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The Culinary Cook Cooking Basics Types of Poultry & Poultry Basics

Types of Poultry & Poultry Basics

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Types of Poultry & Poultry Basics

Poultry is one of the most commonly ate proteins for a good reason. It’s lean, plentiful and has a very neutral flavor that lends itself to be easily marinated. There are countless ways to prepare the types of poultry. Chances are you have a few secret recipes of your own that you hold near and dear.
 
Poultry consists of many varieties of domesticated birds. These types of poultry include guineas, geese, chickens, pigeons, and turkeys. 

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How to Break Down a Chicken – Video Guide

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Poultry Definition

Poultry is usually thought of being just for chickens. The definition of poultry is simple. Any bird that is raised for their eggs or meat is defined as poultry. This fits all birds including the various chicken types. This can mean birds outside of the standard fare that we have listed here. In some cultures, poultry can extend to other varieties of birds that North Americans typically wouldn’t, such as Ostrich.

poultry types
Poultry is more than just chicken

The Tools and Resources

Any time you embark on a new journey, it pays to be well prepared. A big part of my mission is to ensure you are aware of the tools and resources that play a big role in your success.

Having worked in the cooking industry for over 20 years, I have tried many products. Doing things properly doesn’t have to be expensive. If you are going to be working with poultry on a regular or semi-regular basis, here are some tools to make it enjoyable.

Boning Knife

A boning knife a versatile tool that works wonders when dealing with chicken or when breaking down a chicken. Specialized tools are specialized for a reason. A boning knife is thin and sharp, giving you proper agility. It does not have to be expensive. For my recommendation, be sure to click here.

Roasting Pans

A roasting pan is essential for a couple of reasons. The biggest is that poultry of all shapes and sizes cook wonderfully in the oven. I find most home cooks use porcelain or glass for their cookware which makes it very difficult to clean. I highly recommend a proper roasting pan. If you want to see which roasting pan I recommend, check it out on Amazon by clicking here.

Instant Read Thermometers

A must-have in the kitchen, especially for poultry. Not only for food safety but to prevent overcooking as well. There are an absolute ton of these available on Amazon and most of them are crap. Don’t get overwhelmed! You can check out the one I buy for all my cooks by clicking here.

Poultry Shears

Can’t say enough good things about specialized kitchen tools. There is something cathartic about having the right tool for the job when inspiration hits. Poultry shears are like that. Not only are they versatile (Hint: You can use them for more than poultry) but deceptively useful. For an inexpensive, good quality pair, check out our recommendation on Amazon by clicking here.

Best Chicken/Poultry Cookbooks

Whether you are a cook searching for tomorrow’s lunch special or a home chef wanting something delicious for dinner, everyone needs inspiration. Here’s the book written by a chef at the Culinary Institute of America on Amazon.

Different Types of Poultry:

Chicken

  • Game Hens
  • Broiler/Fryer
  • Roaster
  • Capon
  • Fowl

Duck

Goose

Pigeon

Turkey

How Long Do Chickens Live?

Well-cared for chickens treated as a pet can live for many years. Chicken lifespan can vary depending on living conditions. In backyard conditions, they can live for 8-10 years, like a dog. The breed and diet can also play into the lifespan.

Do Chickens Eat Ticks?

Yes. Chickens can eat ticks which can be helpful if you are raising them in a backyard setting. They can also eat other insects such as flies and mosquitos.

Types of Chickens

types of poultry
A typical chicken!

Chicken is the most eaten poultry in the world. It has both white and dark types of meat and has much less fat than other poultry. Cook young tender chickens using any cooking method. Braise or stew older chickens. Chicken has the unique appeal of being versatile. Due to its neutral flavor, it lends itself to a variety of garnishing, marinating. Stuffing and basting is also a common practice, as it can be paired with almost anything.
 
If there is one thing that is universal, is the worlds’ love for chicken. Cooking chicken can be fun and simple. However, properly cooking chicken is important due to the chance of salmonella. Different breeds of chickens can impact the size. A chicken’s diet can also affect its flavor.
There are many breeds of chickens. Some of the largest chicken breeds are astounding in size. The largest chicken breeds:
  • Jersey Giant
  • Brahma
  • Cornish Game Hen
  • Cochin
  • Orpington

jersey giant chicken breed
The Jersey Giant

There are several types of chickens that are defined in classes of age. Knowing these classes will help you decide on the proper purchasing and cooking method to ensure accurate preparation.

Cornish Game Hen

Game hens are typically 5-6 weeks old and are young or immature progenies of a Cornish chicken. It is very flavorful. The best method of cooking is to split and roast or grill.

What is a Broiler Chicken or Fryer Chicken?

Young and with tender meat and smooth skin, the broiler/fryer chicken is typically 6-8 weeks in age and is lean. It will have a flexible breastbone which is a good sign of the age. It weighs up to 2kg (4lb) and lends itself well to any cooking method as it is very versatile.

If there is one thing that is universal, is the worlds’ love for chicken.

Roaster Chickens

A roaster is a few weeks older than a fryer. There is not much variation between a roaster and a fryer besides the age. This can affect flavor and tenderness. It has tender young meat with smooth skin. The breastbone is less flexible than the fryer and aged around 8-9 weeks. The weight is 2kg and over. It is suitable for any cooking method.

types of poultry
Capon

What is a Capon?

A capon is a castrated male (Caponette will mean chemically castrated). It has tender meat with soft smooth skin. A capon is bred for well-flavored meat and contains a high proportion of light meat to dark meat. A capon also has a high-fat content. A Capon is 4-6 months old and weight between 2-4 kg (6-10lb) and over. The preferred method for cooking a capon is roasting.

Fowl

A fowl is a mature female. It is quite flavorful but less tender than a fryer/roaster. The breastbone has no flexibility. The age of the fowl is over 7 months and will weight 1kg (2lb) and over. The best cooking method for a fowl is to stew or braise.

Duck

types of poultry
Duck breast scored and ready for pan frying

Duck is one of my favorite types of poultry due to its exquisite fat and excellent texture. If you’ve never had duck before, I implore you to try it. There is nothing game-y about a duck. It goes very well with a variety of sweet berry sauces, making it even more delicious. The most common type of duck used is a young duckling. Duck only contains dark meat and large amounts of fat. To make the fatty skin edible, you must render as much fat off the meat as possible. Duck has a high percentage of bone and fat to meat. A 2 Kg duck will only feed 2 people while a chicken of the same weight will serve 4. Eating duck at medium-well to medium is fine and there is no danger of foodborne illness.

types of poultry
A cooked goose

Goose

A goose contains only dark meat and has very fatty skin. It is usually roasted at high temperatures to render the fat. Not as popular today as it was in the past, it is still used in some households an in some restaurants.

Roasted goose was popular at holidays and is often served with an acidic fruit-based sauce to offset the fattiness. It has been overtaken in popularity by turkey for its less intense flavor and leanness.

Pigeon

Not as common as many of the other types of poultry out there, and in fact most of these types you’ll have to actively seek out, however, the pigeon does have roots in history where it was an important part of a diet. The young pigeon is not the pigeon you find on the streets but rather raised for the purpose of being eaten. Usually referred to as squad, its meat is dark and tender, suitable for broiling, sauteing or roasting. There is minimal amounts of fat on the pigeon and would, therefore, benefit from barding.

types of poultry
A fresh turkey

Turkey

We all know about turkey and we should all know the differences in cooking a turkey compared to cooking a chicken. The difference in size alone means that the cooking methods and cooking times change substantially. Turkey is the second most popular types of poultry.

It has both light and dark meat and a relatively small amount of fat. Younger turkeys are much more economical and can be prepared in almost any manner. Best cooking methods for the typical young turkey is roast or cut into cutlets and sauteed or pan-fried.

Storing and Freezing Poultry Properly

Poultry is highly perishable and particularly susceptible to salmonella bacteria. As such, it is critical that the poultry is stored at the right temperatures. Be sure to store fresh chickens and other small birds on ice or at 0C – 2C (32F – 34F) for up to two days. Larger birds can be stored for up to 4 days. Freezing poultry is recommended at -17C (0F) or below and should be brought up to temperature gradually and always at cooler-temperature.

