Conducting a taste test yields very helpful and delicious data to compare and contrast your favorite varieties or brands. The following 101 on conducting your own chicken taste test comes from Elezar Kenig. Thanks, Elezar, and please keep us up to date with more taste-tests you can try at home!
WHAT YOU’LL NEED:
1 pasture raised chicken*
1 heirloom chicken*
1 regular organic chicken*
6 tsp. vegetable oil (2 for each chicken)
6 tsp. baking powder (2 for each chicken)
Salt** and pepper to taste
* These particular birds all came from Mary's Farm and were all air-chilled. This means they weren't submerged in antibiotic filled water to chill them for food storage quickly, a method that also dilutes the flavor.
**All salt in this recipe is Kosher Salt. Diamond Crystal was used as it is less dense than others. If you use Morton or another brand, you might want to use less.
WHAT TO DO:
In order to yield the most accurate and tasty results, you’ll want to prepare and cook 1 quarter (connected leg and thigh) of each bird using the same way.
1. Slide your finger or a spoon between the skin in the meat to loosen it, and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Salt the meat on the underside.
3. In a small bowl, mix salt, baking powder, and a drop or two of vegetable oil. Mix together and then rub over skin.
4. Poke the leg quarters with a skewer all over and place uncovered in fridge overnight (not more than 24 hours).
5. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with baking sheet in oven (no need for foil).
6. Brush leg quarters with vegetable oil (lightly) and sprinkle with pepper to taste. Alternatively, you can use Pam or other cooking spray.
7. After the oven preheats, take your pan out (carefully!) and place chicken quarters skin side down. Put them back in the oven for 10 minutes.
8. After the 10 minutes is up, flip the legs over and turn oven off for 12 minutes, or until you’ve reached 165-degree internal temperature. You can take it out a few degrees before this as it'll continue to rise in temperature but you want to definitely take it out by this point.
9. Remove from oven and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
10. Dig in... Taste test!
The pasture raised chicken was the best. It had the darkest meat and the best flavor.
The heirloom chicken was second best – it existed somewhere between pasture and regular chicken in flavor. As a side note, while this test only compared the thighs and chickens, the heirloom chicken had very little white meat on it, but it had large wings.
The regular air-chilled organic chicken was the mildest tasting of the chickens, but still may be better than other chickens overall. The mild flavor would probably be less noticeable in a recipe that isn't just straight chicken.
The baking method (searing on the pan and then letting it sit in the still warm oven after turning it off) was a very easy method. Chicken very easily removed itself from the pan despite no foil, oil, silpat, parchment, etc… (Remember: silpats and parchment can’t withstand 500 degrees, so be careful there.) The pan was easy to clean and the chickens didn't leak juices all over the place and thus burn to the pan. I suspect that is because they were air-chilled – they weren't leaking their excess water weight.
The prep method with the baking powder on the skin yielded super crispy skin, cracker like. It is delicious and I highly recommend it.
You could probably do this taste-test with a whole chicken that was butterflied or spatchcocked. I'd recommend removing the wishbone when doing this – it'll help lay more flat, which is a good if you want that perfect skin. Cooking times may vary in doing this, especially when you consider the overall size of the bird.
Lastly, air-chilled chickens might be a bit more expensive, but the water-chilled chickens can retain up to 5% weight from the water chilling process.
Got a question for Elezar? Experimented with your own chicken taste test? Post it below and keep the conversation rolling. You might also be interested in 101s on grass-fed and pasture-raised meat, canning chicken stock, or homemade bone broth. You can always find more things to cook, preserve, plant, grow, make, craft, and boil in the HOMEGROWN 101 library.
ALL PHOTOS: ELEZAR KENIG