Our first batch of pasture raised chicken has gone down very well indeed. We’ve received great feedback, recipes tips and repeat orders for the second batch which are due to be ready at the end of this month, just in time for Thanksgiving!
The meat from our pastured poultry has texture and taste, as opposed to the watery, soft commercial ‘factory farmed’ chicken. The advantages of our pastured pen solution also means they are not tough or stringy, which is potentially a problem with older hens and totally free-ranging chickens in certain cases. It is really satisfying, eating meat from an animal you have taken care of from day 1 and its great to be able to raise these birds for our neighbours and friends.
There are many many recipes in books and on the net about cooking and roasting whole chickens. There are some chefs who swear by brining free-range birds for 24hrs or another option is to poach it for 10 minutes before roasting to keep it moist. The Godmother of British chefery Delia Smith covers her chicken with butter and bacon, roasts it at a lowtemperature then takes the bacon off and blasts it for the last 20 minutes. Simon Hopkinson does the opposite- cooks his high and quick, blasting it for the initial 10mins then turning it down a touch. I’ve read a few recipes that say pastured poultry needs to be roasted lower and slower than conventional commercial chicken but I haven’t found that to be the case with our birds. Each persons oven, range and recipe will be different though so please let us know what you think! Personally we’ve tried them roasted simply with butter and seasoning; poached with vegetables; and we’ve also cooked a family favourite for our friends – Drunken Chicken! There are more about these recipes below but here are our top tips for cooking our perfectly pastured poultry:
• Leave the bird to relax for 24hrs after it has been killed before cooking or freezng it.
• Roast the chicken on a high heat initially to seal in the juices and guarantee a crispy skin.
• If roasting a larger bird cook it breast down for 30mins to let the juices settle and keep it moist, as with turkey.
• Rub butter and lemon juice into the skin to keep it crispy.
• Push butter and seasoning under the skin of the breast, as well as rubbing it on the outside.
• Let the bird rest for 15mins after cooking.
• Don’t forget the gravy! Pour off all the fat beforehand (after you’ve dipped your bread in it!) and whisk the juices making sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan – that’s where the flabour is!
• And lastly after you’ve picked the best bits off make sure you use the carcass for stock! Roasting the bones for 15min before boiling them gives the stock more depth of flavour.
The Recipes (thanks to Ginger, Kaitlin and Bonnie for their tips)
Simply Perfect Roast Chicken
4oz butter, at room temperature
5lb Kingsville Farm pasture raised chicken
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Your choice of herb seasoning crushed with half of the butter (We like thyme and rosemary. One of our customers suggested garlic, cumin and sea salt)
Preheat the oven to 450F /230C / Gas Mark 8
Dry the chicken with paper towel. Crush your herbs with half of the butter and work it under the skin of the breast. Smear the rest of the butter over the skin of the bird.
Put the chicken in a roasting tin, season with salt, pepper and squeeze over the juice of the lemon.
Put the garlic inside the cavity, together with the squeezed lemon and any leftover seasoned butter.
Roast the chicken in the oven at 450F/230C for 10-15 minutes. Baste and then turn the oven tempera-ture down to 375F / 190C / Gas Mark 5 and roast for a further 60 minutes, basting every 20 minutes. The chicken is cooked once the thigh juices run clear, or when the meat thermometer reads 180F.
The bird should be golden brown all over with a crispy skin and have nut brown buttery, lemony gravy juices in the bottom of the tin. Leave the chicken to rest for at least 15 minutes before carving, ensuring a moist bird.
Remove the fat from the pan and whisk the remaining juices with some stock, or water, making sure to scrape up all those lovely brown bits.
Good websites for roast chicken recipes:
5-6lb Kingsville Farmpasture raised chicken
Butter and seasoning of your choice – try something with a bit of heat – hot peppers, paprika or cayenne
Half a can of beer of your choice (you can fill a pop can if you only have bottled beer), but the maltier the better in my opinion.
Dry the skin thoroughly with paper towel and rub all over with the butter and seasoning.
Insert the can into the cavity and stand the chicken up in the BBQ (comical!) – you may wish to practise BEFORE firing it up as our Weber kettle bbq in the UK didn’t quite close – we got around this by making a precarious teepee with an arrangement of skewers, bbq forks and tin foil
Cook for approximately 1.5hrs or until juices run clear.
The juices from the chicken drip into the can and make a lovely gravy!
The Economics of buying quality food
The ethics of pastured poultry and free-range hens vs the factory confinement systems has been covered elsewhere but it’s worth looking at the economics and health benefits of buying an outdoor ranged chicken, which lb for lb can cost more than its slushy supermarket counterpart.
A few years ago in the UK two celebrity chefs, Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, went all out to convince the British public that free-range eggs and meat were the only way to go. They did a good job and even managed to convince Hellmans to drop their battery eggs and produce their mayonnaise exclusively using free-range eggs. But there is a side of the argument that suggests lower income families cannot afford organic free-range meat – even Delia said that cheap chicken should be available as a source of affordable protein. However, a 5lb bird could provide a family of 4 (2 adults, 2 small children) with 3-4 good meals. Interestingly pastured poultry loses only 9% of carcass weight when cooked, compared to a 20% loss with conventional chicken. Plus, outdoor reared chicken is lower in saturated fat so is not only the tastier option but the healthier one too.
A 5.5lb chicken fed us and the dog for a week:
• Roast dinner for 2 adults and 2 small children
• Pasta salad with chunks of chicken for 4 small children
• Chicken, pesto and mozzarella paninis for 2 adults and 2 small children
• Chicken and veg soup with rice for 2 adults and 2 small children
• Leftovers from the soup for Dusty the Dog.
Not only did it taste good but at $3.75/lb for a 5lb bird our family of four had 3 main meals equalling $1.72 per person per meal, so it was real value for money too!