You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Everyday Chicken - Everyday Chicken

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks

Everyday Chicken

Chicken is not only one of the most versatile foods to cook, it is also a good value. Every part of it can be used in different ways: it can be roasted whole and unadorned ; cut into serving-size pieces, seasoned with exotic spices, and cooked quickly under the broiler, or slowly in the oven until meltingly tender. However chicken is cooked, it’s always a favorite.

Free-range or organic?

Buying chicken can sometimes be confusing, with labeling varying from “free-range” and “organic,” to “corn-fed” and “farm-fresh.”

Free-range birds have been provided access to open-air runs. “Traditional free-range” follow stricter standards—the birds are given more freedom and space. Free-range birds must have continuous daytime access to the open air, for at least 50% of their lifetime.

Organic birds have been fed on a completely organic diet, given no meat by-products, and won’t have been given antibiotics. They usually have outdoor access, and are reared for up to 12 weeks, twice as long as intensively-farmed chickens. They are often the most expensive choice, but you can taste the difference in the meat. Choose chickens that have a recognized “organic” certification.

Corn-fed simply means that the birds have been fed on a diet of corn or maize, resulting in a yellow, golden skin. It doesn’t mean that they are free-range or organic.

Farm-fresh is a misleading label, and can still mean that the bird has been intensively farmed.

Chicken nutrition

Chicken is packed with protein, and is low in saturated fat. Most of the fat is in the skin, but this can easily be avoided by removing it before or after cooking. A 3 1/2oz ( 100g) piece of skinless chicken breast has around 100 calories. with 2g of fat; with the skin on, it has about 200 calories, with 12g of fat. It’s a good low-cholesterol meat choice, and provides all the essential amino acids, along with vitamins B6 and B 12, needed for a healthy diet.

Time-saving techniques

Six quick and simple ways to prepare and cook chicken—each technique results in a different flavor and texture. The first three are preparation techniques, and the last three are cooking techniques.


Pounding a chicken breast so it is thin and even will speed up the cooking time.

Place a skinless chicken breast fillet between two sheets of plastic wrap on a clean board.

Pound evenly with a meat mallet, or the side of a rolling pin, until it is an even thickness, about 1/4in (5mm).

Remove the plastic wrap, and season. Flattened chicken breast fillet needs only 2–3 minutes of pan-frying or grilling on each side.


Oven-roasting suits most cuts, as well as a whole bird.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Sit a 3lb (1.35kg) chicken in a roasting pan and smear with butter (using your hands).

Season and sprinkle with a handful of fresh thyme leaves. Stuff two lemon halves into the cavity to help it stay moist, then put in the oven.

Cook for 30 minutes, remove, and spoon the juices in the pan all over the bird (basting), then cook for about another hour, until golden and cooked. To test, pierce the thigh with a skewer: if the juices run clear, it’s ready.


Stuffing a chicken breast adds extra flavor, and keeps the chicken moist.

Lay a skinned chicken breast on a clean board, and pound briefly with a meat mallet or the side of a rolling pin to flatten it a little.

Working out from the middle, slash each side with a knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way through, to form a pocket for the filling.

Fill, and pull together tightly. Wrap with pancetta or bacon, or cook cut-side down and cook in a little olive oil for 6-8 minutes each side, or until cooked through.


Steaming keeps the chicken moist. A healthy way to cook chicken breasts.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).Lay out a large piece of foil, then sit a chicken breast, plump side up, in it.

Season well, add in a handful of fresh herbs and a few lemon wedges, and pour in 1 tablespoon of dry white wine, then close the foil, leaving plenty of room for the chicken, sealing the edges together tightly to seal.

Sit on a baking sheet, and put in the oven to cook for 20–30 minutes, or until cooked through. Be careful when opening the parcel as it will be hot, and full of steam.


Threading small pieces of chicken onto skewers will speed up the cooking time.

Soak wooden skewers for 30 minutes in cold water, so they don’t burn. Use 2 chicken breast fillets or 2 thigh fillets for 6 skewers.

Cut 1 portion into bite-size pieces, then thread onto the skewers, about 6 per stick. Cut the other portion into strips, and thread onto the skewers. Marinate .

Sit the skewers on a hot ridged cast-iron grill pan or under a broiler, and cook for 3–4 minutes each side, or until cooked through and charred.


Cooking in liquid keeps the chicken moist. Suits breasts and legs.

Put 2 breasts or legs, plump side up, in a deep-sided frying pan, with some lemon slices, a handful of fresh parsley (or fresh herb of your choice), a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns.

Pour in enough cold water to cover, then bring to a boil. Simmer gently, sitting a lid loosely on top, and cook for 15–20 minutes for breasts, or 20–25 minutes for legs.

