There are many varieties of hens: the Light Sussex in Britain; the Faverolles and Bresse in France; the White Cornish and White Rock in the USA. The breeding of many of these breeds is kept a closely guarded secret. Some chickens are bred for their meat, while others for egg-laying. Birds bred for meat are rated by their performance, i.e. how long it takes them to reach a certain weight. The British Ross 1 reaches 2¼kg (5 lb) in 5 weeks, while the American Cobb 500 reaches 2 kg (4½ lb).
Chickens are available all year round, fresh or frozen, and generally are sold oven-ready. Chickens are very versatile for the cook, and can normally be cut up then grilled, fried or stewed, or cooked whole and roasted, braised, boiled or casseroled.
Chiccken is sold under different names, according to their age and weight:
- Poussin is a baby chicken, 4 - 6 weeks old and weighs up to 0.9 kg (2 lb). Poussins are suitable for barbecuing or roasting.
- Broilers are small birds, weighing 1.2 - 1.6 kg (2½ - 3½ lb), mostly used for grilling and frying.
- Spring Chickens are small broilers, 6 - 8 weeks old, and weighing 0.9 - 1.1 kg (2 - 2¼ lb). Spring chickens are suitable for most cooking techniques but best roasted.
- Roasting Chickens are young cockerels or hens weighing 2&14; - 4.6 kg (4 - 9 lb), and are ideal for barbecuing, frying or roasting.
- Boiling Fowl are older, tougher birds, weighing up to 3¼ kg (7 lb). Boiling fowl are normally slow cooked in casseroles or stews.
Dowell, P., Bailey, A. (1980) The Book of Ingredients, Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0718119150.