Chicken: The most commonly raised and eaten poultry in the world. When it comes to raising chicken for consumption, there are many different environments your chicken can come from. Many large chains and companies, like Whole Foods Market, are progressing from providing a fast-growing chicken to a slow-growing chicken for their buyers and consumers. The fast-growing method yields a larger chicken and a much quicker growing process, leading to a relatively low price for the consumer. The slow-growing method incorporates a much more beneficial environment for the chickens, where they are allowed to grow at a much more normal pace without enriched foods. This option is pricier for all involved, but many believe this leads to a healthier and therefore better-tasting chicken for the consumer.
There are many health benefits associated with incorporating different parts of chicken into your diet.
Nutritional value of chicken
According to the National Chicken Council, the nutritional value of chicken is as follows, for a portion size of 3.5 ounces.
Whole chicken, meat and skin:
- Calories: 239
- Protein: 24 g
- Total fat: 13.4 g
- Saturated fat: 3.7 g
- Monounsaturated fat: 5.4 g
- Polyunsaturated fat: 2.9 g
- Cholesterol: 76 mg
- Sodium: 73 mg
- Iron: 1.3 mg
If you are watching your caloric intake while maximizing your protein, opt for a skinless, boneless chicken breast, which only has 165 calories per serving. However, a skinless, boneless breast has 85 mg of cholesterol and 74 mg of sodium.
What kinds of vitamins are in chicken?
A pasture-raised roasted chicken breast has the following vitamins:
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): Niacin is elemental in treating high cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- Protein: Protein is essential for our bodies. Protein serves as a source of energy. The more active you are, the more protein you should consume to support your lifestyle.
- Selenium: Selenium, in small amounts, is required for healthy body function. Selenium deficiency is extremely rare in the United States.
- Vitamin B6: Vitamin B6 is necessary for human health, and is responsible for helping energy levels and blood flow. It is found in a wide variety of foods.
- Phosphorus: This is naturally found in bones, and is essential for bone health.
- Choline: Choline is critical to your liver metabolism, so deficiency can lead to liver damage. Many foods are high in choline, including mushrooms, cauliflower, and eggs.
- Pantothenic acid: Also known as vitamin B5, pantothenic acid is an essential nutrient. It is needed to metabolize proteins and fats in your diet.
- Vitamin B12: This B vitamin plays a key role in nervous system and brain functions, in addition to the formation of red blood cells.
Chicken is considered an excellent source of protein and B vitamins.
What do chicken labels mean?
If you shop for chicken, you may notice a wide variety of labels. Fresh, organic, free range, cage-free -- what do they all mean and which one is the best for you?
Fresh: If raw chicken meat is labeled fresh, it has never been frozen.
Organic: Any foods must be checked and qualified to meet certain guidelines to be considered organic. For chickens, they must have been fed organic feed (no by-products, GMOs, or antibiotics), they must be free of antibiotics, and they must have roamed outside throughout their lifetime.
Free range: Free range chickens had outside access during their lifetimes. However, free range does not translate to organic.
Cage-free: Cage-free chickens are kept in an enclosed area. They are not necessarily kept outside.
No hormones added: All chickens are free of hormones. They must be, according to the USDA.
Terms such as "humane", "antibiotic-free", "GMO-free", and "pasture-raised" are not yet regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture, but they can be certified by third-party companies.
Then the decision is left to you, the consumer. If you are looking for the most humane and healthful chicken option, you should always buy organic.
How to make balsamic glazed chicken and potatoes
Using a one-pan recipe for chicken is a quick and easy way to get dinner on the table. In this way, you get to first sear the chicken and then finish cooking in the oven, to get an even distribution of flavor and cooking.
Learn how to make balsamic glazed chicken and potatoes by watching the video and reading the recipe below.
- 4 bone-in chicken thighs (you can use any part of the chicken. Keep in mind boneless pieces will cook, and therefore overcook, much quicker)
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp whole grain mustard
- 1/2 C balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tbsp honey
- Cracked black pepper
- Olive oil
- 2 lb small red potatoes
- 5 sprigs rosemary, 2 of them chopped
Steps to make balsamic glazed chicken and potatoes:
- Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To make the marinade: Combine garlic, mustard, balsamic vinegar, honey, 1/2 tbsp of salt, and 1/2 tbsp of cracked black pepper.
- Thoroughly toss the chicken thighs in the marinade, making sure to coat all sides. Set aside in the refrigerator for 20 minutes to 2 hours.
- To prepare the potatoes: Cut the potatoes in half, or quarters if they are large. Combine with the chopped rosemary sprigs, 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper, a pinch of salt, and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Mix thoroughly to combine. Set aside.
- Bring 1 tbsp of olive oil to medium-high heat in a skillet. When the pan is hot, put the chicken in skin side down. Sear for one minute.
- Pour the marinade over the chicken.
- Flip the chicken, sear on the other side for 30 seconds to 1 minute.
- Add potatoes, being sure to fill in any spaces in the pan.
- Lay fresh rosemary sprigs over the top.
- Cook in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, until the chicken and potatoes are tender, and until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve with pan drippings.
Tips for preparing and cooking chicken
When handling raw chicken, be extremely careful. After handling raw chicken, thoroughly wash all associated utensils in hot, soapy water in an empty sink to avoid contamination. Do not use a cutting board for other things after you've used chicken, until you've washed it.
Be careful when using marinades, too. They can be a dangerous method of cross-contamination. If you'd like to baste your chicken while it cooks, do so with its own pan juices, not with marinade. If you'd like to use the marinate, use it at the very beginning of the process so the bacteria has a chance to cook out.
Cook your chicken thoroughly! If you do not have a meat thermometer, cut into the thickest part of the chicken, or where the thigh meets the rest of the bird. If the juices run clear, it's finished! Remember, clear juices are good. Pink juices means it still needs some cooking. No juices may mean a dry, overcooked chicken.
The USDA-approved finishing ready-to-eat temperature for chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Measure this by inserting your meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken, avoiding touching the bone.
Should you wash your chicken?
Some people may be concerned about spreading bacteria through washing chicken. Any droplets containing chicken bacteria could cross-contaminate other surfaces/foods unintentionally.
To avoid this, simply rinse your chicken in an empty sink under cool, low-pressure water to avoid spraying. Avoid the use of hot water. Then, clean your sink with hot soapy water.