When I was raising my family, I bought whole chickens and cut them up. Happily, our family was split in half, as far as chicken meat preferences were concerned, so everyone got the pieces they wanted. Besides, whole chickens were always cheaper (remember 29¢ per pound whole chickens? ah, the good ol’ days), and I always made homemade chicken stock out of the leftover skin and bones. A very frugal and delicious use of an inexpensive protein. One thing I’ve noticed is that as America’s chicken preferences changed, many more preferring white meat, the size of the breasts of whole chickens really changed. Now, if I buy a 4-pound broiler/fryer, the white meat is about 2/3 the size of the other combined parts. Leaves pretty slim pickings for those of us who love the dark meat part of a bird.
OK – another pet peeve – what happened to smaller chickens? Old recipes, such as Julia Child’s and my maternal grandmother’s, and newer recipes, such as Food Network and their peers, instruct cooks to buy 3 1/2-pound fryers. I can’t find small fryers. All the chickens I see in the store are at least 4 1/2 pounds. And what happened to giblets? I rarely find whole chickens with the little packets of livers, hearts, necks, and gizzards that used to be stuffed inside the bird’s cavity. My mother made a wicked rice stuffing for roasted chickens using a broth made from the giblets. I digress . . . Richard and I love chicken dark meat. We eat white meat, but it’s not our favorite. I don’t buy many whole chickens anymore, unless they’re the roasted kind from Costco, and they are delicious! Even the breasts, we’ll turn into sandwiches or salad or bake into a casserole. We’ve bought skin-on chicken thighs, and we love them. But I’ve noticed that while the little packages of chicken love look lovely and lean, when I open them, there’s an inordinate amount of skin and fat cleverly wrapped underneath. The amount of excess skin affects the price per pound. So, the packaged thighs actually cost more per pound that reflected on the sticker. I leave a small part of the skin on the meat, but I trim off a lot of excess skin and fat. I was really shocked when I opened this package when I was making dinner the other night.
I decided to do an experiment to see just how much chicken fat rendered off the meat and skin when I browned the meat. Here’s what the uncooked chicken looked like. I left all the skin and fat intact. I lightly sprayed them with cooking spray, and seasoned with salt and pepper.
The meat was cooked skin side down over medium high heat until they were browned on top, bottom and sides. No additional fat was added to the pan.
And this is how much fat I poured out of the pan. My picture is a little crooked, not the measuring cup. There’s nearly 1/4 cup or 2 oz. of chicken fat. That seems like a lot of fat to me! I’m thinking calories here, in addition to the unhealthy animal fat that would have ended up in my dish.
From now on, I’m going to be shopping for budget packages of skinless, boneless chicken thighs. It may turn out to be the same cost, but there will be relatively little waste. If I decide I want a crispier outside, I can always bake using cooking spray and panko bread crumbs, or just coat them with seasoned flour and pan fry in a little olive oil.
Anyway, thanks for letting me rant . . .