Chicken is one of the most popular meats around and free range chickens are available worldwide and all year round. Its mild flavour means that chicken recipes pair well with a variety of different ingredients.

From barbeque chicken to roast, the range of ways it can be cooked and prepared means that it is an extremely versatile meat. Meals with chicken, which is lower in saturated fats than most meats, especially when it is eaten skinless, are a great way to intake a high level of good quality proteins and B vitamins. The United States of America consumes the most chicken of all the countries.

How is chicken farmed?

Chicken is reared in several different conditions. Organic chicken is the most expensive to buy as it is farmed under the strictest regulations. These regulations means that all chickens should be allowed to roam outside during the day and they should be fed a strictly organic diet. The amount of exercise they get does mean that they are sometimes less plump than chicken reared differently. These chickens are allowed to mature more slowly, up to around 14 weeks, which makes their flesh firm and tastier. Free range chickens should have some access to open air and are treated similarly to organic chickens yet are slightly cheaper. Corn fed chickens have a bright yellow skin due to their diet but this colour does not affect flavour and usually fades during cooking.

Battery reared chicken

Battery reared chickens are raised in undesirable environments and are the most commonly available. They are usually a lot cheaper than other chickens due to the vast amount that can be generated under the conditions and only live up to six weeks. They are packed to high numbers with little or no room to move around with limited access to sunlight; the conditions mean that the meat is often inferior and much fattier than chickens raised in more favourable environments. Butchers, farmers’ market or mail order company should be able to provide information about how the bird was raised.

What are the different varieties of chicken?

Various breeds of chicken are available. The British breeds such as Oakham White and the Cotswold White provide good meat. Alternatively, the French breeds, poulet de bresse, poulet anglais and poulet noir, are often known for being a good chicken for meat.

What to look for when buying chicken

Chicken flesh is pale and close-textured. When choosing a chicken the skin should be clear and soft with no bruising, blemishing or tears. A sign that the bird comes from bad conditions is a brownish-red “hock burn” on the leg skin. Chicken should never be eaten raw and care should be taken to wash utensils and hands thoroughly after handling raw chicken. Fresh chicken goes off quickly and show be refrigerated as soon as possible. A whole chicken should last for about 2 days, while smaller cuts, mince and chicken liver are best eaten on day-of-purchase.

How to cook chicken

Popular cuts of chicken include the breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks and the giblets are also widely eaten. Meals with chicken such as the classic roast is most commonly done with the whole bird. Certain cuts of chicken can be marinated to add flavour, moisture and to tenderise the meat more. With marinades, if the skin is slashed a few times the marinade will soak in deeper into the meat, giving it a fuller flavour. Classic chicken recipes such as chicken soup, pie or curry are quite simple to make and can be changed to fit with personal tastes as chicken works so well with a variety of flavours. Chicken can be roasted, grilled, stir-fried and barbequed. Barbeque chicken works in many ways, a popular way to cook is with a sticky sauce or marinade. This sauce could be created using honey, soy sauce, spices and ginger, and marmalade. Other popular dishes include the French, coq-au-vin and the Italian, chicken parmesan.

Chicken Recipes: