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Chicken question [moved from Prairie Provinces]

Hey chowhounders!
What is the difference between a fryer and a roaster? My understanding is that a roasting chicken (hen) is older, but by only a few days. How old is a fryer? How old is a roaster? And is the age the only difference? Which is best for soup? Which is best for roasting?
Thanks!

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  1. I think you want to post this on the Home Cooking board - IMHO..

    6 Replies
    1. re: beggsy

      Let me handle the tough question: The roaster is best for roasting.

      1. re: Scary Bill

        Chickens are often marketed in fryers, broilers, and roasters. Fryers are the smallest size (2.5-4 lbs dressed for sale), and the most common, as chicken reach this size quickly (about 7 weeks). Most dismembered packaged chicken would be sold whole as fryers. Broilers are larger than fryers. They are typically sold whole. Roasters, or roasting hens, are the largest chickens commonly sold (3–5 months and 6-8 lbs) and are typically more expensive. Even larger and older chickens are called stewing chickens but these are no longer usually found commercially. The names reflect the most appropriate cooking method for the surface area to volume ratio. As the size increases, the volume (which determines how much heat must enter the bird for it to be cooked) increases faster than the surface area (which determines how fast heat can enter the bird). For a fast method of cooking, such as frying, a small bird is appropriate: frying a large piece of chicken results in the inside being undercooked when the outside is ready. ( from Wikipedia)

        1. re: felix the hound

          Felix, that's US. Canada grades differently, I'm pretty sure.

          1. re: Scary Bill

            Technically you are correct Scary Bill. For instance, according to the Canadian Chicken Marketing Agency Regulations "chicken broiler" means a chicken of any variety, grade or class which is at least 10 days of age but not more than five months of age, not raised for egg production, and includes fryers and roasting chicken"

            In terms of providing practical information it is slightly better than "The roaster is best for roasting"

            1. re: felix the hound

              I apologise for pointing out your error. I as well appologise for your inability to understand humour.

    2. Thanks everyone for your answers. I may have asked in the wrong spot, but I certainly received feedback! I was really most curious about age since I was told that a roaster was a really old hen and that kind of grossed me out a bit. Not sure why. Then, at the local grocery store they told me that there was something like only a few days (to a week) difference in age. Was also curious as to how they grew so big so quickly, but I think that is obvious.
      Thanks!

      7 Replies
      1. re: cookerlady

        Regardless of where you live, a roaster is NEVER going to be "a really old hen". A bird like that will be sold as a "Stewing Hen" - & sadly, very few markets offer these; they're delicious for so many recipes.

        "Roasters" are simply chickens between 6-8 months old; "fryers", around 8 weeks. I'm talking about commercial operations here, not local farms.

        1. re: Bacardi1

          So how old is a stewing hen? Wow, I sound like I have age discrimination against foul. The funny thing about this? I am a vegetarian. Haven't eaten chicken since 1981. I am still a foodie though and am always interested and curious about food. Plus, there are SO many food myths out there.

          1. re: cookerlady

            Stewing hens are usually chickens that were raised to lay eggs, not for meat. Their egg production slows down at about 18 to 20 months .When they are no longer useful laying eggs they are slaughtered and sold for making stews and broth. Because of their age, their meat is tough but can be more flavourful if cooked properly.

            1. re: felix the hound

              Sorry Felix, but "stewing hens" are actually raised for that purpose, & can sometimes cost more than regular fryers/roasters.

              The hens used for commercial egglaying are far too scrawny for any sort of meat product. Thus, when their commercial egg-laying days are over (normally after 1-2 years), they're turned over to either commercial soup companies or pet food companies.

              They're definitely NOT sold as "stewing hens".

              1. re: Bacardi1

                Sorry, but Felix is right. We've been raising chickens for years and know several commercial egg and meat chicken farmers. Once a laying breed hen, usually a White Leghorn, has passed it's most efficient laying days, they are sent to the slaughter house and processed into stewing hens. Because they are scrawny, chewy and have fallen out of favour since most people don't make their own broths and soups, these stewing hens are sold to soup companies. It doesn't make economic sense for a farmer to raise just stewing hens only for that purpose. Commercial farmers don't raise dual purpose birds, backyard hobby farmers do. However, if you can find an egg farmer, they will often sell you their processed stewing hens, and it'll be worth it for that rich flavour, but not so much for the quantity or quality of meat.

              2. re: cookerlady

                Cookerlady - "Stewing Hens" sold commercially are between 1 to 1-1/2 years old. And since they're not from commercial egglayers (which are pretty scrawny), but usually from either dual-purpose (eggs & meat) or meat breeds, they can be pretty hefty. Of course, if you raise your own birds, any hen (or rooster) of any age older than a year can be "stewed".

            1. re: ronojo

              a Justin Bieber-loving, lip gloss wearing, OMG texting tweenaged hen

              1. re: ronojo

                A "pullet" is a young hen that hasn't yet begun laying eggs. Depending on the breed & the time of year, chickens usually begin laying eggs between 4 & 7 months of age.

                1. re: Bacardi1

                  Thanks. What is a pullet best for?

                  1. re: ronojo

                    Well, since "pullet" is a term used primarily to describe a bird that hasn't begun laying eggs yet, it doesn't really apply to the use of birds for meat.

                    But in general, a bird that's between 1-1/2 months to 2 months old (& between 2-3 pounds in weight) is considered best used for broiling or frying, while a bird between 3 months & 8 months of age (& weighing between 3-1/2 & 6 pounds) are considered best for roasting. Since very few if any birds will start laying at 2 months of age, one could say that a true pullet (one that's begun laying eggs) is best for roasting.

                1. Meat chicken breeds, Cornish X, are bred to put on weight fast. The sex doesn't matter much, but to break down the ages, goes something like this: game hens are between 4-5 weeks old, fryers are 7-8 weeks old, broilers 9-10 weeks old, and roasters with a weight of 6-8 pounds are up to 12 weeks old. Due to the extremely fast growth of these meat chickens, farmers can rarely keep them beyond 3 months of age because their legs or hearts give out. The chickens that are still alive, begin to convert their food into fat rather than muscle tissue. Considering that most people don't want this fat, it is a waste, and therefore discarded and the farmer loses money rather than making money.