A Diva knows that poultry is defined as domestic fowl bred for eating. Raised for their meat and eggs. Poultry includes chicken, turkey, duck and goose. Here are the basics when choosing. See our other pages on preparation and cooking techniques of different types of poultry (coming soon!)
The most popular and widely available form of fowl. The younger the chicken is, the more tender the meat is and here are the common types of chicken:
- Poussin – An immature chicken, 4-6 weeks old, weighing up to 1 lb/450 g. Delicate, moist meat
- Broiler-Fryer – Most common bird, 10 weeks old, weighing up to 3 ½ lb/1.6 kg
- Stewing Chicken – An older bird, laying hen, weighing 6 lb/2.7 kg
- Capon – Castrated, young chicken bred for its tender white meat
- Cornish Hen – AKA Rock Cornish Hen. Small hybrid chicken, weighs up to 2 ½ lb/1 kg
- Free-Range – A limited number of birds are housed per square yard/meter and have outside access for at least half their life. 10-12 weeks old, weighing up to 4 ½ lb/2 kg
- Organic – They have been fed with antibiotic food with guaranteed access to feed while outdoors
Whether you’re choosing packaged chicken or turkey, it should look pink and not gray. Avoid poultry with any purple or green discoloration around the neck, and dark wing tips.
The best tip I ever received on saving money buying chicken is to buy a whole chicken and ask your butcher to cut it up into quarters or you can do it yourself.
Not only will your pieces look better, be covered properly with skin if that’s what you’re looking for, and in the end you get to make a beautiful chicken broth with all of the bones, an onion, carrots and celery, slow cooked overnight. Delicious!.
That being said, here are your options:
- The color should look pink and not gray nor translucent
- The fat should be a white to deep yellow color and not gray
- The sell-by date is 7 to 10 days from slaughter and it’s the last day recommended for sale (*note* if there is a special then that usually means the chicken should be bought and eaten the same day)
- Watch for tears on the skin as this can make the chicken go bad more rapidly
- Fresh chicken should spring back against your touch when you poke it. If it is hard or falls in, it is a sign of old age and you should avoid
- Check that the packaging doesn’t have any tears, holes or excessive amounts of liquid
- Watch for chicken that feels bloated as it has probably been injected with water to increase the weight
- When shopping for a whole bird, the breast should be plumped out more than the leg
- Both whole chickens and chicken parts should have a clean smell
- Raw chicken should be stored at 39°F/4°C
- Buy chicken that is hard as a rock and extremely cold to the touch, if at all soft then DO NOT buy it!
- Make sure the package is tightly sealed
- The color should be a nice pink not pale and gray
- The fat should be white and not gray
- Store at below 39°F/4°C
- Look for a chicken that is plump and has a larger breast than leg
- Watch out for dried up looking or shriveled up chicken
- Make sure the chicken is hot to the touch, if it isn’t then don’t buy it
- Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (being thrown out on the 3rd)
- Can be frozen in an airtight container for 2 to 3 months (remove the meat from the bone first)
Cooking Directions for Chicken:
- Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C. Roast for 20 minutes per 1 lb/450 g, plus 20 minutes. Increase the temperature to 425°F/220°C for the final 15 minutes of the calculated time.
- Use a meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature is 165 F/74 C
- Allow an extra 15 minutes cooking time if the bird is stuffed
Here is a list of common types of turkeys:
- Standard Bronze – one of the largest heritage breeds, hen weighs 16 lb/7 ¼ kg, tom weighs 25 lb/11 ⅓ kg
- Bourbon Reds – considered one of the best tasting heritage breeds, hen weighs 12 lb/5 ½ kg, tom weighs 23 lb/10 ½ kg
- Blue Slate – domestic breed AKA Lavender turkey, hen weighs 14 lb/6 ⅓ kg, tom weighs 23 lb/10 ½ kg
- Black Turkey-domestic breed brought over to US and Mexico by Spanish in 1500’s
- Beltsville Small White – developed in 1030’s, similar to Midget White, great for sitting on and hatching eggs
- Narragansett – popular in New England and Rhode Island, hen weighs 18 lb/ 81/4, tom 30 lb/13 ½ kg
- Midget White – crossbred for deep, delicious flavor, hen weighs 10 lb/4 ½ kg, tom 18 lb/8 ¼ kg
- Broad Breasted White – commercially bred birds that can grow up to and above 40 lb/18 ¼ kg
- Royal Palm – not bred commercially, hen weighs 10 lb/4 ½ kg, tom 16 lb/7 ¼ kg
- White Holland – originated in Holland, hen weighs 20 lb/9 kg, tom 30 lb/13 ½ kg
For more information on the different types of turkeys take a look at roysfarm.com
When you head out to purchase a turkey, there are a few things you need to look for for. Whether fresh or frozen, you want to be sure that you’re getting the best bird out there for your money.
Commercial turkeys are bred for their size but can often end up dry so it’s sometimes better to go with one a bit smaller.
