What is air chilled chicken, and does it make a difference?
Absolutely. Air chilled chicken is tastier, easier to cook, and better for the environment. Which all sounds great, except… what IS air chilled chicken?
Why does chicken need to be chilled in the first place?
Once a chicken has been defeathered, the body temperature must be quickly lowered to prevent the spread of nasty pathogens. (Unless you want a side of salmonella with your herb-crusted chicken breast…)
There are two main methods for bringing down the body temperature: water chilling, and air chilling.
What is the difference between water and air chilling?
Water chilling involves submerging the chicken in a communal chlorinated ice bath. The chickens bob around in the water, pool-party style, until the desired temperature is reached. The liquid you may see at the bottom of chicken packages at the grocery store is likely this leftover bath water. (Yum?)
Air chilling involves blasting the chicken with cold air or chilling the chicken in a cold-air chamber.
Why is air chilling better?
It is tastier.
Water chilled chicken absorbs between 2-12% of its weight in water as it sits in the ice bath. All that water and salt dilutes the naturally delicious chicken flavour. (Not to mention, it also dilutes your wallet – since chicken is sold by weight, you are paying the price for that water!)
With air chilling, the natural chicken flavours remain intact, and the chicken is better able to absorb any tasty marinades or rubs.
It is easier to cook.
Without the added water absorption, the skin of air chilled chicken can get nice and crispy. Water chilled chicken, on the other hand, shrinks as it cooks - the water evaporation may cause a rubbery texture and shrunken appearance.
It is better for the environment.
Water chilling requires a lot of, well… water. Air chilling methods save a least half a gallon of water per bird. That would be a cool 4.5 billion-gallon water savings, if all the chicken sold in the US was air chilled.
If the label on your chicken does not explicitly say air chilled, it is likely water chilled.
Lucky for you, ALL of Farm 2 Fork’s chicken is air chilled.
Order the Farm 2 Fork Signature Chicken Variety Pack: this tasty pack of chicken – raised to roam freely on local Ontario farms – offers something for every chicken lover, from picky toddlers to pickier adults.