The Cornish Chicken, also known as the Indian Game Chicken or Indian Game Fowl, is a “hard feathered” breed, with a plumage that sits very close to the body. Cornish Chickens carry a small pea comb.

The Cornish Chicken is a very sturdy, heavy breed (Males may reach 10.5 pounds) with a wide Chicken Breast and strong short Chicken Legs that was bred in Cornwall in England. 

The Cornish was bred to be a fighter (Old English Game Chickens were crossed with larger Asiatic Chickens), but turned out to be an excellent meat producer because they grow exceptionally well. They are not dual-purpose because they are not layers and only lay a moderate number (about 160 to 180) of brown Eggs a year.

Cornish Chickens require little feed if they are allowed Free Range but may require a lot of feeding if caged. Cornish Chickens are also prone to mite infestations.

The Cornish Chicken is essentially “The Mother of All Chickens” because the modern poultry industry uses mostly Cornish / Rock Crosses, which are a mix of White Cornish Chickens and White Plymouth Rock Chickens

Cornish Game Hens are another well known hybrid that stem from the Cornish Chicken.

Varieties

There are two varieties of Cornish Chickens: the Cornish Chicken & the Jubilee Cornish Chicken.

The Cornish Chicken is a dark blue to green bird with some brown patterns on the hens.

The Jubilee Cornish Chicken is much less heavy and slighter than the Cornish Chicken. Jubilee Cornish are normally a light gold color, with light brown patterning.

Purchasing

 

In general, buy the best Chicken that you can afford. By best, we mean according to some of the classifications and distinctions already mentioned in the Chicken exercise. If you can find it and it is priced fairly, an un-plumped (see Natural Chicken), Organic ChickenFree Range ChickenGrade A Chicken or Mature Chicken is a good purchase. If the chicken it is at least 3 of the above, that is even better. The grading system is skewed towards youth, so you will rarely, if ever, find a Grade A Mature Chicken.

Poultry is generally purchased Fresh, Frozen or Live. Very few of us handle the live birds, so we will limit ourselves here to the discussion of Fresh and Frozen.

Once you have settled upon the type of Chicken you wish, you should determine how much Chicken you need for the meal (or meals) contemplated. If you are Meal planning, the following rule of thumb regarding serving size will come in handy. Buy 1 pound (450 g) of Bone-In Chicken per person. Buy 6 to 8 ounces (170 g to 225 g) of Boneless Chicken per person for a standard meal. Calculate your needs and then purchase a chicken (or chickens) appropriate to your needs. For example, don’t buy a larger, 5- pound Roaster (unless you are planning on leftovers or multiple meals) when a Rock Cornish Game Hen may be better suited to dinner for two.

Next, with the type and quantity determined, consider quality to ensure that the specific Whole Chicken or package of Chicken Parts is the best possible product.

Start by sourcing your Chicken at a Butcher or Grocer that appears to do a lot of business and is likely to have a high turnover of product. You want to shop for perishables, like Raw Chicken, at a store that has volume and a good reputation. You don’t want to feed your family the last of the slow-moving chickens from an unsavory vendor. Keep an eye on their food handling practices. If they start to slip, consider shopping elsewhere.

It is a good idea to shop for refrigerated or frozen items as you are wrapping up your shopping trip. Once you take them out of the display case, they are in The Food Danger Zone and the clock is ticking. 

Seek out a moist, plump and healthy-looking Whole Chicken with unblemished skin. They should be full-breasted and meaty, with plump short legs. Individual portions of breasts or legs should be the same.

The Chicken should not have any defects, cuts or broken bones. They should not have any lingering feathers either. The skin color can range from cream white to corn yellow, and is only an indication of the feeding practices of the farmer, not of quality. Different areas of the country have different skin color preferences, and the farmers usually adjust their feed to meet those preferences.

With a possible keeper bird in mind, look it over. Are there bits of frost or ice formations on or around the bird? Ice and frost can indicate a Frozen Chicken being passed off as a Fresh Chicken. While you are looking, check the “Sell-By Date,” which is 7 to 10 days after the Chicken was slaughtered. If the bird is out of date, or even approaching its Sell By Date, look for another bird. Properly refrigerated Chicken will only last a few days past the Sell By Date once you get it home.

