"Kusina" = Kitchen; "Manang" = older sister

A Filipina's unabashed chronicle of her adaptations in the American kitchen. Includes step-by-step photos on how to make pan de sal, ensaymada, pan de coco, siopao, hopia, pandelimon, pianono, atsara, crema de fruta,etc., and if you are lucky, you will find videos too!

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Saturday, August 21, 2004

Guide to Buying Chicken

Filipinas in the Philippines will not find this post of any use to them. It is just so easy to touch, feel, smell and see the chickens. The only things (that I am aware of) that market vendors do to the chickens to plump them up is to inject saline solution so that the chickens will weigh heavily.

Here, I found that I had no choice with the chickens available at the grocery store. The first time I tasted them, they tasted so foreign...they lacked the flavor that I was used to (in my opinion, our chickens in the Philippines are tastier. But of course, the Ams have their own opinion. It depends highly on which one grew up with). You see, few weeks ago we attempted to raise chickens for our own consumption (which my in-laws tried to take care of during the initial weeks), but the chicken barn burned because of the heat lamp (we assume) which they used to keep the chicks warm. Disheartened by the event (Mom felt so sorry for the chicks, she hoped they died quick and not had to suffer from the fire itself), we no longer felt inclined to raise chickens at least for this year. Okay....so I am back to buying chickens from the grocery store.

Prior to the burn, we would just get pre-cut packaged parts of chicken: skinless breasts for my husband and stepdaughter (he does not like red meat), legs/thighs/wings for me and my sons (I find them tastier. I don't care for the fat content because I easily use up my fat intake anyway. And although breasts are fine with me for sandwiches, they are much more expensive than the other parts, so I try to stick to the cheaper cuts which I like nevertheless.)

However, I read an article about a guide to buying chicken in Cook's Illustrated (this magazine is worth spending on: the authors try to dig deeper into recipes, seeking reasons why so and so procedures are better; they rate equipment according to results and make recommendations as per the best performance as well as per the best value. I recommend it.) It said:

Whole birds taste better than packaged parts and cost less, so it makes

sense to cut up chicken at home.

Even when a recipe call for chicken parts, there are many advantages to purchasing a whole chicken and cutting it up yourself. Packaged chicken parts are generally mass-produced and are of a lower quality, so buying a whole chicken gives you the chance to buy a better bird. In addition, packages of chicken parts often come from different chickens of different sizes; as a result, the pieces may cook unevenly. To top it off, whole chickens generally cost less per pound and provide trimmings that are perfect for freezing to make a homemade stock.

Hmmm...why did I not think of that before? I am quite experienced in cutting a whole chicken anyway. And that way would give me a chance to store the giblets (for the liver to be used in gravies, and for the gizzard for adobo). We Filipinos are quite known by some foreigners as not letting food go to waste (They think it bizarre or even gross that we want the chicken back, feet, intestines, liver and gizzard. They don't even know how much tastier a big fish head is compared to fillets! Oh, that grosses them out. I miss the "ulo-ulo" sinigang.).

And on I read...


Producers breed chickens to "plump out" (an industry term indicating that

the breast meat is thick and plump) at different ages, depending on the desired

weight of the slaughtered bird. We have found that certain sizes (usually

described by producers with the terms below) work better for certain


Poussins are baby chickens that weight about

. Generally available only at specialty stores or butchers, they are

ideal for one person.

Cornish Game Hens are slightly older than poussins and

weigh between 1 and 2 pounds. Larger game hens will serve two people, but

these birds are usually mass-market brands that lack the flavor of the smaller


Broiler/fryers are the standard supermarket chicken. They

generally weigh between 3 and 4 1/2 pounds and will serve four people.

Roasters generally weigh between 5 and 8 pounds.

Despite their name, we do not recommend roasting birds this large, as

the outer layers of meat tend to overcook before the meat near the bone reaches

a safe internal temperature. When feeding a crowd, we prefer to buy two


For their recommendations:


Empire Kosher Broiler Chicken - $2.29/lb; "perfectly seasoned," with meat that was "moist" and "tender"


Bell & Evans Fresh Young Chicken - $2.69/lb; raise on an all-vegetable, antibiotic-free diet, praised for meat that tasted "clean" and "fresh"

Tyson Fresh Young Chicken - $1.29/lb; some tasters liked the "firm" texture, others found it slightly "mealy"

So I tried buying a whole chicken yesterday, but the grocery store brand (Hannaford). Vacuum-packed and not frozen (it was recommended to be frozen by Aug 23 ), I got the 4.4-lb, which cost $4.39 at $0.99/lb. It appeared to me like the chickens I used to buy in the PI. I cut it up. I smelled it. I now feel at ease with this whole chicken. Suddenly I felt like they are no longer foreign to me. I would have cooked them for lunch today but my hubby suddenly requested to have the Mac & Cheese and Chicken Nuggets (Weaver brand) that he bought (I have ready-made comfort foods but he loves them!). I will have to cook tinola using pepper leaves tomorrow then. So I can make my own feedback about them whole chickens after that.


  1. thanks for a very thorough guide! I love eating chicken and like you, my kids and I prefer the red meat, while my mother-in-law and husband both prefer the white!My kids prefer fried chicken while my mother-in-law prefers steamed! As a compromise, I would just grill it in the oven, hahaha! Most of the time though, my mother-in-law wins!

    She orders the chicken from a nearby chicken farm so what we have is actually native chicken, which is tougher and much better steamed than grilled or fried. We use the "famous" Taiwanese rice cooker to steam anything from fish to chicken (maybe I'll feature this in my blog later on). I say "famous" because there is even a cookbook with a load of recipes that you can make using this rice cooker. Anyway, I'm digressing here...

    I had an aunt in the Philippines who had a jet-stream oven (american harvest tm)which she used for roasting chicken. It was so good, parang lechon manok but it took less time to cook. You might want to check that out too!

  2. Hi, I love your site! Could you please make a site feed (Blogger has a tutorial on it)? I read 90% of blogs through a site feed, so sometimes I forget to check your site "manually."

    Jessica ;-)

  3. Hi Jessica! Welcome! I will get to the blogger tutorial on site feed as soon as I can. Medyo super busy lang ngayon with all the harvest and pickling coupled with the kids at home all the time. Once they get to school and fall starts, I will then be able to slow down and finally give more time to my blog. Please bear with me.


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