Turn off the heat, and leave the chicken in the pan for about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and serve immediately.

5 Quick flavor mixes for chicken

Transform chicken from simple to special with these fresh, hot, and aromatic spice and herb combinations. Use as rubs or marinades before broiling, roasting, or barbecuing.

Thai spice

A wonderful assortment of colorful, aromatic, and pungent spices.

Mix together a couple of finely shredded lemon grass stalks, 6 finely chopped and seeded red and green chiles, a thumb-size piece of grated fresh ginger, 1 tbsp lime juice, a handful of fresh cilantro, and 1 tbsp dark soy sauce. Will keep, chilled, for 3–4 days.

Use to marinate chicken pieces (preferably overnight), before pan-frying, or roasting in the oven.

Indian spice

A delicious warm and fragrant mix of dry spices, fiery chiles, and cooling yogurt.

Crush 1 tsp cardamom seeds and 1 tsp coriander seeds, then seed and chop 2 jalapeño chiles. Measure out 3 tsp each of garam masala and turmeric. Will keep, chilled, for 3–4 days.

Put the crushed spices in a hot pan with a little oil or ghee. Cook for a minute, then add the chiles. Mix 8oz (225g) Greek yogurt with the ground spices, and smother over chicken thighs. Cook for 8–10 minutes each side.

Caribbean spice

A diverse fusion of hot and peppery tropical spices.

Process a handful of fresh thyme leaves, 2–3 Scotch Bonnet chiles, 1 tbsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp sea salt, and 2 tsp allspice in a food processor, or pound in a mortar and pestle until finely ground. Will keep, chilled, for 3–4 days.

Smother the chicken portions in olive oil, add to a plastic bag with the spice mix, and shake. Let marinate, preferably overnight. Grill or barbecue for 30–40 minutes, turning once, until cooked through.

Mediterranean herbs

A classic mix: light, sweet, and woody herbs with the sharp tang of lemon.

Combine 2 tsp dried oregano in a bowl with 3 crushed garlic cloves, a few fresh rosemary and thyme sprigs, 1 tbsp black pitted olives (optional), and 2 lemon wedges. Will keep, refrigerated, for 3–4 days.

Rub chicken thighs or legs with olive oil, season, and place in a roasting pan. Smother the chicken pieces with the mix, and cook in the oven at 400°F (200°C) for 35–40 minutes.

Moroccan spice

A blend of sweet and tangy flavors, scented and perfumed to add a distinctive taste and aroma.

Combine 1 tbsp each of smoked paprika and harissa paste with 2 tbsp emon juice, 2 cinnamon sticks, and a handful of preserved lemons, chopped.

Cook chicken thighs in a large flameproof casserole dish with a little olive oil, then add the spice mixture, along with some tomato paste, and cook, covered, over medium heat for 30–40 minutes. At the end of cooking, stir in some chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley.


To save on time and money spent on store-bought spice blends, get creative. Go through your cupboards and process your own blend of herbs and spices in the food processor. Keep in a sealed jar until needed (no more than 6 months). Turmeric and cumin seeds, shown here, can be blended with other Indian spices.

Storing chicken

Chill Cooked and uncooked chicken should be kept in the refrigerator at all times, and used within a couple of days of purchase (or by the use-by date on the package). Keep uncooked chicken tightly wrapped in plastic wrap at the bottom of the refrigerator, and keep it away from other foods, particularly cooked meats. Don’t let it sit for long at room temperature, as this is when germs can breed.

Freeze Freeze uncooked chicken right away, and make sure it is well wrapped in plastic wrap, so it doesn’t get freezer burn. It will freeze for up to 6 months. Never freeze uncooked chicken ready-stuffed. Cooked chicken is best frozen in a freezer-proof plastic container with a sealable lid. Only freeze cooked chicken if it is covered in a sauce, otherwise it will become dry and tasteless. Freeze for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight.

Reheating chicken

Chicken can be reheated only once. Don’t reheat it if it’s still warm—it needs to be cooled quickly and completely chilled in the refrigerator. Reheat it until it is piping hot, as bacteria is killed at high heat (above 165°F/75°C, to be precise). Put your dish in the microwave, cover with a plate to retain moisture, and cook on High for 3–4 minutes.

Tools of the trade

For pan-frying, a large heavy-bottomed frying pan is essential. A pair of metal tongs are also good to have on hand, for turning the chicken while it’s cooking. A heavy-duty roasting pan and baking sheet are good to have, as they don’t buckle under high heat. A cast-iron ridged grill pan is excellent for cooking chicken, and a combination of wooden and metal skewers is needed for kebabs.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon