Cooking Tips

Cooking with Different Breeds of Poultry

As one might expect, different types of birds have different needs when it comes to cooking! This post is all about how to make the most of the bird you have. Please cross-reference Cooking with Whole Chicken for general information on cooking whole birds.

Here at Horseradish Ranch, we raise five different types of poultry:


1. Red Ranger Chicken

Red Rangers are the most versatile chicken we raise for the kitchen. They are plump young(ish) birds that do well in the frying pan as well as the roasting pot — while still generally lean-eating, they have a nice thin layer of delicious fat under the skin. There is slightly less breast meat and considerably more leg/thigh meat on a Red Ranger than a Cornish Cross (the Rangers really love to run!), making them an excellent choice for those who love darker meat and richer flavors, but still want more flexibility in cooking than heritage breeds can offer.

They are fairly flexible when it comes to cooking temperature — high-temp cooking with results in a nice crispy skin, while a low-temp cooking will result in meat that’s more tender and fall-off-the-bone. They can be put on the grill or BBQ, and treated much in the same way as the chicken you’re used to eating from the store, with two exceptions:

  1.  They will be way more flavorful! Suffer bland chicken no more, Red Rangers bring the taste game.
  2. You have to pay a little bit closer attention during high-temp recipes not to overcook them. Using a meat thermometer to monitor internal temps of the meat and ensuring it doesn’t go over 170f will give you good results.

If you brine the bird before cooking, or are cooking parts of chicken in a sauce or casserole, it’s much easier to keep the bird moist even at high temperatures.


2. Cornish Cross Chicken

Some of our customers prefer Cornish Cross chickens for their larger ratio of breast/white meat, and the meat’s wider tolerance of high-temp cooking while still staying very tender. Cornish Cross also has a milder flavor, since the birds are younger at the time of harvest.


3. Heritage Delaware Chicken

The Delaware chicken is one of the best-tasting chickens around. The meat is rich, flavorful, and chickeny in a way that redefines the bird. Delawares have more leg/thigh meat and significantly less breast meat than either Red Rangers or Cornish Cross, making them a dark-meat lover’s bird.

However, Delawares are a little bit older, a lot leaner, and have more fibrous muscles than the other chickens — this makes the Delaware sensitive during the cooking process. I always recommend cooking a Delaware at a low temperature, and in a closed container such as a dutch oven or crock pot that will hold the moisture in during the cooking process. Delawares are not for frying or grilling, but they are awesome in soups, stews, and saucy cast-iron dishes.


4. Muscovy Duck

Muscovy duck is the red meat of the poultry world — yes, the breast meat is literally red, richly flavored and steak-like. Muscovy duck often has a generous layer of fat under the skin, though our Muscovy ducks are leaner than other commonly-produced breeds, which lend Muscovies to cooking more like wild game and less like other domesticated ducks. Don’t use a recipe intended for Pekin ducks to cook a Muscovy or you’ll end up with a tough, overcooked bird. Duck takes a little more attention in the kitchen than chicken, but it’s worth it!

Hank Shaw wrote a great piece about how nearly impossible it is to cook the ‘perfect duck’ whole, but that you should instead choose which part of the duck to focus on when roasting the whole bird — breast, or legs.  (Though, I have to admit, I’ve made his Winemaker’s Duck recipe using whole Muscovy and there wasn’t one bit of it I didn’t like…)

Alternatively, you can cut the duck up into pieces for cooking to get that perfect experience in every bite.

For food safety, we recommend cooking all poultry to an internal temp of 165f.


5. Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck more closely resembles the type of duck used most often in european and asian duck recipes. If cooking a chinese roast duck recipe, Pekin is the preferred and traditional choice.

Pekins are plump, young birds with lots of fat under the skin, making them a little more tolerant of different temperatures when cooking whole. Pekins also tend to be a little bit smaller than Muscovies, great for a smaller meal instead of a feast. The breast of the Pekin is not quite as ‘red’ and ‘wild’ tasting as the Muscovy, which some customers prefer.

For food safety, we recommend cooking all poultry to an internal temp of 165f.

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