Chicken Still Rules the Catering Roost
While the latest and greatest trends must always be at the top of your catering menu, and your finger must remain firmly on the pulse of what trend-happy customers are looking for, one can never overlook the trend that seems to never go out of style: getting back to basics. Every few years the pendulum swings back around and basics like chicken – the All-American favorite – come back to top the list of trends to be on the lookout for. Right now, basic chicken recipes such as rotisserie and fried chicken are returning to the forefront of the catering world, so you can’t afford to overlook what has always been right in front of your eyes.
Chicken Remains Popular
The chicken industry in the United States is one of the most successful sectors in agriculture, with no signs of slowing down. Americans consume more than 80 pounds of chicken per person annually. Today’s chickens are healthy and wholesome – and affordable for just about everyone.
There are many varieties of chicken, including free range chicken, organic chicken, and conventional chicken; the difference between them is based on the basis of their breeding. While free-range chicken is allowed to roam freely in the pasture; conventional chicken (at the heart of ongoing controversy), is kept in cages and not allowed to move freely. Conventional chicken is also injected with hormones to fasten its growth and to make it unnaturally big. These are considerations when choosing chickens to feed a crowd (though your customers may dictate what kinds of chicken to use).
History of the Chicken Industry
Chicken is the most common type of poultry in the world; it has been domesticated and consumed as food for thousands of years. More than 100 years ago, chicken meat production began with the development of the “broiler” – a chicken raised specifically for its meat. Feed mills, hatcheries, farms, and processors were all separate entities back then, though eventually the businesses joined to create an integrated industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) got involved after World War II by launching a voluntary program of grading to assure consumers of high quality (a measure that later became mandatory), and by 1952 broilers surpassed farm chickens as the No. 1 source of chicken meat in the United States.
The National Broiler Council was formed around the same time and it later morphed into the Washington, D.C.based National Chicken Council. Since the 1970s, the industry has evolved into its modern state with the implementation of nutritional programs, disease eradication discoveries, genetic improvements, and automation technologies. By 1992, chicken consumption surpassed beef consumption in the United States, while chicken exports to foreign markets accounted for about 20% of total U.S. production, worth more than $2 billion. Chicken production in the U.S. in 2014 was more than 39 billion pounds and chicken consumption rose from 40.2 pounds per person in 1970, to 84.6 pounds per person in 2014!
Health Benefits of Chicken
The poultry industry uses advanced scientific technology and is constantly seeking new methods to ensure wholesomeness and enhance quality for the consumer. The health benefits of chicken includes its ability to provide a good supply of protein, essential vitamins, and minerals. It also aids in weight loss, regulating cholesterol and blood pressure, and reducing the risk of cancer.
According to the USDA, 3.5 ounces of chicken breast contains 30 grams of protein, 15 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, 75 mg of cholesterol, 11 mg of calcium, 20 mg of magnesium and 70 mg of sodium. In terms of vitamins, it contains vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin D, and vitamin K. The skin of chicken is relatively high in fat, compared to the rest of the chicken; so a three-ounce serving of cooked, skinless chicken breast contains only 142 calories, of which only 28 are derived from fat.
Diets with high levels of protein have been known to be effective in reducing weight and chicken has long been a major contributor to weight loss. This can be attributed to its high protein content and low caloric content. In addition, the American Heart Association has advised consuming chicken or fish instead of red meat in order to lower the risk of cholesterol and the subsequent possibility of developing heart disease.
The USDA has specified certain rules and regulations for handling chicken after it is purchased. Chicken can be bought either fresh or frozen. According to the USDA, raw poultry is considered “fresh” when it has not been frozen below 26° F, while raw poultry that has been held at 0° F must be labeled frozen. According to the USDA, no growth hormones are used while raising broilers; however, antibiotics are used to prevent the spread or development of microbial infections and diseases. The good news is that regulations require that such antibiotics be withdrawn weeks before the chickens are slaughtered so that no residual antibiotics remain in the chicken’s systems.
Storing and Cooking Chicken
At temperatures between 40° F and 140° F, bacteria can start to multiply and, with chicken, we are concerned about the presence of salmonella. However, if you are cooking at temperatures above 140° F, the salmonella bacteria are unable to grow, so it is important to make sure that you are cooking at temperatures higher than 140° F. Freezing won’t kill bacteria, but it will stop the bacteria from multiplying and decomposing the chicken. If chicken is to be refrigerated, ensure that your refrigerator is kept at 40° F or cooler. The USDA recommends that whole uncooked chicken be refrigerated no longer than two days, and frozen chicken no longer than a year; while chicken pieces can be kept in the refrigerator for a maximum of two days and in the freezer for a maximum of nine months.
How to Bring Chicken Back to Your Catering Menu
Rotisserie chicken may be a popular fast food from local deli counters, but you will impress your customers and guests if you feature this type of succulent and delicious chicken on your catering menu. All you need is a rotisserie attachment in your oven or on your grill and you’re good to go.
Easy Rotisserie Chicken
- 1 whole chicken
- 1 pinch salt
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 tablespoon ground black pepper
- Remove the contents from the inside of the chicken and cut off any loose skin.
- Season the inside of the chicken with a pinch of salt. Truss the chicken to hold it together on the rotisserie.
- Place the chicken onto a rotisserie and set the grill or oven on high. Cook for 10 minutes.
- During that time, mix together the oil, 1 tablespoon of salt, paprika and pepper. Turn the grill down to medium and baste the chicken with the oil mixture.
- Close the lid and cook the chicken for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally, until the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees F (when checked in the thigh using a meat thermometer).
- Remove from the rotisserie and let stand for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting into pieces and serving.
Give KFC a Run for Their Money
Fried foods are purportedly not great for us but, boy, are they delicious. That goes double for fried chicken, which is simply one of the greatest foods around. Your guests will devour these crispy, juicy, succulent pieces of chicken, so make sure to have a lot on hand. Chicken breast takes a little longer to cook, so thighs and drumsticks are recommended when time is of the essence.
- 20 thighs and drumsticks
- Kosher salt
- Vegetable oil of choice, for frying the chicken
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons salt
- 4 tablespoons ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 cups soy milk
- Place the chicken pieces on a baking sheet and sprinkle all over with the salt. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes.
- Preheat your oil, in either a heavy pan on the stove or a deep-fryer, to 325 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and cayenne pepper until thoroughly mixed. Set aside.
- Pour the soy milk into another bowl large enough for the chicken to be immersed in the liquid.
- Place the bowl of soy milk and dry mixture side-by-side and then take each chicken piece and lightly dust with the flour mixture and dip into the soy milk until each piece is coated; then place each piece in the flour mixture, ensuring that each piece of chicken is thoroughly coated.
- Gently place the chicken pieces in the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pieces; they need room to cook evenly.
- Fry the chicken until golden brown, turning once every 10 to 20 minutes. Chicken is done when it is no longer pink inside and its juices run clear. (You can test by piercing the chicken with a fork).
- Drain the chicken on paper towels and then transfer to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining chicken pieces and let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving (this helps set the crust).
Chicken for All
While certain trends come and go, chicken remains ever popular. It’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t like juicy, flavorful chicken, served crisp and delicious straight from the rotisserie or fried to a delectable golden brown. When your clients come to you scratching their heads for new ideas, point out that “basic” is the latest trend, and point them in the direction of versatile, always-yummy chicken.