Chef’s Top Tips on Choosing Fresh Chicken

When you make a quick trip to the grocery store to buy chicken, you probably check the date, grab it, and bounce. Understood. If you do follow a magic formula, it probably has to do with what type of cut or parts to buy.

Fans of labeling may be a bit more selective, but it’s a good idea to know if your purchase is fresh and bacteria free. It’s also good to have any fears assuaged about a chicken’s skin hue and texture. You could be wondering what it means about quality.

Well, Chef Curtis Stone is here to answer your inner questions. A regular on Rachael Ray’s show, he lays out some tips on chicken picking that will help you the next time you go on a chicken run. Get in the know!

  1. The Press Test

    A springing chicken is a fresh chicken. Curtis demonstrates that a light push of your fingertip on packaged, refrigerated chicken should help you tell if it’s fresh. Gently push and wait for it to pop back up against its wrapping.

    If it holds onto your indentation for too long, pass on it. A fresher one will push back. You can also go Rachael’s route and buy your chicken from the meat counter where you can lay your eyes on it without any packaging.

  2. Yellow Skin

    raw chickensnowpea&bokchoi via Flickr

    Some of you may be alarmed by the variations in a chicken’s skin or fat color, especially when some are yellow and others are a pale white. No need to worry. It has to do with feed, breed, and age too. Chickens that have eaten food containing yellow pigments or carotenoids will have a yellow tint to their skins.

    The breed of chicken also affects how color is expressed in the skin. In some breeds, the skin will always be white, regardless of the diet. All in all, it doesn’t affect the quality of the bird.

Click on the video below to hear Curtis and Rachael talk more about choosing the right chicken from the supermarket. You’ll want to get the skinny on the merits of buying a whole chicken instead of packaged parts. There’s more to it than just saving money!

Once you get that bird home, you’ll want to make sure you prepare it correctly for your recipes, whether you’ve bought fresh or frozen. There are a few things you want to get right about seasoning, cooking temperature, and moisture-sealing tricks.

Don’t forget to check the sell-by date on your chicken for proper storage. Chicken that has been refrigerated is still good for 1 -2 days after that date if the temperature is 40° or below. Do try a small sniff test to be sure. If your raw chicken emits a pungent odor after you open it, consider that it may have gone bad.

What do you think of chef Curtis’s chicken-picking tips? Do you have any tricks of your own to test for quality and freshness? Which of these tips will you use in the future?