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Tips for Cooking Pasture-Raised Chicken

If you’re interested in more ethical food sources that are natural and free of hormones or additives, pasture-raised chicken is a great place to start. Unlike conventional chicken, pasture-raised chickens roam freely outdoors, foraging for a natural diet that has a real impact on the richness in taste and nutritional value of their meat. 


Key Takeaways

  • Pasture-raised chicken refers to chickens that are raised outdoors and can roam-free on grassland where they can forage for their natural diet.
  • Pasture-raised chicken requires different cooking techniques than conventional chicken.
  • Marinating can enhance flavor and tenderness.
  • Cooking times may vary, so using a meat thermometer is crucial.

What is Pasture-Raised Chicken?

Pasture-raised chicken refers to chickens that are raised in open grassland, where they can move freely and eat a natural diet.  Sometimes people think that pasture-raised chicken is grass-fed chicken, but there is a lot more to their diet than grass. The ample outdoor space allows the chickens to forage for insects, seeds, and other natural foods, contributing to their health and the quality of the meat. 


Pasture-raised chicken is distinct from free-range (which may still involve limited outdoor access) and cage-free (which is a misleading term as cage-free chickens live in extremely cramped environments with little to no room to move freely). Pasture-raised chicken offers numerous benefits, including more ethical living conditions, enhanced nutritional value (such as higher omega-3 fatty acids), a reduced environmental impact of their farming, and more flavorful meat compared to conventionally raised chicken.

 Pasture-raised chicken cooking tips

12 Cooking Tips for Pasture-Raised Chicken

Cooking pasture-raised chicken means dealing with different meat textures and properties, as well as a whole new world of rich flavors, so it’s important to know what you’re doing before you dive right in. Here are 12 practical tips that’ll help you make the most out of your pasture-raised chicken, ensuring a juicy, flavorful result every time.

1. Focus on Simplicity

The unique quality and nuanced flavor profile of pasture-raised chicken comes from its natural diet and living conditions. By using simple preparation methods like roasting and slow cooking with minimalist seasoning blends, you allow these characteristics to take center stage.


2. Choose the Right Cut

Choosing the right cut that fits your cooking method and preferences can make a huge impact on how your dish comes out - especially with the pronounced flavor profile of pastured chicken. Here are three popular types of cuts to consider, each offering unique benefits.


  • Pasture-Raised Chicken Breasts: Pastured chicken breast has lower fat content than traditional chicken breast. Make sure to utilize cooking methods that help tenderize the meat. Consider using a meat tenderizer or slow cooking to break up the muscle fibers. 
  • Pasture-Raised Chicken Thighs: Pasture-raised chicken thighs are known for their depth of flavor and are exceptionally suited for slow-cooking techniques such as braising or stewing that coax out the flavors inherent in pasture-raised chicken.
  • Ground Pasture-Raised Chicken: Although not a specific cut of chicken, it’s worth noting here as ground pasture-raised chicken is a popular versatile ingredient for various dishes. To prevent dryness, mix in some moisture-enhancing ingredients like onions or a small amount of olive oil.

3. Brine for Moisture

Brining is a simple but effective technique to enhance the juiciness and flavor of pasture-raised chicken. To create a basic brine, use a ratio of about about 1/4 cup of salt to 4 cups of water. Smaller cuts like breasts or thighs may only need a few hours in the brine, while a whole chicken benefits from an overnight soak in the refrigerator.


4. Season Well

Because pasture-raised chicken is leaner than traditional chicken, you may find yourself wanting more punchy flavors to complement it. Here are some staple seasoning blends that will add a kick to your pastured chicken:

 

French Countryside Blend


Ingredients: 

  • 1 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tsp Herbes de Provence (a blend that typically includes dried thyme, basil, rosemary, tarragon, savory, marjoram, oregano, and lavender)

Best for: Roasting or baking. Herbes de Provence offers a quintessentially French flavor profile that's perfect for a sophisticated twist on classic roasted chicken.


Mediterranean Mix


Ingredients: 

  • 1 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • ½ tsp dried basil 
  • ½ tsp onion powder 
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Best for: Baking or pan-searing. Adds a sunny, Mediterranean flair perfect for pairing with pasta or fresh salads.


Lemon Herb Seasoning


Ingredients: 

  • 1 tsp salt 
  • ½ tsp black pepper 
  • 1 tsp dried parsley 
  • ½ tsp dried dill 
  • 1 tsp lemon zest 
  • ½ tsp garlic powder

Best for: Roasting or sautéing. This blend brings a fresh, citrusy note that complements the chicken's richness.


