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Before I complain to the grocery store about the chicken...

I made our favorite crockpot chicken recipe: a nice fat chicken, slathered with olive oil, stuffed with onion, parsley, thyme, drizzled with lemon juice, sprinkled with S&P, paprika, and then more thyme and lemon slices on top. Cook 8-10 hours on low. It has never failed and has always been delicious.

Until today. Around the 10 hour mark, I tested the chicken and was surprised that the leg/thigh didn't easily fall away. And the breast seemed a little tough when cutting into it. Since my husband was still working outside, I figured I'd let it continue to cook--but at 11 hours, I figured this has got to be enough. I turned off the crockpot and let the chicken sit in it for about another half hour.

Long story short, we ate the thighs and they were okay, but seemed a little dry--I've never had a dry chicken thigh in my life. Then moving onto the leg, I couldn't cut or even bite into it. It was like it was plastic. I had my husband cut me a little breast meat and it was on the tough/dry side.

We think our mistake was in buying an unknown brand of chicken last night. Went to a trusted grocery store but all they had were tiny Perdue chickens (less than 5 lbs) or these strange brand larger chickens. I never buy a strange brand but I really wanted to make my lemon chicken this morning and so took a chance since I figured this grocery store wouldn't carry something lousy.

Before I write and complain to the grocery store, just wondering if any of you have a clue as to what it would be that would be wrong with this chicken. I've never had anything like this happen before--so glad I wasn't making this for guests: I would have been mortified.

BTW, the highlight of the meal were the "crash-hot potatoes" which I tried for the first time. They kept the meal from being a total loss.

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  1. Maybe it was one of these:
    "Cocks and roosters are older, tougher birds, best of soups and broths".

    From here: http://www.food.com/library/chicken-221

    At our asian supermarket, they sell "old chickens" - I've always wondered what they would be good for - maybe this is it - soups and broths?

    5 Replies
    1. re: ursy_ten

      That would be my guess also. Always check the small print on "unknown" items like on-sale/off-brand chicken. I would encourage you to communicate with the store where you made the purchase and don't be shy about sharing the name of the store in these forums. Markets that care about their reputations will usually change their product lines when enough people complain about it.

      1. re: ursy_ten

        Yep old tough chicken makes really tasty soup and broth after being simmered for hours, it tastes the best but the meat is horribly tough. Some people remove it from the bone, shred it and then simmer it again after the chicken has been cooking in the broth for a bit.

        1. re: ursy_ten

          I remember the label was stuck right over the name but my husband was pretty sure it said "Fresh Hen." I was able to read at the bottom of the wrapper, "Good for roasting, frying, stewing..." That's what I was looking for because I usually buy a roaster for my lemon chicken. The tiny Perdue chickens--the only other choice--said they were for frying.

          As for todao's comment below, the store was Publix and one thing that occurred to us is that a lot poultry farms here in Alabama were damaged with the tornadoes 3 weeks ago. Maybe that's why they didn't have the familiar brands. But I will write. Thanks all.

          1. re: Birmingham

            Since it was called a Hen, as opposed to fryer or roaster, it does suggest that it was a layer and hence older and tougher. I have bought some stewing birds and haven't had a problem getting tender. I wonder if your slow cooker did not get hot enough.

            1. re: paulj

              I agree.

              I suggest that the OP check her slow cooker's temp with an instant read.

        2. Sounds like you bought a rooster or possibly a stewing hen, not lousy birds, but not what you wanted for your purpose. Actually, a stewing hen probably would have worked pretty well within the moist heat environment of a slow cooker. I would mention it to your market.

          http://www.epicurious.com/tools/foodd...

          1. A little beside the point, but, old chickens are almost insanely delicious when cooked ad infinitem with intense lemon infusion.

            1. Oh, one thing I should have asked all of you--what would you do with the leftovers? Soup? Chicken salad? We both have an aversion to having it again--so if you think it's salvageable, it has to be in some unrecognizable state. :-)

              3 Replies
                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Guess you didn't see my final post. I made soup and enchiladas--and a successful lemon chicken today.

