General & History
The hundreds of varieties of domestic chickens (Gallus gallus
domesticus) were all developed from a single subspecies of Southeast
Asian red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus gallus). The first really hard
evidence of domesticated chickens is from China about 6000 BCE, but in
regions not suitable for red jungle fowl, so they must have been
domesticated elsewhere. Evidence now points to Vietnam about 10,000 years
ago. Photo of jungle hen by Adamantiaf distributed under license
Chickens were found not only highly susceptible to domestication but
tolerant of various climates - and they eat just about anything. They
arrived in Egypt about 1430 BCE from Babylon and entered the Greco-Roman
world in about 500 BCE, but are not mentioned in the Hebrew/Christian Old
Testament so they probably were not kept in the Levant.
Chickens were brought to North America by Europeans, but are now proven
to have been introduced to South America by Polynesians in
pre-Columbian times - settling once and for all the question of Polynesians
traveling to the Americas (sorry,
Types, Sizes & Uses
Unlike turkeys, you don't have to chose between hens and toms because
they aren't marked. Several sizes of chicken are available on the market
to be used in different ways. Growers generally use different varieties for
each size, the object being to select varieties that "plump out" (develop
thick breast meat) at different ages and weights. From youngest to oldest:
- Poussin: [Coquelet] A really young chicken (less than 28 days)
weighing around 1 pound (400 to 500 grams) - enough for one person if
there's plenty else to eat. While quite common in Europe they're not to be
found in US markets, save perhaps in some specialty shops serving
the high priced chef set.
- Cornish Game Hen: [Game Hen, Rock Cornish, Cornish] A young
chicken (30 to 40 days) of special breed weighing between 1 and 2 pounds
(450 to 900 grams). They are very common frozen in US supermarkets, often
packed two to a tray. A large one (2 pounds) can serve two persons if there
is a side dish, soup or salad. Cornish game hens were developed in
Connecticut and are pretty much an American item, as difficult to find in
Europe as Poussins are to find here. They were originally a cross between
a Cornish cock and a Plymouth Rock hen, and are in no way "game".
- Fryer / Broiler: A young chicken killed at 7 to 13 weeks and
weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. This is your standard supermarket chicken,
sold both fresh and frozen in mass market, boutique and kosher formats. Serves
3 to 4 people.
- Roasters: A mature chicken killed at 3 to 5 months and weighing
between 4-1/2 and 8 pounds. Often parts are too thick to fry and some consider
them less than ideal for roasting as well, but I figure if you can roast a
turkey you can probably roast a large chicken. Serves 5 to 7 people.
- Capon: A rooster that's had his rocks cut off in childhood so
he grows up big and soft and doesn't bother the hens or fight with other
capons. They are generally killed at under 8 months when they will weigh 6
to 9 pounds. The meat is tender and considered the finest flavor of all
chickens, but the bird will have more fat than others. This is a specialty
shop item - I've never seen one in Southern California markets.
- Stewing Chicken: Over 10 months old, 5 to 8 pounds and not
generally found in the supermarkets. They're often a byproduct of the egg
industry - hens beyond their peak laying age.
- Old Hen / Old Rooster:
Old Hen is a barnyard chicken generally at the end of her egg
production. Tasty but tough and should be long cooked in soup or stew. Old
Rooster (Photo) is even tougher. It's said you can boil him until the bones
dissolve and the meat will still be tough. I've cooked old hen and that
was tough enough, thank you.
Photo © i0030.
A very unusual chicken with fur-like feathers,
blue-black skin and black bones. It is used mainly by Chinese and
Southeast Asian peoples, often to make a tonic soup combined with medicinal
herbs and roots. Details and Cooking.
Photo © i0031.
- To replace a whole chicken with skinless/boneless meat you
need a little over half the weight of the whole chicken called for.
- To replace skinless/boneless meat with a whole chicken you need a
chicken weighing (after removing giblets) a little less than twice the
meat called for.
- Percentages do not add up to 100%. The missing material is either
absorbed into stock or debris strained out of the stock.
Weight of simmered meat is 64% of weight of same meat raw, fried or
roasted would be a bit less (water loss).
|Raw Meat||Simmered Meat
|Chicken 5#||2# 14 oz - 58%||1# 13 oz - 37%
||6.5 oz - 8%||4.3 oz - 6.8%||1# 7 oz - 29%|
|Chicken 3-1/2#||1# 10 oz - 47%||16.6 oz - 30%
||6.3 oz - 11%||4.9 oz - 9%||1# 3oz - 34%|
For parts: left weight = whole weight, right weight = meat only
|Chicken 5#||13 oz - 9.6 oz||11 oz - 6.9 oz
||7 oz - 3 oz||1# 8 oz - 30%|
|Chicken 3-1/2#||9.2 oz - 6.2 oz||8.2 oz - 4.9 oz
||5.5 oz - 2.0 oz||12.2 oz - 22%|
Parts (tray or bag)
|Raw Meat||Simmered Meat||Thighs
|Quarters 5#||2# 5 oz - 46%||1# 4 oz - 25%
||2# 2 oz - 1# 6 oz||1# 9 oz - 15 oz||1# 4oz|
|Raw Meat||Simmered Meat
|Thighs 5#||2# 12 oz - 55%||1# 13 oz - 35%
||13 oz - 17%||7.7 oz - 10%|
|Drumsticks 4# (10)||2# 6oz - 59%||1# 8 oz - 38%
||5 oz - 8%||1.8 oz - 3%|