5. Experiment with Herbs

The flavor of pasture-raised chicken is often embedded with distinct local tastes. By incorporating fresh herbs alone, you can enhance its inherent qualities without overwhelming it with full-bore seasoning blends. Fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and parsley complement and elevate the natural flavors.


6. Pat Dry Before Roasting

For the crispiest skin on your pasture-raised chicken, you want to start with a completely dry surface. After brining or rinsing, take the time to thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels, removing as much moisture as possible from the skin. 


7. Avoid Overcrowding

Overcrowding can lead to steaming instead of roasting or searing. If you're working with multiple pieces, cook the chicken in batches to give each piece some elbow room. 


8. Embrace Slow Cooking

Taking the time for slow cooking pasture-raised chicken, like braising or stewing, is worth the investment. Slow cooking methods allow the chicken's muscle fibers and connective tissues to break down slowly, resulting in meat that's moist and tender - which can be helpful with the leaner profile of pastured chicken. 


9. Lower the Cooking Temperature

Traditionally, roasting a 5-pound chicken at 325°F for 1.5-2 hours is a reliable method that works for pastured chicken too. However, when cooking pasture-raised chicken, you might want to lower the temperature to prevent this leaner chicken from drying. If you want to ensure more tenderized meat, cook at a lower temperature set between 200-250°F. 

 

10. Use a Meat Thermometer

Monitoring the internal temperature with a meat thermometer is the best way to ensure your pastured chicken is safe for consumption but not overly cooked. Remove the chicken from the oven when the internal temperature reaches about 160-165°F, as the residual heat will continue to cook the meat while it rests. 


11. Let it Rest

Allowing pastured-chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes lets the juices redistribute and settle, ensuring a moist and flavorful meat.


12. Don’t Forget to Use the Juices, Bones and Carcass

Don't discard the juices, bones, or carcass. Use them to make gravies, broths, and stocks, maximizing the value of your purchase. Each part of pasture-raised chicken boasts unique flavors that you likely haven’t experienced from chicken before, and buying whole raw chickencomes with a host of benefits. Read more about the benefits of buying whole chickens.


Buying Pasture-Raised Chicken Online

When buying pasture-raised chicken online, make sure to purchase from farms that prioritize a natural healthy diet for their birds. Acabonac Farms utilizes regenerative farming practices that work in harmony with nature, resulting in the most nutritious and flavorful pastured chicken available. 


At Acabonac Farms, chickens enjoy ample free space, living alongside cattle, pigs, and lamb in a cohesive ecosystem, the way nature intended. Getting pasture-raised chicken is more convenient than ever at Acabonac Farms with chicken that can be delivered right to your front porch on your own schedule.




Frequently Asked Questions about Pasture-Raised Chicken

What's the best way to thaw pasture-raised chicken?

The best and safest method to thaw pasture-raised chicken is by placing it in the refrigerator, which ensures a slow and gradual thawing process. Depending on the size of the chicken or chicken parts, this process can take anywhere from 24 hours for smaller cuts to several days for a whole chicken.


Can I cook pasture-raised chicken from frozen?

Cooking from frozen is not recommended, as it can result in uneven cooking. Always try to thaw chicken properly in a refrigerator before cooking.


How do I know when my pasture-raised chicken is fully cooked?

The safest way is to use a meat thermometer, ensuring the internal temperature reaches 160-165°F. Keep in mind that the chicken will continue to cook when removed from the oven, so using a meat thermometer can help prevent overcooking.


Why does pasture-raised chicken sometimes taste different from conventional chicken?

The diet and lifestyle of pasture-raised chickens influence their meat's flavor profile. This results in a more distinct local taste that can vary depending on their diet and region the chickens were raised in. It’s one of the joys of pasture-raised chicken!


Where can I buy pasture-raised chicken?

Pasture-raised chicken can be purchased from specialized locally-based farms like Acabonac Farms, which provide the most convenient option for buying pasture-raised chicken with scheduled delivery services.


How much does pasture-raised chicken cost?

Pasture-raised chicken often costs more than  conventionally raised chicken, reflecting the more sustainable and ethical farming practices used. These practices include providing ample outdoor space for chickens to roam, a natural diet, and avoiding the use of antibiotics and hormones. For those asking, "Is it cheaper to buy a whole chicken?", the answer is yes. Purchasing a whole pasture-raised chicken can be more economical, offering a lower cost per pound and potentially saving money in the process. 

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