Foie Gras

types of poultry
Foie gras

Foie gras is a bit controversial right now due to the manner in which it is harvested from the goose. However, it is still an important piece of the culinary arts and is important to know what it is and how to cook it. Foie Gras is the enlarged liver of a duck or goose that is considered a delicacy since Roman times. Today, it is produced in many parts of the world by methodically fattening the birds by force-feeding them specially prepared corn while limiting their movement and activity. Fresh foie gras contains two lobes that must be separated, split and deveined. The better foie gras will be smooth and lighter in color with a more delicate flavor than that of duck.

Fresh foie gras can be grilled, roasted, sauteed, or made into a pate. Keep in mind when cooking foie gras that if cooked for too long it can literally melt away due to the high amounts of fat within it. In 2007, foie gras was banned in some areas and a movement has started to ban it completely due to allegations of animal cruelty.

Marinating Poultry

Chicken Marinating
Marinating Chicken

Because poultry has such a neutral flavor, it is common to see poultry used in marinating. Poultry is often marinated in a mixture of lemon juice, pepper, oil, white wine, herbs, and spices. Lemon juice, being acidic, helps inject flavor into the poultry. Poultry also absorbs flavors quickly. If left too long in an acidic marinade it may take on undesirable flavors. The greatest time to marinate chicken is 2 hours. Smaller pieces will need less time, while larger pieces requiring more.
 
If your marinade contains oil, be sure to drain it well so it will not flare up on the grill or broiler. Use a paper towel to wipe off excess moisture so the poultry will brown evenly and easily. Use the excess marinade to baste the poultry as it cooks. Never use leftover marinade served uncooked. This is due to the danger of cross-contamination from the uncooked poultry that sat in it.

Cooking Poultry

Apply the various cooking methods learned earlier. You should have an idea of various cooking methods that tend to be useful for cooking poultry. All methods are acceptable to use. Only certain classes of chickens need certain cooking methods. You will most likely only see fryer chickens available in grocery stores. Chicken is versatile. Experiment and try different techniques when cooking chicken. Using methods such as poaching in court bouillon, grilling, marinating, broiling and roasting.
Stuffing poultry is a popular method of preparing chicken. The combinations are endless. Lemons and herbs go very well with chicken. I always like to stuff my whole roasted chickens with half lemons, pepper, salt, garlic, and fresh herbs. I baste often and the finished product is always juicy and is herb-y with a hint of citrus.
 
An underappreciated method of cooking chicken is by poaching. When you dealing with chicken breast, there is very little fat to help keep the breast moist. By poaching, you help retain a lot of that flavor as well as incorporating flavor. Try a variation of a court bouillon that emphasizes a good flavor base and experiment!

grilled-chicken-breast
Grilled chicken

Always cook poultry to an internal temperature of 74C. This is to ensure the destruction of harmful bacteria. I recommend picking up a digital meat thermometer. Using one allows to accurately gauge and pinpoint the exact temperature. This means you will have no worry of under- or over-cooking the chicken. You can determine how cooked a chicken is by touch. Develop this technique over time. The chicken should be firm and springy without feeling dry. An under-cooked breast will feel soft and not have that spring.
 
For whole-roasting chicken, check the temperature where the leg joint meets the body. A cooked chicken will also have loose joints. If the joint is loose, it is a good indication that the chicken is cooked through. You can also check by visually looking at the chicken. Does it look like it’s done? Is it browned well? Fully cooked chicken juice will run clear when probed. The uncooked chicken will appear cloudy and bloody.
 
Cooking is unique in that it requires you to use all your senses. Using these senses you should be able to gauge the temperature of any product. There is no substitute for a good thermometer, so be sure to pick one.
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1 COMMENT

  1. My grandmother always put a cut up lemon and an orange into her chicken cavity. She made delicious roast chicken. To this day, people ask for her recipes.
    It is interesting to learn that chicken is classified by age and also that a goose is all dark meat. That is puzzling, but all birds are different.
    I want to be able to butterfly a chicken. I ordered a new chef’s knife so that I can attempt that.

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The Culinary Cook

Professional Chef & Blogger

With 15 years of experience working in restaurants, resorts, and a fully Red Seal Certified chef, The Culinary Cook shares tips, tricks, and recipes for everyone to enjoy.

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