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Cooking (very recently) live poultry?

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I recently decided to brave a trip to the live poultry shop near my apartment, and bought a 5-pound white-feathered bird (red-feathered and black-feathered cost a bit more, so I thought I'd start/experiment with the cheaper meat) that I cooked up at home. I've been a city boy most of my life, but I do remember a few trips back to the farm, and recall that the chicken killed right before cooking was a little stringy and a bit tough; the same thing happened this time around (I braised it in broth with some vegetables). The scraps I had boiled for hours to make stock turned out nice and soft, but they were (of course) pretty flavorless at that point.

Any tips on making the meat a bit more tender? I'm sure it would make excellent coq au vin, but I wouldn't want to be limited that much.

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  1. You are lucky to be able to get a stewinig bird. They are hard to come by any more. It is the perfcet bird for making chicken and dumplings. These older birds are stringy and a bit tough which is why it is good for a braise but they are more flavorful than the younger tender birds.

    1. This is only what I've learned in theory, mind you-
      I've been told that anything freshly killed is still too "green" to start cooking and eating. After feathering and drawing, let the meat "hang" for several hours (4-6) in a cool dry place- fridge should be fine- the enzymatic reactions will have begun and rigor mortis will have passed. a 5# live chicken should yeild about 2 1/2-3# of meat- so it is still a "fryer" and should be young and tender.
      As for makin coq au vin, Candy is right- that is supposed to be made with an old tough rooster or stewing hen- hence the long marinating process and long slow braise traditional recipes call for. Based on its size, I think your chicken is too young to really replicate the mature character of a rooster, but won't require 48 hours soaking in wine and cognac, either!

      1. When we were younger we used to get chickens fresh....as far as I know we didn't have a problem, but I know people in Trinidad use lemon to wash it and a bit to season it they say to take away "freshness" but maybe it's for the toughness too? Maybe boil the stew a bit longer?

        1. Thanks for all the great tips. I've heard it's better to rest the bird, too, so I'll try letting it sit a bit longer next time. It did sit in a colander for just under 4 hours, but it wouldn't hurt to let it rest a bit more. Does it matter whether I cut the bird up before then?

          1 Reply
          1. re: kimcheater

            Lunchbox is right. As unappetizing as it sounds, you do need to give the rigor mortis time to pass, and the meat then begins to "relax". I would give it about 6 hours.
            You can cut it up or do anything else to it, then!! : )

          2. Just curious - how did you kill it?

            1 Reply
            1. re: Linda513

              They kill it at the shop; I'm guessing it was beheaded on a rotating blade of some sort. They steam it lightly, I think, to get the feathers out.

            2. Maybe it's the bleach all the big poultry operations dip the carcass in that makes it tender! :-)

              1 Reply
              1. re: achtungpv

                No, Lunchbox is right - follow his directions, and you should be fine. Trust me.