Here is a list of things you want to look for:
- Fresh turkeys are usually only available around Thanksgiving but orders can be placed with local farmers
- As opposed to chickens, the turkey should look a pale, grayish-pink color
- The skin should be pale and reflexive and have an off white color
- The turkey has been chilled to 26 F/-3 C and has never been chilled below, so it needs to be cooked within 1 to 2 days of purchase
- The turkey should have a clean smell, no foul odors
- Turkeys are flash frozen and must be kept frozen up until needed
- Allow 24 hours for every 5 lb/2 ¼ kg to thaw in a fridge or 30 minutes per lb/66 minutes per kg in cold water, making sure to keep changing the water so it stays cold
- Most turkeys are injected with a basting solution of water, salt and other spices, some even have butter pats in them
- Look for a larger breast to leg ratio, keeping in mind that they may have been injected
- Look for certification on the label….did you know that “cage-free” and “hormone-free” are illegal already and mean nothing on the label?
- There will be a bag of giblets in the inner cavity of the turkey, great for stuffing or gravy
- Frozen turkeys can stay for up to a year if unopened in the freezer
- You can buy pre-cooked and pre-stuffed turkey that you can keep in the freezer for up to 1 year
- There is no need to defrost the turkey as it has to be cooked directly from frozen
Cooking Directions for Turkey:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F/220°C. For turkeys weighing 8-10 lb/3 ¾-4 ½ kg, roast for 30 minutes, roast for 1 hour then reduce the temperature to 325°F/160°C for 2 ½ – 3 hours, increasing the temperature to 400°F/200°C, uncovered, for the final 30 minutes.
- For turkeys weighing 12-14 lb/5 ½-6 ½ kg, roast, uncovered, for 40 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 325 F/160 C for 3-3 ½ hours, increasing the temperature to 400 F/2oo C for the final 30 minutes.
- For turkeys weighing 16-20 lb/7 ¼-9 kg, roast the turkey uncovered for 40 min, then reduce the temperature to 325 F/160 C for 4 ½-5 hour, increasing the temperature to 400 F/200 C for the final 30 minutes.
- To ensure the turkey is properly cooked, always use a meat thermometer and poke the turkey through the deepest part of the flesh, making sure not to penetrate the inner cavity..165 F/74 C.
- Add an extra 20 – 30 minutes cooking time if the bird is stuffed
Duck is a waterfowl, now mainly raised commercially and widely available at specialty butcher shops. As with all poultry, a younger, free-range bird will taste better than an older, farmed bird.
It has a fatty skin that allows it to float better and works as a self-baster. It has a rich, flavorful taste that’s loved by many.
Here are the different categories of duck:
- Broilers or Fryers – ducks younger than 8 weeks, weighing 3-6 lb/1 ⅓- 2 ¾ kg
- Roasters – ducks younger than 16 weeks, weighing 4-7 lb/1 ¾-3 ¼ kg
- Mature/Old -ducks older than 6 months, usually used in processed products
Duck is usually sold frozen because it’s a specialty item any you usually find it served around the holidays. You can buy it from a specialty grocery/butcher shop or from a farm. That being said, you can contact a local farmer if you want fresh.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Watch out for blemishes on the skin
- Take home and put in the fridge right away, keeping a plastic bag around the original packaging
- The duck will last for 1-2 days in the fridge so you want to use it ASAP
- Keep a nose out for any odd odors, the bird should smell fresh
- Make sure the packaging is sealed and look out for signs of freezer burn
- Check to see if it’s stuffed or not as this will affect the cooking time
- If placed directly in the freezer, it will last for up to a year
- Make sure the duck is hot to the touch and not just warm
- You can take it home and cut it up into pieces and refrigerate within 2 hours
Cooking Directions for Duck:
- Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 F/ 180 C and roast for 1-1 ½ hours
- Check for an internal temperature of 170 F/77 C before removing from the oven
- Add an extra 15 minutes if the duck is stuffed.
Goose is a large water bird popular for roasting and raised free range. Fatty with rich, dark meat, the taste is just divine. The fatty skin, as with duck, helps to self-baste and render the fat throughout the bird while cooking.
There are a couple of categories of goose for you to choose from:
- Gosling – a tender, young goose weighing about 8 lb/3 ¾ kg
- Young Goose – known for it’s tender meat, it weighs about 10-12 lb/4 ½-5 ½ kg
- Mature/Old Goose – usually a spent breeder that is used primarily for processed products
Like duck, goose is a less common specialty item that you will find in the freezer department at your specialty grocery store or butcher shop. It is very popular over the holiday season and has a flavor like no other.
- Check for skin blemishes and buy from a reputable farm/butcher…do your research
- Ask if the bird has been dressed as you will have to prepare your own
- Make sure the goose has a clean smell
- Make sure the package is sealed tightly
- Look out for freezer burn
- Take home and place directly in freezer where it will last for up to 1 year
- Make sure the goose is hot to the touch, not warm
- Get it into the fridge within 2 hours and keep it sealed in airtight containers for up to 3 days (including the day you bought it)
Cooking Directions for Goose:
- Preheat the oven to 425 F/220 C. Roast for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 350 F/180 C and roast for 2 – 3 hours.
- Check for an internal temperature of 165 F/74 C.
- Allow an extra 20 – 30 minutes for cooking if the bird is stuffed