Chicken is an incredibly versatile ingredient and can be so tasty when cooked well. For those who are trying to cut back on their saturated fat intake (which have been linked to increased rates of heart disease and cancer), lean chicken is considered more of a healthy eating option, especially chicken with its skin removed – I always prefer chicken cooked with the skin on and then removed after cooking. Removing the skin from chicken can half its saturated fat content – better for your healthy eating plan.
Chicken is an excellent source of protein, especially a protein called tryptophan which can help with mood and sleep and Niacin (Vitamin B3) which assists the body process fats and stabilise blood sugar levels. It is also a good source of selenium, a major antioxidant.
It is hard to mention chicken without mentioning trying to buy free range or organic chickens, or chicken from a well known source. Commercially reared chickens have been linked with heavy antibiotic use, hormone use and inhumane conditions and make up 68% of the chickens reared in Ireland. Organically reared chicken must be allowed to roam, given organic feed and are given minimal chemical interventions. It is important to know that free range simply means that must given certain access to open space but not necessarily that they are given organic feed.
When buying chicken, if you can touch it, it should be pliable when pressed. The skin should be opaque and not spotted. Also be careful if every purchasing frozen chicken that there are no ice deposits or freezer burn.
When storing chicken, keep it in the fridge in its packaging. Do not remove it from packaging until you are ready to use it and make sure the packaging is not leaking before putting it into fridge. It can keep for 2-3 days in the fridge -always check the use by date if it has one.
Chicken can be cooked in so many ways – a lovely roast chicken for Sunday lunch with heaps of roast veggies, stir fried with Asian greens, marinated in herbs and placing under the grill or simply cooking in a stew. During the winter months I find I use chicken a lot in stews and always cook it on the bone, with the skin on, leaving it moist and tasty. If you are stewing for a while, seal first to keep in the juices flavours.