBQ.com
    Twitter: @dizzypigbbq
    Facebook: Dizzy Pig Seasonings
  • Little StevenLittle Steven Posts: 26,704
    Max,

    That is cause they had the same conditions to deal with before refrigeration.

    Steve

    Steve 

    Caledon, ON

     

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