                  1. re: Birmingham

                    i didn't - in the date of your post my brain saw the 18 as 28 so i thought i was from today! glad it worked out...and now you have plenty of ideas to choose from if you ever find yourself with leftover chicken :)

              1. I am trying to get my head round the fact that a chicken which is less than five pounds is "tiny". That's a normal sized chicken in my world - 3 or 4 lbs is what I usually buy.

                18 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  Well I always buy a roasting chicken for this recipe, and this is what the Sunset magazine website says about "The perfect roast chicken":

                  "Size. Big chickens ― often labeled roasters (generally 6 to 8 ― have deeper, richer, and more complex flavor than smaller ones. Of course, young chickens (also called broilers and fryers; under 6 lb. and about seven weeks old) can be roasted. But by the time the skin is an appealing color, the breast meat of smaller birds is cooked past its prime. A roaster, however, reaches perfection inside and out at the same time.

                  In fact, everything a roast chicken does well, it does best when bigger. It makes a more dramatic presentation, it accommodates more people, and it provides leftovers for sandwiches, soups, salads, pastas, or just plain nibbles. Best of all, there's time to cook other ingredients in the pan along with the roasting bird, as we've done in the recipes that follow, to create grand chicken dinners."

                  1. re: Birmingham

                    Sorry, Birmingham, but I just don't agree. You don't generally find chickens that big in the UK and certainly not free-range ones. A standard chicken is probably about 3-4 lbs. An 8 pounder would more likely be a capon!

                    1. re: greedygirl

                      Agree about what? I wasn't arguing, I was just trying to show that it's not unusual for a roaster to be that size. It's the size I've used all my life.

                      1. re: Birmingham

                        I don't agree that big chickens have deeper, richer or more complex flavours, or that the breast meat of smaller birds is cooked past its prime once the skin is an appealing colour.

                        In fact, many chefs specify smaller chickens, not least Judi Rodgers of Zuni Café fame, who is renowned for her roast chicken.

                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Okay, but that's not the issue at hand.

                          1. re: Birmingham

                            True. My instinct would be to blame the massive bird but as you've never had that problem before it's clearly not that.

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              I agree with you - I only buy a 3-4 lb chicken and then roast it with nothing more than salt and pepper in a high heat oven using Thomas Keller's method. Perfect roast chicken every time that is unbelieveably most and succulent. And like Keller and his brother did as kids, my kids fight over that juicy fatty bit - the chicken butt. Mm, mm good. The oven is sometimes a mess, but it's worth it.

                              lso good, is to "marinate" you chicken pieces in some fresh lemon juice and then take the zest from the lemons and mash it into a paste in a mortar and pestle with some freshly ground pepper and kosher salt. Smear over the skin and roast on high heat. This is the best lemon pepper chicken ever, IMHO. :)

                              I can't wrap my mind around cooking a whole chicken in a crockpot. Do you brown it first some how? If not, isn't the skin rubbery? I don't get it.

                              1. re: lynnlato

                                The skin isn't rubbery, but we don't eat the skin--even when baking chicken. The meat is what we care about and it's extremely moist and delicious and falls off the bone. This last one I made was wonderful over rice with its own lemony broth.

                      2. re: greedygirl

                        I believe Sunset magazine is without a doubt referring to a capon, excellent for roasting.
                        Roasting chickens (hens) as well as fryers have been bred to be larger than they used to be for decades in the US. A 5 lb roasting hen is not unusual. Capons range 6-10 lbs, and are not generally labeled as such, since a wide swath of consumers don't know what a capon is, as in the Perdue brand Oven Stuffer Roasters. Roaster sounds better than capon to the consumer, I guess.

                        Judy Rogers does specify a smaller chicken in her Zuni recipe, which initially surprised me, but her roasting time and technique is adjusted for the smaller size, and aside from making a unholy mess in the oven, the results are superb.

                        1. re: bushwickgirl

                          Yes, that's what keeps me from doing i again -- the mess in the oven!

                          1. re: roxlet

                            Everybody (or lots of people anyway!) says that but I've not had the problem. Would my convection make a difference?

