I’ve mentioned before when it comes to food, there’s a month or special day to celebrate everything—December is National Pear Month; November is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month (not to be confused with National Peanut Month in March); there’s even a day devoted to donuts! We know September is known for back-to-school chaos, but it’s also Fruit & Veggies More Matters Month and National Chicken Month.
I don’t know about you, but chicken is a staple in our house. I make it at least once a week because it’s generally quick and easy to make, budget-friendly, an excellent source of protein, low in saturated fat and sodium, extremely versatile and kid-friendly.
In honor of National Chicken Month, and in partnership with the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, I want to share a few common myths and facts about chicken; which will hopefully help you feel more confident to cook it in your kitchen and feed it to your family. Once you’re ready to get cooking, check out the versatility of this protein for yourself with the 35+ nutritious and delicious recipes below!
Myth #1: Most chickens are raised with artificial or added hormones.
Truth: The use of hormones in chickens and eggs is forbidden by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Chicken packages labeled “no added hormones” or “hormone free” are unnecessary, and used primarily as a marketing strategy to increase purchases of those brands. If the label includes those statements, look closely at the package and you’ll see a statement that says no hormones are used in the production of any poultry raised in the U.S. Another reason to always read the fine print!
Myth #2: “Free-range” chickens are better for you.
Truth: Let’s start out with a definition of this term. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), “free-range” means that chickens have access to the outdoors for at least some part of the day, whether the chickens choose to go outside or not. There are no requirements for the length of time the chicken must spend outdoors, the size of the outdoor area, or the type of groundcover. According to the National Chicken Council, less than one percent of chickens nationwide are raised as “free-range.” Also, don’t assume that just because a chicken is “free-range” it’s organic—all organic chickens are “free-range,” but not the other way around.
Related to “free-range,” you may see labels for “cage-free,” which doesn’t mean much since no chickens for consumption are raised in cages. Most chickens are raised in houses where they are free to walk around.
Myth #3: You should wash chicken before cooking.
Truth: I grew up watching my mother wash her chickens before she marinated or seasoned them, but that’s one thing I don’t follow in her footsteps! The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service does not recommend washing raw poultry (and other meats). When you wash raw poultry, bacteria from the raw meat and juices can spread to other foods, utensils, and kitchen surfaces—which leads to cross-contamination and potential foodborne illness. The best way to kill the bacteria: cook your poultry and meats to the correct temperature (an internal temperature of 165°F for chicken).
Myth #4: Chicken can be thawed on the countertop.
Truth: DO NOT thaw chicken on the countertop! The safest way to thaw chicken is in the refrigerator, but if you don’t take the chicken out of the freezer early enough, the alternative is to defrost it in cold water. To do so safely, submerge chicken in cold water in it’s original leak-proof package or a water-tight plastic bag and change the water every 30 minutes. When defrosting chicken in the refrigerator, it takes 24 hours to thaw a 4- to 5-pound whole chicken and 3 to 9 hours to thaw cut up parts. Once thawed it can be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two. Using the cold-water method, it takes about 2 hours to thaw a 3- to 4-pound package and the chicken must be cooked immediately.
Now that you know the truth about chicken, let’s get cooking! Here are over 35 recipes made with chicken—everything from soups and salads, to pizza and burgers, to one-pan dishes and more. Plus, there’s a cooking method for everyone here! So really, no more excuses for why you can’t eat chicken (unless you’re allergic or vegetarian, of course)!
To read more from Jessica, visit nutritioulicious.com.
Jessica is part of U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s Digital Voices Council.
All opinions expressed are the writer’s own. Funded by one or more checkoff programs.