Chickens, turkeys, and ducks--poultry flesh contains high quality protein as well as fat, minerals, and vitamins. The amount of fat, minerals, and vitamins varies with the age of the bird. Young poultry have less fat and therefore fewer calories than most meats. The fat content of light meat is lower than that of dark meat. In general, the cooking procedures for poultry are the same as those for meats. The old or tough birds are cooked by moist heat methods, and the younger ones by quicker methods. Regardless of the cooking method, poultry should always be cooked well done. For baking, large birds should be cooked slowly to reduce shrinkage and to retain moisture, and smaller birds should be cooked at somewhat higher temperatures to prevent them from drying out while cooking. Although raw poultry has little flavor, it develops flavor during cooking. The dark meat is usually more juicy but less tender than the light meat. Like most other high-protein foods, poultry is very perishable and should be refrigerated at a low temperature (32° to 35° F.). Usually, poultry is issued to dining facilities in the frozen state. Once thawed, poultry should not be refrozen. Hard-frozen birds may be kept in the original packaging for about 3 days at a temperature of 32° to 35° F.
Chickens are classified according to age and tenderness. Tender birds called broilers, fryers, or roasters are usually less than 1 year old and can be cooked by dry-heat methods. The recipes for chicken in Armed Forces Recipe Service indicate that the broiler-fryers are issued for baking, for deep-fat frying, and for cooking moist-heat dishes such as chicken pot pie, barbecued chicken, and chicken a la king (fig. 22). These chickens are under 16 weeks old and have very tender flesh and flexible skin. Roasters are young chickens of either sex and are 5 to 9 months old; they have tender flesh and flexible skin. Moderate heat should be used in cooking chicken to develop maximum flavor, tenderness, color, and juiciness. Intense heat hardens and toughens the protein, shrinks the meat, and causes the juices to be released, thus resulting in a less palatable meat.
When the recipe calls for baked chicken, broiler-fryer chickens are prepared and cooked
whole in the oven. Baked chicken, however, is usually cut into serving pieces and prepared
for serving as savory baked chicken, as barbecued chicken, or as oven-fried chicken.
a. SUGGESTIONS FOR THE CONTROL OF QUALITY. Each recipe gives the method of preparation and gives any notes needed to insure a palatable food item. The following are additional suggestions that should help to control the quality of baked chicken:
(1) When a meat thermometer is used to control temperature, it should be inserted between the thigh and the body of the chicken and should not be allowed to touch any bone. The meat is done when the temperature reaches 180° F. Another method of determining doneness is to twist the leg bone; if the joint between the drumstick and the thigh yields easily or separates, the meat is done.
(2) The legs and wings of the chicken must be secured so the chicken cooks more evenly and retains its shape. The modern and convenient method for preparing chicken for roasting is to tuck the ends of the drumsticks back under the skin flap at the end of the breastbone and to tuck the wings behind the back.
(3) Baked chicken should be allowed to cool 15 to 30 minutes for easier carving.
b. JUDGING THE QUALITY. Roasted chicken should have brown, tender skin and moist, flavorful meat firm enough for clean-cut slices. When the meat is cut, there should be no evidence of blood, indicating raw or rare areas. The skin of the chicken should be crisp and brown with no splitting of the meat on the thighs or breast.
DEEP-FAT FRYING CHICKEN
The standard recipe for fried chicken gives the procedures for the preparation and lists some notes which should help in controlling and in judging the quality of the finished product. The same precautions should be taken for deep-fat frying of chicken as are taken for deep-fat frying of finfish. Fried chicken should be crisp and flavorful, should be well cooked to the bone. It should have a brown surface, tender skin, and juicy, tender flesh with low fat absorption (not greasy).
COOKING CHICKEN BY MOIST-HEAT METHODS
Chicken is simmered until done, and the meat is removed from the bone and used in
making chicken pot pie, baked chicken with noodles, baked chicken with rice, and chicken
salad. For chicken creole, country style chicken, chicken cacciatore, chicken fricassee,
and other chicken dishes, the meat is dredged and browned, then covered with the
appropriate sauce or other liquid, and cooked. The following suggestions should help to
obtain a palatable finished product:
a. Brown chicken to a golden brown; do not overbrown or burn it.
b. When sautéing vegetables to be used in the chicken product, do not let them brown.
c. Do not overbake oven-cooked dishes, or the chicken will fall away from the bone.
d. If chicken is browned in the deep-fat fryer, exercise the same precautions as for other meats.
e. If potatoes and carrots are to be added to chicken dish, cook them in stock or water only until tender.
f. Cook the roux for fricassee and other dishes at least 5 minutes to avoid a raw flour taste in the sauce.
g. Be careful not to overbrown the cheese when preparing chicken tetrazzini.
PREPARING CANNED CHICKEN
Standard recipes stipulate that canned chicken may be used for baked chicken with noodles or rice, chicken a la king, chicken pot pie, chicken tetrazzini, chicken salad, and other chicken dishes. When canned chicken is substituted for fresh chicken, as indicated in the recipe, the dish is prepared and cooked in the same manner.
The ready-to-cook turkeys issued to the dining facility are usually less than a year
old and have tender meat and flexible skin and breastbone. These turkeys are roasted (fig.
24) at a low temperature, since cooking at a high temperature causes the meat to be
stringy, tough, and unappetizing. A meat thermometer should be used to insure that all
parts of the turkey are cooked to a satisfactory degree of doneness. Ready-to-cook turkeys
are roasted until the thermometer registers an internal temperature of 180° to 185°° F.
Boneless, frozen turkeys are roasted in the same manner as whole turkeys. However, they
are done when the meat thermometer registers an internal temperature of 170° to 175° F.
Cooked or canned turkey may be used to make many turkey dishes such as baked turkey with
noodles or rice, creamed turkey, turkey pot pie, turkey salad and turkey a la king. These
dishes are prepared in the same manner as comparable chicken dishes. Listed below are some
suggestions for controlling the quality of roast turkey:
a. Tuck eggs and tall into cavity. Place in roasting pans, breast side up. Turkeys should not touch each other.
b. If the turkey becomes too brown, cover it loosely with a tent of foil during the last hour of cooking. Do not cover it completely, or steam will be created.
c. When the turkey is removed from the oven, let it stand at least 30 minutes to absorb juices and to become more suitable for slicing.
d. remove string and skin from boneless turkey roasts before slicing the roasts.
e. If the drippings evaporate, baste the turkey with a mixture of half water and half butter. As long as the pan is not covered, the turkey will still toast without steaming, and the drippings will not burn.
f. Baste frequently with drippings.
PREPARING DUCK. Ducks, which have only dark meat, provide less meat in proportion to bone than do other types of poultry. The frozen ducks issued to dining facilities are young ducks of either sex and are usually less than 16 weeks old. They weigh about 4 pounds, and when roasted about 2 hours, they make a very palatable menu item. Because ducks are very fat, they are efficient self-basters during roasting. However, the extra fat must be poured off frequently during the roasting period to keep the duck from frying and to insure a clear, light-colored fat for gravy or sauce. The following suggestions should aid in controlling the quality of baked duck:
a. Do not prick the skin of the duck while it is roasting, or the meat will dry, and the skin will have a gray cast.
b. If the duck is to be batted, as is Hawaiian baked duck, prick the skin of the duck before roasting it. Baste the duck with a mixture of orange juice and pineapple juice to prevent dryness.
c. If a glaze is used during the last 30 minutes of the baking process, pour off the fat, and brush the skin of the duck evenly with the glaze. Repeat the glazing every 10 minutes, or more often if necessary, to keep the glaze from burning in the pan.