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Nov 6, 2013 03:59 PM

Why is my fresh chicken so tough!?

I bought a fresh chicken from the halal live poultry place up the street. Never went there before. Watched them kill the bird in front of me. It was gross!

But not as gross as the roasted bird. I took it home and threw it in the oven with the same chicken recipe I always use (cooks Illustrated Weeknight Chicken).

The bird came up to 160 so I took it out and it was so tough I couldn't even chew it! What did I do wrong? Should I have chilled the bird first (I didn't). Or is it maybe an older bird.

It's in a pot now becoming chicken soup...

Thanks in advance.

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  1. Sounds like you cooked the bird too soon - it was still in rigor. Next time you probably want to wait a day or so before cooking.

    4 Replies
    1. re: NE_Wombat

      After I read you post, I looked it up and you are SO correct!

      1. re: NE_Wombat

        I have found, on the few occasions when I've roasted local poultry farm birds that though not still in rigor are fresher than a supermarket bird would be, that the results are chewy even when the temp is correct. Also, the skin is thicker and takes longer to render and crisp. There's such a thing as meat that is too fresh. Enzymatic reactions after death (the start of putrefaction, to be frank) tenderize meat. That's the principle behind expensively-aged beef. Next time keep the bird in the fridge for a few days before cooking it. I'm surprised the butcher did not tell you so.

        1. re: greygarious

          Thank you! The butcher and I had a bit of a language barrier. I will give them another try and see if it turns out better!

          1. re: laserbeams

            Good luck. Though it's possible you got an older bird (called "hen", or if it's older still, "fowl") that would be unusual unless that's what they advertised or you requested.
            The vast majority of chicken meat sold in America is from young chickens.

            Either way, good for you for going to plan B and making soup! If it WAS an older bird, your soup should be outstanding. There are way too many posts from people who have thrown out their salvageable failed dish rather than rethinking and repurposing it.

      2. Was it a hen? If so, it was tough to start with. A hen is a stewing, not a roasting bird.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Cherylptw

          How would I know if if was a hen? It was one if the larger brown chickens. They also had smaller white ones.

          1. re: laserbeams

            How would you know? Ask. if language is a problem, get someone to translate. be sure to let seller know you will make a purchase either way or you may not get an honest answer. People who slaughter and sell direct may assume buyers actually know more than they do - If I'm buying something that fresh and unfamiliar to me i ask - how is best to cook this? Most american cooks today have missed out on lots of information (like hanging/aging birds and game before cooking) and get discouraged/puzzled by results. Like differences in small fryers (hard to find today) and roasters, which are different from stewing hens. And capons!

            Technically a pullet is a young female, under one year, not yet laying eggs. A hen is a mature female, laying eggs.

        2. Chinese prize freshly killed chickens and cook them on the rare side or use them for soup stock when they're still in rigor.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            So how do they deal with the rigor mortis?

          2. Sounds like you got an older bird, over 10 months or so the meat gets tough and stringy. They're usually sold as stewing chickens at that point.