Even with a good date on the package, you may want to ask the butcher how long those particular birds or Portion Cuts have been sitting in the case. Avoid spending your money on something that has been sitting there a few days. The longer they are out in the store, the shorter time they will last in your refrigerator.  

Finally, complete your purchase decision with a “Smell Test.” Does your Chicken that has passed all the other tests smell neutral or does it smell off?  Oxygen and light can cause fats to go rancid, and Unsaturated Fats (the kind prevalent in Chicken and Fish) break down more quickly than Saturated Fats (the kind prevalent in Beef or Pork). This means that Chicken keeps less well, even in the modern refrigerated distribution system, than Beef or Pork. There isn’t likely to be a problem, but there could be, and your nose is a good first line of defense. While all bad Poultry won’t smell, all smelly poultry is bad.

With the perfect specimen selected, place the Chicken (or parts) in its own plastic bag. Most stores provide them hanging from a wall near the Poultry case or you can probably find some in the produce section or grab some from the checkout stand on your way in. We advise separately bagging the Chicken to try and prevent Cross-Contamination. Place the bagged Chicken by itself in a corner of your cart. It should not be sitting over anything else that might become contaminated, like ready-to-eat food.

Get the raw or frozen chicken home as quickly as reasonably possible. In high heat (90°F), it may only last an hour in a hot car before starting to spoil. If you live far from the store, consider investing in a cooler to protect your purchases.

Once home, it is best to use your raw meat as soon as possible. If you cannot use it immediately, you will want to store it safely out of The Food Danger Zone, either frozen or refrigerated.

This may seem like a lengthy purchasing process at first, but soon it will become second nature, and your family, and your budget, will thank you.

Storage

With your poultry purchase unpacked at home, if you are planning to store it, you should do a little preparation to ensure the best outcome for a longer chill or freeze.

For Whole Chickens with Giblets, Remove the Giblets from the cavity of the bird to store them separately. Rinse them under cold running water, dry them with paper towels,and store them in a Freezer Bag, labeled with the contents and the date they were frozen. Using this method, the Giblets will last in the freezer for 3-4 months. If you plan to freeze your Giblets for an extended time, see the Smart Kitchen resource on Avoiding Freezer Burn.

For Chicken Parts, similar to the above, you will also want to rinse the parts, dry them and bag them in labeled Freezer Bags before freezing.

Fresh Meat should always be stored separately from cooked meat, and optimally on the lowest shelf of the refrigerator or freezer so that no raw blood or raw juice can drip onto and possibly contaminate other foods.

You should be able to refrigerate (below 40°F) a good Whole Chicken safely for 2 to 3 days before using it. Refrigerated Chicken Parts should be used more quickly, after 1 or 2 days.  Store refrigerated chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator.

Frozen (below 0°F) raw Whole Chickens and raw Chicken Parts begin to lose flavor after 2 months. The best way to Thaw (the link has more on thawing) Chicken is in the refrigerator over a day or so. To thaw in a hurry, frozen Chicken can be placed in a pot of water in the kitchen sink in an hour or so, periodically changing the water. If using this method, keep an eye on the clock and be mindful of how long your product has been in The Food Danger Zone. Do Not Re-Freeze Previously Thawed Chicken.

For chicken leftovers or extra pieces, separate them into smaller portions for fast, safe cooling, then store them in a storage container or labeled zip-lock bag. Move them out of The Food Danger Zone as quickly as possible to the freezer or refrigerator. Cooked Chicken or Chicken Parts can be held refrigerated up to 3 days. Frozen they can last about 1 month before the flavor suffers.

To use Frozen Chicken (or parts), Thaw them in the original wrapper in the refrigerator. Allow 1-2 days for chicken to thaw. Larger birds like Turkey will need 2-4 days in the refrigerator to Thaw out. If you are in a rush, thawing under cold running water will work more quickly. Always remember not to refreeze previously 

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