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Does organic meat take longer to cook?

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Or is it just me?

I've consistently noticed that organic/natural poultry and meat take longer to cook than recipes dictate (I can't really compare to commercially raised meat and poultry because I don't use them). The additional time is small for meat but can be an extra 25% of overall cooking time for poultry. I'm trying to figure out why this is. A fluke? My oven? Or is there something about the meat that makes the difference? My off the top of my head guess would be that the meat has less fat, but I don't have any facts to support that theory.

Anybody else have this experience?

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  1. "Organic" makes no difference at all but is the meat you're buying humanely certified, small farm, grass fed, or something more than organic?

    4 Replies
    1. re: chowser

      Generally I buy local chickens that are raised outside (or a mix) but sometimes I get the "all natural" from the grocery store. The farm raised take the longest.

      1. re: lupaglupa

        That's the opposite of what I'd expect--farm raised (given room to run around) should be lower in fat and take less time to cook. Interesting. "All natural" from grocery stores doesn't mean anything special--Tysons can call its chickens all natural, meaning, not man made. So, there shouldn't be any difference in that with other conventional chicken.

        1. re: chowser

          We do choose the grocery store brands that list ingredients and farm practices - I agree that all natural can mean nothing. The latest my local grocery has is "organic" fish - a totally meaningless label but I guess it moves the merchandise...

      2. re: chowser

        If you are buying free range chickens now, as opposed to supermarket chickens formerly, I can see where the free-range would take longer to cook. The meat ismuch denser because the chickens run around and develop muscle. these chicks are also probably better fed (i.e., at least some grass along with the grain) and this also leads to denser meat, which would naturally take longer to cook. Be careful to use techniques that won't dry the meat out!

      3. I've never had an organic chicken that required a longer cooking time than nonorganic. And that includes small farm, free range chickens as well. I think you need to look elsewhere for your time discrepancy culprit.

        1. Often, conventional meat has been injected with saline to increase weight and juiciness. I would bet that this is what makes the difference.

          And "organic" meat has usually been fed basically the same stuff that conventional meat has been fed, so the fat content is about the same, but I believe that grass-fed meat generally does have a much lower fat content.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lmoy

            Right. Generally speaking grass-fed beef should be cooked *less* than grain-fed or finished, not more.

            My first thought was that it shouldn't make a difference, but I agree that meat that hasn't been treated with saline will probably take longer to cook than meat that has, which would include most supermarket poultry and pork.

            Meanwhile, get an oven thermometer.

          2. I have noticed that the organic, free-range chickens I've bought recently have taken significantly longer to roast than the regular commercial ones I used in the past. It was quite noticeable: take the bird out when you're used to having it done, and it's still raw inside. I don't know what the reason is.

            8 Replies
            1. re: Bat Guano

              BG,

              I would suggest you use a thermometer to check the accuracy of you oven's temperature.

              The only other reason I can think of for your dilemma is.......are you letting the chicken warm to or near room temperature before placing in the oven. Putting a cold bird straight from the refrigerator and into the oven will increase overall cooking times.

              1. re: fourunder

                Well, I'm using the same oven and techniques for both types of birds. And they're more or less the same size. I do think my oven is running a bit cool, but it's off the same amount for whatever I put in it. The only difference seems to be the type of chicken I'm cooking.

                Granted, I haven't done a controlled comparison, and my impressions may be inaccurate; but when a commercial chicken takes an hour and an organic free-range chicken takes 90 minutes, that's a significant difference. My gf has noticed the same thing, and reminds me to leave the organic chickens in longer. I don't think it's my imagination.

                1. re: Bat Guano

                  BG,

                  I for one, will never be convinced it is the meat itself, to be the problem you are experiencing This reminds me of the movie, My Cousin Vinny, with the magic grits. Water content just keeps it more moist in the end, it's intended purchase after the weight issue and conspiracy theories.

                  I have never heard this issue brought up with red meat or pork. I was suggesting to think outside the box without making a statement that may be unkind, but with due respect to you and not to imply anything.......

                  It has been a determined many factors contribute to inconsistent temperatures and cooking times for roasting meats, beef or poultry. I will only list two:

                  1. Position of the rack
                  2. Dirty ovens

                  1. re: fourunder

                    No offense taken. Never seen the movie.... nor did I know this was a controversial subject. Just an observation, and when I saw that lupaqlupa had the same question, I thought I'd chime in with what I'd seen and wondered about. As far as I can tell, without doing two chickens side-by-side, conditions are identical - same oven, same cooking techniques, same temperature settings, same oven rack positions. The oven might be slightly dirtier, but I don't think it's a significant difference.

                    I don't know why you will 'never be convinced it is the meat.' If there is an effect that can be documented, then I'd be convinced. Right now I'm intrigued. Maybe, as soupkitten says below, the meat is denser in a free-range bird, or a conventional bird has more water weight, and less actual meat?

                    1. re: Bat Guano

                      time for the side-by side comparison, with report--i'd be interested :)

                      1. re: soupkitten

                        I'm almost intrigued enough to do it, even though with only 2 of us I have no use for 2 chickens at the same time. Maybe a good excuse for a small dinner party....

                    2. re: fourunder

                      Every butcher I have talked to who deals with organic beef (grass fed, no hormones, etc) says that organic beef takes a much shorter time to cook and to eat it as rare as you possibly can to avoid toughening it. And I always have to request that the butcher include some fat placed over the top of my roasts before he ties them.. it is quite lean.

                      I have been cooking organic free-range naturally fed chickens for some time .. I generally buy boneless parts, not whole chickens since I do not care for dark meat. I pan saute the pieces after breading with a bit of olive oil and then finish them in the oven at 350-degrees. Takes about 25 minutes maximum (not including the saute time) .. the meat is white throughout and moist.

                2. re: Bat Guano

                  This is my experience also - I pull the chicken out and it's still raw next to the bones. Thanks BatGuano for making me think I'm not crazy!

                3. as Imoy said above, conventional poultry is usually soaked in a chlorine water bath and then injected with salt water--consumers end up paying for a lot of water weight this way, and when the conventional bird is roasted, it shrinks noticeably as the water evaporates in the oven. organic birds may take longer for the weight you are used to, since they don't usually receive these treatments. if they are also free-range, their denser muscle mass may also contribute to longer cooking, but shouldn't affect it substantially. get a poultry thermometer, or if you don't have one, grasp the end of the drumstick and "shake hands" with your roasted chicken-- when the joint moves easily around in the socket, the chicken is done.

                  1. If this is a real phenomenon and not a matter of observer error or other variables, a higher water content in the meat makes sense intuitively. I imagine water is a better conductor of heat than muscle tissue (I realize muscle tissue is mostly water -- you take my meaning). So a faster cooking time due to higher water content and improved heat conductivity seems plausible. I'd want to elminate a whole lot of other variables first, though.

                    1. Interesting discussion. So I checked to see if Harold McGee has anything to say about it (he doesn’t) and then did a bit of Googling. Found this quote on the Wholesome Harvest Web site http://www.wholesomeharvest.com/servl... under the heading “Keys to success when Cooking your organic meat”: “carefully monitor the temperature of your meat as you may reach it faster than with conventional meat.” They, at least, are saying very specifically that, if anything, organic meats should take less time to cook.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JoanN

                        and that's been my experience with free range turkeys -- they take less time to come to cooked temp. The first year I calculated the standard 20 mins/pound or whatever it is, and then checked the turkey and it was way over temp! I was dismayed, yet the turkey was the best ever. It seems it's also more forgiving if overcooked.
                        I wonder if brining increases the cooking time, since that adds water to the meat . . .