Let me guess; you are here because the last time you cooked stewing chickens, you had dry, tough, or rubbery meat. Well, you are not alone. I used to cook stewing hen or rooster the wrong way.
Don’t worry; you will achieve the dish’s savory flavor. I will share an easy recipe with cooking tips so you can enjoy stewing chickens with the right tenderness and flavor.
The stewing chickens have a lot of connective tissues and are very lean. Therefore, a long and slow cooking process is recommended to make them tender. The best way to cook stewing chicken is in the slow cooker or crockpot.
What are Stewing Chickens?
Many chickens in supermarkets in the US are slaughtered while still very tender and young. This provides the best possible versatility in cooking, regardless of your recipe. However, the issue is that the birds are bland since they have yet to live long enough to develop a distinct strong chicken flavor.
But with stewing chickens, which are older roosters and hens, you can achieve rich flavors because they have lived long. The only problem with them is that only a few know the right technique to make them tender. On the bright side, their richness in flavor makes them perfect for stews and soups.
Specifically, stewing hens are chickens at least two years old and have been used for egg production. They are tough with many connective tissues, making them ideal for long, slow cooking processes. They are often found in specialty grocery stores or farmers’ markets.
Cook Stewing Chickens in Easy Ways with Simple Ingredients
Stewing chickens are among the nutritionally packed poultry. Their meat has many connective tissues, which help nourish the joints, guts, and brains. Plus, their bones are rich in minerals.
Before, I thought cooking stewing chickens always resulted in super tender meat, like falling off the bone. But after my first try, I was disappointed with the results.
After a few practices, I finally succeeded in cooking and stewing chickens. Here are the ingredients and steps to have a tender and savory stewing chicken:
- 1 stewing chicken
- 1 large onion (coarsely chopped)
- I diced carrot
- 2 ribs of celery (sliced)
- 1 bay leaf
- 10-12 whole peppercorns
- Noodles and diced vegetables (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- In a large pot, place the chicken and cover it with fresh water.
- Bring to a simmer for around 15 minutes.
- Skim away the gray protein film rising to the surface and pour out the water.
- Fill the pot with fresh water again and bring it to a simmer.
- Add the onion, celery ribs, diced carrots, bay leaf, and peppercorns.
- Simmer the chicken for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until tender, depending on the toughness and size. The tougher and older the bird, the more flavor it offers.
- Remove the chicken from the broth,
- Once cool enough to handle, peel the meat from the bones.
- Return the wingtips, neck, skin, and bones to the pot.
- Continue simmering for another 1 hour.
- Cover the deboned meat and put it in the refrigerator.
- Before returning the broth to the pot, strain it.
- Taste your broth to know if it already has a rich flavor. If it does not, simply simmer for another 1 hour until it is reduced by 1/3.
- Taste the broth again.
- Season with salt and pepper.
You can use the meat in different recipes. Also, you can portion and freeze the chicken broth for later use.
I love adding noodles and diced veggies to the broth for a flavorful soup. Then, I add the chopped chicken meat at the last minute. Voila! I have delicious comfort food.
Stewing Chicken Cooking Tips
Stewing chickens are stringy and tough with scrawny and compact breasts. Their long, muscular legs are also noticeable.
It is not ideal for roasting stewing chickens because you cannot achieve the desired tenderness. However, cooking them correctly gives you mouthwatering meat with flavorful and rich stock. The dishes out of stewing chicken offer a distinct taste, whether soup or stew, that younger chickens cannot duplicate.
If it is your first-time cooking stewing chickens, here are some tips:
- You can thicken the chicken broth and add diced meat and pre-cooked veggies for a chicken pot pie or chicken stew.
- Soaking the stewing chickens in buttermilk overnight helps break down the proteins, making the meat more tender.
- Braising the chicken in a flavorful liquid, like red wine and chicken broth, helps keep the meat tasty and moist.
- Besides chicken soup, stew, and soup, stewing chickens are also ideal for BBQ-pulled chicken sandwiches, dumplings, pasta sauce, stir-fries, enchiladas, chicken tacos, and more.
- There is no best cooking temperature for stewing chicken because it depends on its size and toughness. But you should prevent overcooking the chicken because it will produce drier and tougher meat.
- Vegetable scraps, like carrot peelings and tops, parsley stems and leaves, celery trimmings and leaves, onion, scallion, garlic, or leek trimmings, are also great additional ingredients when cooking stewing chickens.
- Adding around two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the pot with water helps release the essential minerals from the bones.
- You can keep recycling the chicken bones as long as they do not crumble.
- The cooled broth tends to develop a bright yellow fat layer on top, and they solidify when refrigerated. Do not throw it away because it helps keep the broth longer in the fridge.
- The yellow fat layer is rich in nutrients and vitamins; you can use it as cooking fat or oil.
What is the Difference Between Chickens and Stewing Chickens When Cooking?
Do not assume that chickens are similar to stewing chickens. While they are both poultry, they have significant distinctions.
The first key difference is that chickens are young birds while stewing chickens are adult birds. Please note that the term hen often refers to female poultry, while the term cock is for male poultry.
If you plan to cook stewing hens, you will notice that they are bigger and have tougher breast meat than chickens. Also, they have better layers of eggs, allowing them to produce more eggs.
Regarding cooking, stewing chickens are better suited for soup, stew, and broth recipes, while chickens can be grilled or fried. The skin of stewing hens is more flavorful and darker than the skin of chickens.
How Long Should You Cook Stewing Chickens?
Stewing chickens are usually 2 years or older and can weigh up to 2.5 kilos. They are perfect for making casseroles and stews because of their rich flavor.
The length of cooking for stewing chickens depends on their size and the cooking method. If the stewing chicken weighs 2.5 kilos or less, it generally takes 1.5 hours to cook. However, if the poultry is larger than 2.5 kilos, cook it for 2 hours.
Ensure not to overcook the stewing chickens because they become flavorless and dry. If you are not sure if the stewing chicken is cooked through, you can use a meat thermometer to determine its internal temperature.