Our pasture-raised poultry isn’t just any old chicken. We put a lot of TLC into raising them. They get fresh air, exercise, and forage (bugs & grass), unlike commercially-raised confinement chicken (yes, even the one labeled ‘organic’) found in most grocery stores. We raise slower-growing breeds that are healthier, more active, and better foragers than your typical commercial chicken. In addition to rotating pasture, we offer our chickens a custom-formulated feed using corn/soy-free, non-gmo, northwest-based ingredients for optimum health and high nutritional content. In return, our chicken appreciates a little TLC from you in the kitchen in order to bring out the amazingly rich flavors and textures of these unique birds. Here are some of our favorite cooking tips (you don’t need to use them all, just a couple will make a difference!).
» Brine: Soaking your chicken for a few hours or overnight (in the fridge) in a mixture of salt water & vinegar will help tenderize and infuse juices into the meat. (Brine recipe coming soon, but you can look up a great number of chicken brine recipes on google!
» Slow-Thaw: It is important to let the frozen bird thaw completely before cooking to ensure even temperature distribution throughout the meat to prevent over-cooking on the outside and under-cooking on the inside. We recommend letting a smaller chicken (2-3 lbs) thaw in your refrigerator for at least 24 hrs, and larger birds (3+ lbs) for 48 hrs. Allowing them to thaw slowly (rather than in the microwave) helps the muscles of the bird relax and ensures more tender meat during and after cooking. One of my favorite ways to thaw is to make a brine and pour it into the plastic packaging while the chicken is still frozen, and let it sit in the refrigerator in a pot or bowl. By the time the bird is done thawing, it is also already brined!
» Whole Chicken: Many of our customers have cooked parted out chickens before (breasts, thighs, wings), but have never cooked a whole bird. Fear not! Though it may seem intimidating, cooking whole chicken is in fact quite easy. While it takes slightly longer initially to cook the whole bird than just parts, once cooked, a whole bird is easy to separate into pieces that can be saved in the refrigerator or freezer and used to cut down on cooking time in subsequent meals. Cooking chicken whole, with the bones in, results in more nutritious and flavorful meat! Making full use of a whole bird in our house often goes like this:
- Cook whole chicken (see cooking tips below). Fresh from the oven or pot, serve thighs and drumsticks with meal such as stuffing, rice, roasted root vegetables, etc.
- Peel breasts off of carcass, save in a container in the refrigerator to use as a quick, easy topping for salads or sandwiches in lunches throughout the week, or to make chicken salad.
- Peel off the wings, and save in the refrigerator for a 5min reheat in the pan or microwave for a satisfying snack.
- Peel off the scallops and meat from the back of the carcass, and save in the refrigerator (or freezer, to save up a larger amount) for use in pasta sauce, casserole, or soup and stew.
- Save the carcass itself! The bones left after peeling off all of the meat (and even bones from previous meals) can be saved in the freezer, or thrown straight into a crock pot or dutch-oven with enough water to generously cover it and a small splash of apple cider vinegar — add veggie scraps for extra goodness. Cooked on very low heat for 24-48 hrs (the crock pot or oven makes this a set-it-and-forget-it affair), the flavors and nutrients in the bones will leach out into the water and create an extremely healthful, aromatic bone broth that can be strained and either frozen for future use, or put to use straight away in a soup or stew.
- Feeling particularly adventurous? Try cooking livers, hearts, gizzards, or feet (recipes coming soon) for an even greater appreciation of the flavors and nutrition provided by consuming the whole bird. (These giblets are not included with a whole packaged chicken, but can be purchased separately)
» Low & Slow: The best and most effective way to make tender, tasty poultry is to cook it at a low temperature (250f) for a longer time (2-3 hrs depending on the size of the chicken). Slow-roasting not only keeps the meat tender, but allows more time for the nutrients in the bones to infuse into the meat, resulting in more flavor. Always cook poultry to the proper internal temperature for safety (165f). While we recommend cooking all of our chickens low & slow, it is especially important for the heritage-breed Delaware chicken and Muscovy duck. Red Ranger chicken is a little more forgiving of higher temps.
» Breast Down: Turning the chicken ‘upside down’ with the breast facing the pan or rack will help keep the lean breast moist & tender. If cooking rabbit, cook with the loin facing down and legs facing up (the loin in rabbit is similar to the breast meat in chicken).
» Closed pot: Cooking in a closed container such as a roasting pot, dutch oven, or slow-cooker/crock pot (my favorite!) will help prevent the loss of moisture for juicier meat, and ensure more even distribution of cooking temperatures throughout the meat.
» Rabbit in Fat: Since the skin of the rabbit is removed, unlike chicken, it is very lean and can be prone to drying out. Rubbing the rabbit in oil or butter before cooking will help keep the meat juicy if you are roasting on a rack — if cooking in a closed pot that seals in moisture, adding fat is less imperative (though it certainly makes it tastier!).
Stewed Rabbit (from Dishing Up the Dirt) – Local farmer/foodie Andrea Bemis used our rabbit to create this delicious recipe for her blog, Dishing Up the Dirt. This comforting rabbit stew is a great way to get cozy during the winter. Onions, tomatoes, red wine, and spices blend seamlessly in this perfectly seasonal dish.
Savory Stuffed Red Ranger Chicken – Treat yourself and your guests to an everyday Thanksgiving with this recipe. Fenugreek, seed italian parsley, mushrooms, and french shallots give this stuffing a unique flavor that will bring something new to the table of your holiday gathering, but is light and flexible enough for spring and summer meals as well.
Easy Multi-Dish Rabbit – This low-hassle recipe makes cooking tender, tasty rabbit accessible to even the most novice kitchen chef — and offers a great way to prep ahead for quick meals on the go later in the week.
Interested in learning more about cooking with pasture-raised meats and heirloom produce? Check out some of our recommended books for information, recipes, and more!