Who Chickened Out?
Old Man Winter seemed to have made his presence felt when he dumped his first heavy snowfall over Southern Ontario a day after Christmas. Temperatures immediately dipped to minus levels (below zero degrees Celsius) which Canadian meteorologists describe as seasonal and normal*. However, part of this normalcy includes the terrible trio of cough, cold, and flu. One’s childhood is never complete without nanay (mother) cooking arroz caldo (rice porridge with chicken and chicken broth) and adding kalamansi with a dash of patis (fish sauce) to make the blues go away. This is probably why during winter, chicken is in our menu because its broth is an elixir and soothes our frayed nerves.
Other than its tonic powers, chicken seems to be a favorite discussion topic in cooking because we, Pinoys, love chicken (think: Jollibee, Max’s Fried Chicken and even Chicken McDo!). Chicken can also be a good substitute for red meat: there’s Chicken Lumpia, Chicken Tocino, and yes, Chicken Sisig served best with cold beer!
Anyway, check out how our recent discussion elicited interesting stuff regarding cooking chicken. And yes, despite being amateurs in the unexplored territory of cooking poultry, the dads did not chicken out on this!
R: Do you cook chicken dishes using bit size chicken breast?
J: Yup. Why?
R: I cooked Chicken Tikka Masala recently twice… The first batch was salty and overcooked. The second batch was undercooked. Then I thought of putting them in one tray and cooking them again to allow the flavors to blend in… It turned out delicious… I realized that chicken breast meat gets tough when you overcook it.
J: When I cook chicken meat, I try to watch over it because it gets tough when you overcook it.
R: I see. That’s why the instructional video says to check if done well because you can’t overcook white meat. We’re used to eating brown meat (dark meat) like thighs, wings and legs for Adobo or Afritada.
J: We usually prefer white meat for soup, Teriyaki... Better for Chicken Mami, right?
R: Yeah ‘cause if you cook it in broth, the meat remains tender…
J: Maybe white meat needs to be moist like using mayonnaise for chicken sandwich…I noticed that brown meat has more fat so it makes it less ideal for soup?
J: White meat is healthier…
J: I learned in Comparative anatomy that the chicken uses the slow twitch dark muscles in its legs for longer activity, like walking…which makes the breast and wings of the chicken made of fast twitch muscles use for more energy… I also read that white meat cooks faster than dark meat…
R: So that validates my observation…
J: Check out this article: “It’s the conundrum of cooking a whole chicken. White meat cooks faster than dark meat. Often, whole chickens wind up with either a dry breast and juicy dark meat or a juicy breast and undercooked dark meat. Using a rotisserie can help to some extent, but when cooking a whole chicken, you will always need to overcook the white meat in order to get the dark meat to a safe temperature. Because of this, when roasting a whole chicken, you may want to still split the chicken into pieces so that you can adjust the cooking times for each specific part.”
R: More proteins to break down… which is why the breast part was a bit dry…
J: So this means you need a lower temperature for white meat because it cooks faster than dark…is this why it’s difficult to fry a chicken?
J: Hahaha… you’re right!
*To my colleagues living in the tropics, zero degrees Celsius is unimaginable; let alone minus 4 degrees Celsius ( Fahrenheit) causing one of them to remark that my blood probably turned to slush! Although Manila experiences cooler weather at this time of the year, the average temperature ranges from 21-24 degrees Celsius. A temperature of 20 degrees Celsius makes a fascinating news headline in tropical Manila yet this temperature is considered beach weather in Canada! 😀