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Chicken 101

Roasted, stir-fried, grilled or poached, everyone has a favourite way to cook chicken. Expand your knowledge of this family favourite, read on for our purchasing, storing and preparation tips.


Fresh Chicken

  • Purchase well before "sell-by " date, unless chicken will be used immediately.
  • Fresh chicken will feel firm, yet yield to the touch, when pressed with a finger.
  • Skin colour is a result of the chicken's diet. It is not an indicator of freshness, flavour or tenderness. Skin colour may range from deep yellow to white.
  • If there is a high liquid content in the package or if the flesh feels sticky or has an unpleasant off, odor do not purchase.

Rotissary Chicken

  • Check to make sure chicken is hot, not warm, when you purchase. If chicken will not be used right away, cut it into pieces and refrigerate in covered containers. Use within 3 days.

Prepared Frozen Chicken

  • Chicken can be purchased frozen and is often seasoned or breaded. In most cases it does not need to be thawed before cooking. Check package directions.

Chicken Cuts


  • Allow 1 lb per person.

Whole chickens can be classified in several ways, according to how they are best cooked:

  • Broiler-fryer: weighs up to 3-1/2 lb and is usually around 2-1/2 months old. Best when broiled or fried.
  • Roasters: range from 2-1/2 to 5 lb and can be up to 8 months old. Roasters have a higher fat content than broiler-fryers and therefore are best when roasted.
  • Stewing: (also called hens, fowl or boiling fowl ) weigh 3 to 6 lb. Their age of 10 to 18 months makes them more flavourful but also less tender than their younger counterparts, so they are best cooked with moist heat, such as in stewing or braising.
  • Capon: a rooster that is castrated usually before 8 weeks of age, fed a fattening diet and sold before it's 10 months old. Ranging from 4 to 10 lb, capons are tender, juicy and flavourful. Best when roasted they are often cooked in place of a turkey.


  • White meat
  • With skin-on, chicken breasts can be cooked by any method; great baked, fried, roasted or grilled
  • The ever-popular boneless-skinless chicken breasts will dry out if cooked by a dry heat method. Therefore it is best to pouch or quickly fry over high heat. Best barbecued over indirect heat.
  • Chicken Tenders are slices of chicken breast that are great for stir-frying.


  • Dark meat
  • Legs include thighs and drumsticks. They are usually sold only with the bone in.
  • Good for cooking with dry heat methods; baking, roasting, grilling. Also great for long slow moist heat cooking methods, such as, braising or stewing.


  • Dark meat
  • Purchased with or without skin or bones. Great substitute for chicken breast, as they are more economical.


  • Dark meat
  • A convenient chicken item when utensils are optional. Great for picnics and barbecues. Good when cooked by any method, but most often stowed, baked or barbecued.


As with most meat, the larger the surface area exposed; the more bacteria will build up, therefore the faster it spoils. Check out our handy chart for more information. Remember if in doubt, throw it out.

Refrigerate Freeze
Whole Raw Chicken 2 to 3 days 12 months
Raw Chicken Pieces - wings, drumsticks, breasts , thighs 2 to 3 days 6 months
Raw Ground Chicken 1 to 2 days 3 months
Cooked Chicken 3 to 4 days 3 months
  • Store all chicken sealed in plastic wrap or butcher paper on a tray or plate on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so raw juices do not leak and contaminate other foods.
  • Store at the back of the refrigerator where the temperature is most consistent.
  • Buy in bulk and package for the feezer in 2, 4, or 6 pieces depending on the size of your family. This lets you thaw only the amount you need.

Safe Handling

  • Make chicken the last item you pick up at the grocery store to minimize time out of the refrigerator.
  • Always wash hands before and after handling raw chicken.
  • Wash knife, cutting board and any other surfaces that raw chicken has touch in hot soapy water, or even better use the dishwasher! To disinfect, clean with a solution of one part bleach to four parts water. Leave the solution to soak in for at least 5 seconds.
  • Don't return cooked chicken to a plate or container that has been in contact with raw chicken.
  • Washing chicken does not remove a significant amount of bacteria. In fact, it has been found that washing chicken increases the risk of cross-contamination as the sink and counters often get sprayed with chicken bacteria.
  • Thawing Chicken:
    - Cook within 48 hours of thawing.
    - Refrigerator: 10 h / kg (5 h / lb)
    - Cold Water: seal chicken in plastic bag. Fill sink with enough water to cover chicken. Thaw 2 h / kg (1 h / lb), change water frequently.
    - Microwave: 10 to 15 min / kg (5 min / lb) on defrost setting. Separate, turn or rotate chicken frequently for even defrosting.

Cooking Techniques

  • Chicken should be fully thawed before cooking, unless otherwise stated on package. Partially thawed chicken can lead to uneven heating, allowing some areas to remain at a temperature that will not kill harmful bacteria.
  • Cover chicken when re-heating in the oven or microwave to keep the meat moist and ensure even heating.
  • No matter how you cook chicken, be sure to let it stand for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juice to redistribute through the flesh and will make it extra juicy and tender.
  • Boneless chicken will cook faster than bone-in chicken. Expect a reduction in cooking time of about 25%.
  • Always cook chicken to an internal temperature of 160°F or 170°F if stuffed.


  • Stock your freezer with containers of chopped cooked chicken. Cook boneless breasts or other parts in gently simmering water just until cooked through. When cool, dice the meat, measure in 1 and 2 cup portions and freeze in labeled plastic freezer bags for up to 6 months. This way you'll have plenty on hand for impromptu casseroles and salads.
  • It is generally more economical to remove the skin from chicken pieces yourself. It is easier to do when the chicken is partially frozen. Simply use your fingers to pull skin away from the meat. Using a knife, cut off any excess fat or skin.

Chicken Recipes