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Mar 10, 2009 02:15 PM

Poulet v. Volaille - what's the difference? [moved from France]

I draw a blank when i need to know the difference between poulet and volaille. I know Poulet Volaille, Chicken breasts?

Thank you!!

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  1. Poulet- mature hen, poussin-small hen, volaille-breast, coq-rooster

    7 Replies
    1. re: Delucacheesemonger

      breast is poitrine, but sometimes one says "l'aile" (the wing) as in "l'aile ou la cuisse?" if you are saying whether you'd prefer the front or back quarter of a roast chicken. This was euphemistic as of course "poitrine" also means a woman's breast area, but it has remained in culinary parlance.

      Volaille has nothing to do with breast.

      1. re: lagatta

        "Poitrine" seems to be used for poultry in Canada, but in France chicken breast is usually "blanc de poulet" or "filet", and duck breast is "magret".

        1. re: DeppityDawg

          magret here too for duck. Yes, "poitrine" is used more here, but it is perfectly correct French. découpe-volaille Googling it turns up more Québec recipes, but also ones from French sites. "Blanc de poulet" tends to mean a boned piece, "filet" certainly does.

          "L'aile ou la cuisse?" is the standard question, and even a popular French film.

          1. re: DeppityDawg

            Have found word poitrine to be used for the best bacon l have ever experienced, one of the first things l buy when unpacked. 80% lean, not like American bacon that is 80% fat, and usually double smoked, it is fabulous. Does that mean it is breast of pig? seems way less fatty than other animal breast, eg lamb, and veal.

            1. re: Delucacheesemonger

              logically, it would be the breast. Already back bacon (Canadian bacon) is much less fatty thath the US-American type. I have seen many smoked pork cuts that are less fatty still, at Central European artisanal butcher shops hereabouts (though we are getting a bit far from poultry in France).

              Double-smoked anything is wonderful. Including smoked poultry.

              1. re: Delucacheesemonger

                Yes, "poitrine de porc" is indeed pig breast, but it just corresponds to what we call "pork belly" in English. The word "ventrèche" (= "belly") is also used regionally.


        2. Interesting question. A definition (in English) I saw was that volaille was chicken flesh. But one in French (which I have only the barest familiarity with) said it was any domestic fowl raised for eating. Poulet is pretty much pullet.

          1. Poulet is chicken. Volaille is poultry (chicken, duck, goose, turkey, …).

            4 Replies
            1. re: DeppityDawg

              It depends on the context - on a shop sign, in the plural, it means that they sell fowl generally. On menus it tends to mean chicken, as has been said.

              1. re: DeppityDawg

                and rabbit. Rabbit is considered poultry in France.

                (shades of the clucking Cadbury bunny....)

                1. re: sunshine842

                  It depends, I think mainly in commercial contexts, and maybe they are grouped together for some legal/regulatory purposes. But if you see "volaille" in the name or description of a menu item, I don't think anyone would expect to be served rabbit, would they?

                  1. re: DeppityDawg

                    that's where it all goes squirrely (hey, maybe that's volaille, too?)

                    On a menu, things like supréme de volaille or foies de volailles refer to chicken more often than not.

                    In the marché or at the supermarket, however, it's birds (chicken, turkey, duck, coq, poussin, quail, pigeon, pheasant, capon, etc., etc., etc.) .... or rabbit.

                    My volaillère also frequently had cerf in the display case, as well....

              2. This to me is interesting, called volaille breast as was the only time l have ever seen the name on a menu and matched the flesh, and it was a number of times, what always came out was chicken breast, thus ASSUMED, duh, oh well.

                1. Everybody here is right. Volaille means poultry, poulet means chicken. But most of the time, "volaille" actually ends up being chicken.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: souphie

                    So when it's on the it safe to assume it's the breast of SOME poultry animial, most likely chicken? Does it always mean chicken breast and/or pieces?

                    1. re: polishpierogi

                      Menu names typically give an indication of the specific preparation: for example "suprême de volaille" is the breast (and maybe a piece of the wing), but "foies de volaille" is livers. If they just say "sauté de volaille" or "fricassée de volaille", etc., then your guess is as good as mine…

                      And I agree that it's always either ordinary chicken, or turkey (cheaper). If it's some special kind of chicken, they will draw attention to the fact (poulet fermier, poulet de Bresse, etc.)

                        1. re: polishpierogi

                          Some years ago during the uber chef bistro craze we were eating @ the Guy Savoys bistro. We didn't see poulet on the menu so we asked the waiter if they had chicken. Well, it was one of the funniest things I had seen in a restaurant. He gets all Peter Sellers on our ass, & points to the mirrored wall where the menu was written and says "Of course Monsieur we have volaille! That is chicken". Now I know what it is!

                          1. re: MOREKASHA

                            This discussion takes me back to my Boston days; Monk fish is to poulet as Lotte is to Volaille. Same dish...different price.

                            1. re: Oakglen

                              Not if you cross the border into Québec!

                    2. re: souphie

                      souphie is correct on this one. Not really much of an argument about it.