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Poultry1Poultry, which are domestic birds specially bred for the table, include chicken, duck, goose, guinea fowl and turkey. The British eat some 600,00 tons of chicken each year. Nowadays free-range chickens are available only from specialist shops, and the greater proportion of chickens are battery-reared. These, although less tasty, are cheaper.

The flavours of a chicken depends on its age. In young bird the tip of the breastbone is soft and flexible, and the feet smooth with small scales. When cooked, the flesh is tender and mild in flavour. AS the bird ages, the breastbone becomes harder and more rigid, and the scales on the feet coarser. The cooked flesh is also coarser and drier, but the flavour is better developed. The length of time a bird is left after killing and before drawing also influences the flavour - the longer it is left, the stronger the taste.

Duck is one of the more expensive breeds of poultry, all the more so because it yields little meat in comparison to its weight and size.Geese are also expensive because like ducks, they cannot be reared successfully under factory-farming conditions. it was traditional to serve goose for Christmas dinner, but it was ousted from the festive table by the turkey.

Like all poultry, turkey is now available throughout the year, fresh or frozen, in all sizes. It is also sold in individual portions, many supermarkets offering turkey breast and leg portions.

Poultry giblets are sold either with the bird or separately. They can be used for stock, stuffing and pates. The most famous pate is pate de foie gras, made from goose liver.


Poultry2Available throughout the year, fresh or frozen, and usually sold oven-ready - that is plucked, drawn and trussed, Fresh chickens are sometimes sold plucked but not drawn or trussed. A fresh chicken should have a plump, white breast, smooth and pliable legs and a pliable beak and breastbone. Young birds have short, sharp claws. Chickens are usually sold under different names, according to their age and weight, and can be cooked in numerous ways. Whole chickens may be roasted, spit-roasted, pot-roasted, and braised.
They can be boiled or cooked in a casserole. They can be boned and made into galantines, and jointed they are grilled, fried or stewed.

Poussin - A baby chicken, four to six weeks old and weighing up to 450 grams. Allow one poussin per person. suitable for roasting, spit-roasting and grilling.

Double Poussin - This is six to ten weeks old and weighs about 900 grams. Cook as recommended for poussin. Serves two.

Spring Chicken - About six weeks old, with an average weight of 1.2 kilograms. Best roasted to give three portions.

Roasting Chickens - The most popular size for a family. It is eight weeks old and weighs 1.4 to 1.8 kilograms, enough for four people. The larger roasting chicken, weighing 1.8 to 2.7 kilograms, serves about 6 people.It is also sold divided into individual joints for frying, grilling or baking.

Boiling Fowl - An older bird, usually a hen after laying season and about eight months old, average weight 2.7 kilograms. It is meaty but also fatty, and is suitable for stews or casseroles. Boiling fowl, being less in demand than roasting chicken but less expensive, generally has to be ordered in advance.

Capon - A young, sometimes castrated cock, bred to give a high proportion of flesh of a good flavour. Usually killed at 10 - 12 weeks and weighing 2.7 to 3.6 kilograms. Excellent as a large roast.

Frozen Chickens - These are drawn and trussed, ready for roasting, and are sold whole or in joints. They must be completely thawed in the wrapping before being cooked. Never put a frozen chicken in hot water to thaw - the only effect this has is to toughen the flesh. A bird which has to be thawed quickly can be put under cold, slow running water. The giblets are usually wrapped separately and put inside the chicken.


The most famous breed is the Aylesbury duck. It is usually sold weighing 1.8 to 2.7 kilograms, but a duck does not serve as many as a chicken of similar weight, A 2.7 kilograms duck is only enough for four people. Duck is a fatty bird that is best roasted. The breast should be plump, the bird's underbill soft enough to bend and the feet pliable. Available all the year round, fresh or frozen, but fresh birds are their best from August to December.

Duckling - A young duck weighing 1.6 to 1.8 kilograms, and at its best from April to July. It is always roasted and will serve no more than two persons.


This is considered by many gourmets to be the best of all poultry. It is a fatty bird with creamy-white flesh which cooks to a light brown, and has a slightly gamey flavour. Average weight is 2.7 to 5.4 kilograms, but again it serves less per pound than chicken. Allow 400 grams per person. Choose a young bird with soft yellow feet and legs which still have a little down on them.Older birds have stiff, dry webs. Available all the year round, fresh or frozen, although supplies are dwindling fast with declining demand. Fresh birds are best from October to February.

Gosling - A young goose not more than 6 months old.

Poultry8Guinea Fowl

Originally a game bird, but now bred for the table, guinea fowl should be hung for several days. It has grey plumage, tinged with purple and spotted with white. The flesh is firm and creamy-white with a flavour slightly reminiscent of pheasant.

Guinea Fowl is sometimes sold as squabs,chicks and fowls. It is suitable for roasting,braising and casseroles. Available all the year round, but best from February to April.


This is now on sale all the year round, fresh or frozen, whole or in joints, in small as well as larger sizes. The weight of a turkey ranges from about 2.7 kilograms to about 13 kilograms. Allow about 350 grams per serving. Hen birds are the best buy at seven to nine months old. The legs should be black, the neck short, the breast plump and the flesh pale white, with a faint blur tinge.Turkey is best roasted in foil to eliminate frequent basting.


Hen eggs come from various chicken varieties, specially bred for laying. The breed of hen affects the colour of the shell and the size of egg. But the bird's diet makes the real difference to flavour. The best eggs are 'free range', and the fresher they are the better the flavour.Battery eggs alter little in taste even when kept for several weeks.

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