                    2. re: greedygirl

                      I wonder if they supplement the food with something to make them that big, something that affects the meat. When I'm buying a "big" chicken (free range) they are 3 1/2 lbs. I like to get 2 1/2 lb chickens when cooking for two. So under 5 lbs doesn't sound tiny!

                      Edit: I guess I was posting at the same time as Birmingham. I'm sure Sunset knows whereof they speak, I just marvel at the sizes mentioned!

                      1. re: L.Nightshade

                        I'm a little surprised at the surprise over the size of a roaster: I'm nearly 50 years old and this was the size my mother would serve our family of 9. No way she could feed us all with a 3-5 lb chicken!

                        1. re: Birmingham

                          I, too, was shocked by the gigantic sizes of chicken in the US when I first came here. I initially thought it must have been due to the growth hormones. However, the USDA prohibits hormone usage in the poultry industry. So that must not be it.

                          What was interesting to me at the time was that it seemed that everything in the US were gigant sized compared to other countries. The milk came in big gallons, meat often came in huge family packs, people filled up their giant grocery carts to the brim and shopped for food only once a week. Relatively speaking, things in the US are simply bigger or done on a grander scale when compared to the rest of the world. :)

                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                            I know that a Cornish Cross chicken is bred to grow to unreal size in a short time. I foolishly saw the chicks at a store and brought them home. They grew to be monsters and died at just a few months old. They're just bred to grow really big, really fast. We seldom shop for food once a week. Sometimes my daughter will go in and pick up fresh items and specials but for many years I've only shopped twice a month,sometimes not that often. I can't imagine going to buy groceries more than once a week.

                            1. re: MellieMag

                              I like to use my local shops and pick up a few things when I need them but I live in London and have a lot of choice near my home. It's becoming more common to shop weekly or even monthly in Britain, but in France and Italy a daily shop is still commonplace.

                          2. re: Birmingham

                            I am not surprised at the size of the "roaster" and have always thought they were in the 6-8 lb range. Fryers are smaller; I usually see them in the 3-5 lb range, and I prefer them around 3.5 lbs.

                            But, like greedygirl, I disagree with the Sunset Mag assessment of the drawbacks of smaller birds.

                        2. re: greedygirl

                          They've been breeding chickens for size these last few decades. Today's fryers are bigger than the roasters that we had twenty years ago.

                        3. Just to finish up the story: the store manager told me that was a hen we bought (there was a large sticker over what it was, so we weren't sure) and they're better for stewing--as pointed out by some of you. I told him I only bought it because it said good for roasting, stewing, etc. on the label--but actually when I went back to the store, I saw that they said, "Good for baking, stewing, fricasseeing." I guess I assumed that if you could bake it, you must be able to roast it. (If it's a whole hen, what would be the difference?)

                          Anyway, he gave us our money back AND a free Publix roaster to try (Pilgrim's Pride is the actual company). So today I made my same lemon Crockpot chicken and it came out beautifully. Only took about 9 hours and the meat was falling off the bone and delicious. (So it wasn't a problem with my slow cooker--as I knew it wasn't. ;-)

                          BTW, I told him he didn't have to refund the money because I actually did manage to make some dishes from the hen: turned it into a huge batch of chicken rice soup and also made a chicken enchilada-type casserole.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Birmingham

                            It's still strange though, because if you cooked it in the slow cooker you were essentially braising it, no?

                            1. re: greedygirl

                              But apparently it needed many more hours to go at such a low temp. I gave up at 11 hours. But after following todao's advice (don't know where his post has gone), I boiled it another hour or so the next day and THEN it was falling off the bone.

                          2. Sounds to me like the bird was still in rigor mortis.

                            Had one once like that once and I swear if I had dropped it it would have bounced back up to my hands. Boioioinnnnggg.

                            Usually they aren't sold so fresh that they are still in rigor mortis but it is sometimes a problem with very freshly frozen chickens.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Ferdzy

                              I saw the store manager today and thanked him for allowing us to get another roasting chicken and he said to me, "Yeah, those old hens aren't very good." So I wonder why sell them?

                              When we bought that hen we must have hit the store when they were all out of everything--every time we've gone in since then, they've had much more to choose from.