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May 30, 2013 11:10 AM

capon vs pullet?

Please excuse my ignorance, but I am a vegetarian just starting to learn how to cook chicken...

I went to the local kosher grocery store and bought what I thought were 2 identical large whole chickens (~5lbs). When I got them home, I noticed that one is labeled as a "pullet" and one as a "capon".

Googling "capon" tells me that it's a castrated rooster, which can't possibly be kosher. So what is going on here? Are they really the same thing and just mislabeled? Any ideas? Thanks!

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  1. A kosher capon is really just a larger chicken. They are a bit older and have more flavor than a regular fryer.

    6 Replies
    1. re: DeisCane

      A castrated rooster can't be kosher? What about castrated bulls?

      1. re: kengk

        It is against Jewish law to castrate animals.

        1. re: queenscook

          I found this online.

          We may not hire non-Jews to castrate animals for us but we may purchase already-castrated animals from them and eat them. It is particularly reprehensible for a Jew to hint to a non-Jew that he wants a certain animal gelded. If he does this, he is not permitted to keep the animal; he is compelled to sell it against his will as a penalty (Talmud Baba Metzia 90a-b).

          1. re: kengk

            Aside from issues of eating, it comes into play when you want to neuter a pet cat or dog, if you're buying or adopting one that hasn't been neutered yet.

      2. re: DeisCane

        I agree. a pullet is usually around 4 pounds and a capon is usually 5 or 6 pounds and maybe even larger. The Capons were usually only available around holidays such as Passover or Rosh Hashanah while pullets were usually available year round.

        1. re: chicago maven

          A pullet is a hen that is less than one year old, so that is why the weight may be less than 5 lbs. Capons often were raised to be 7-8 pounds and fed a large family easilly.

          A pullet that is older than a year generally had more intense flavor and is commonly known as a soup chcken.

          BTW the reason larger birds were generally available around the holidays was demand for a bird large enough to feed the family and holiday guests.

          In general, the larger chicken has disappeared due to the factory farming system that does raise birds larger than about 4 lbs which would be slaughtered at about 5 months. The typical broiler or fryer is about 60-90 days old.

          I use to regularly buy David Elliott brand roasting chickens in the 8-9 lb size in the early to mid 70s. The large size roasting chicken has generally been replaced by the 12 lb frozen turkey. This production has economy of scale and the public is far more willing to buy frozen turkey than frozen chicken. PLUS, many of us load the freezer with the free or inexpensive turkeys available at the big supermarkets in November and leave them in the freezer for Pesach and Rosh HaShanah.

      3. a capon is typically boneless - easier for stuffing and slicing, and very popular with caterers - typically served with a kishka or wild rice stuffing

        9 Replies
        1. re: ahuva

          they don't grow without bones..................

          Kosher caterers often use 10 ounce boneless chicken breasts, stuff them and call them 'Caponettes'
          Years ago when I was in the kosher catering business, both Empire and Queen Esther poultry packed and marketed the 10 ounce breasts for caterers as 20 lb cases of 'Caponettes'.

          Just for your education, a capon is a castrated rooster, as a steer is a castrated bull. The Capon grows very fat, as it loses it's ability to produce the male hormones that stimulate activity.
          Kosher meat suppliers Misapply treif names to kosher cuts all the time. e.g. I've seen medallions of boneless rib eye called Filet Mignon. NOT....this is very dishonest and deceptive

          1. re: bagelman01

            Thank you, bagel. That capon/ette nonsense has always bothered me.

            1. re: bagelman01

              I thought the capon/ettes were dark meat? I could totally be wrong, but they looked and tasted like dark meat.

              1. re: cheesecake17

                They could be. back when I waited tables in the Catskills during holdiays and breaks from college.
                Caponettes or 1/4 Roast Capon would often appear on the menu. These were not usually boneless, but quartered and served over a mound of stuffing. So 50% of the guest ordering got dark meat. In those days and adult chicken serving would either be: whole Rock Cornish Hen, 1/2 Spring Chicken or 1/4 Roast Capon
                In the kids dining room they served chickens that had been cut in 1/8s

              2. re: bagelman01

                its called pullets, because they are pulling your leg.

                1. re: bagelman01

                  QUEEN ESTHER!! Now that's a brand from the past.

                  1. re: chicago maven

                    Since I'm pushing 60 and have been cooking seriously for more than 45 years, ai remember loads of quality Kosher brands that have disappeared due to factory faming and the advent of national kosher slaughterhouses such as in Postville.
                    Growing up in New Haven, you could buy a live chicken at the poultry market on Legion Ave and then walk 20 feet to the shochet's storefront to have it killed and dressed. Then you took it home and kashered it yourself.
                    If you went into one of the 12+ kosher butchers, chances were that they carried KosherBest brand from nortth of Hartford (Windsor i think).
                    National brands such as Empire, Falls, Queen Esther came on the scene on the late 60s and early 70s and were already kashered, sold in the kosher markets with self service meat cases.
                    Queen Esther If my memory holds was actually from the St Louis area. Empire came out of Pennsylvania, and Falls was from the Catskills (also marketed under the Hebrew National name for a time.). We also used to see poultry from the Baltimore area under the Star K. In the late 70s I worked for a kosher caterer in CT who grew up in the business in Baltimore and he sourced much of the product there, except beef which came from Lundy's in Philadelphia.

                    1. re: bagelman01

                      Interesting, I now live in Raleigh NC, some of the old timers tell me that the community Rabbi also doubled as the shochet. People would bring their chickens to the synagogue, sometimes on the city buses, and leave them in cages outside for the rabbi to kill for them.

                      1. re: bagelman01

                        Ah, memories of the past. i am also pushing 60 and I may have one over you in that my father was a kosher butcher and I remember the small chicken house in the back of the store where the shochet came to sheckt the chickens on the spot. Before Empire and others offering fresh/ frozen kosher chicken, this was the only option. I still remember seeing the "chicken without a head" running around the yard!

                2. Thanks for all your responses - what an interesting discussion! Both chickens were the same size (actually, the pullet was slightly heavier) and turned out identical, as far as I can tell.