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Are chickens different nowadays?

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I've been roasting whole chickens for, uh, several decades now. Used to be I could count on getting a nice crackly irresistible skin.

I haven't been getting a very good skin on my birds for several years now. I'm talking supermarket chix, (usually Foster's Farms).

Has there been a change in the way they are processed, giving the skin different qualities?

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  1. I think they're just getting younger and younger. And the growers are just so thrilled, since they can hatch out a bunch and have them pan-ready in a matter of weeks. Next thing you know it'll be days!

    The hatchery hens of my youth were birds that had been around a block or two, and though not meltingly tender they tasted like real CHICKEN. The ones we're buying now are barely old enough to have feathers - giant chicks, not even pullets.

    Now you've got me wanting to go get a chicken and roast it just to see if I can get some good skin...

    1. I've had that same problem! Weird! I've tried "oven searing" it @450 for 20 minutes first; I separate the skin from the meat. I've tried roasting as-is, coating with butter or oil, and nothing works. The only thing that has *sort of* worked, is actually pansearing first, and then roasting in that same pan. I've received the best results that way.

      I'm really interested in the responses to this though....why won't that damn skin brown??? Flabby chicken skin is so ugh.

      2 Replies
      1. re: dagwood

        What sort of oven do you have? I could never get crackly skin in my old gas oven, but now that I have an electric wall oven it's been easy. Or at least it was last time I tried - I need to see if this reported phenomenon is epidemic...

        1. re: Will Owen

          I have an electric oven, and have for the past 10+ years. I've only had this problem in the last 4 or 5 years or so.

      2. I run my fingers (gently) between the skin and the meat and put a layer of walnut or olive oil, some salt, pepper, and some herbs sometimes in there. But I think it's the separating the skin from the flesh that makes the skin crispy, that and also roasting it on the charcoal grill with indirect heat. The separating the skin is part of how Peking duck gets such crisp skin.

        3 Replies
        1. re: EWSflash

          I *do* separate the skin. Still, nothing. I thought part of what made the skin so crisp on peking duck was drying, either air-drying or via fan.

          1. re: dagwood

            You might try air drying on a rack, uncovered, in your fridge for 24 hours before you roast and see if that helps. I know this step is a key to getting crisp skin in dry-brined poultry (Zuni Cafe style), and even more so in wet-brined birds.

            1. re: dagwood

              Check out the home cooking board for Thomas Keller's simple roast chicken (from Bouchon). Just made it last night and the skin was shatteringly crispy without being burned. One of the best and simplest methods of producing a great roast chicken with that old-fashioned chickeny flavor, whatever the provenance of the bird.