What to make with a chicken

I bought a chicken from a farmers market. It was “processed” on Wednesday and flash frozen. It’s been cut up, not a whole chicken. It was kind of expensive, but I figured I’d try it.

After I purchased it the farmer told me that I should cook it with liquid as it is not brined like store bought chicken. If I just throw it in the oven it will not come out well. He said if I do it in an instant pot it will just fall off the bone and be great. But that seems like a waste of an expensive chicken.

I was originally thinking I’d grill it, but now I’m afraid it will turn out dry and tough. Anyone have experience with this sort of thing? Suggestions would be welcome!


Brine it yourself, then do with it what you will.

Chicken soup!

Brining is wholly unnecessary for any chicken, and I refuse to buy chickens with added salt. Anyway, you have two breasts, two thighs (the prime rib of chicken, IMHO), two legs, and two wings. You could fry the pieces using any good fried chicken recipe. Cut the wings up and make four buffalo wings. You could go the Shake N’ Bake route. You could bone the breasts and make chicken nuggets or tenders. You could simmer the whole thing and use it for chicken and dumplings or noodles.

You are only limited by your imagination and ambition.

If you like spice, try making Jamaican-style jerk chicken, it’s perfect for cut up bone-in chicken pieces. I won’t post an entire recipe, because there are plenty of good recipes online, but I’ll give you some tips:

  • There are recipes for dry-rub jerk and jerk marinade. Use a marinade so it will hopefully keep the chicken juicier, since you’re concerned about dryness. Marinate for several hours.
  • I learned from an authentic Jerk restaurant in my area to cook the chicken using a 2-step process. Put charcoal over half the grill. Add a few wood chips for smoky flavor- pimento wood is traditional but hard to find. I use a mild wood like apple, and a tip I read online is to throw a few allspice berries on the coals to sub for pimento wood.
  • The first step is to cook the chicken over the hot side just enough to get a bit of a browning on the outside.
  • Then step 2- put tthe chicken parts in a disposable aluminum pan, pour some of the leftover marinade over the chicken, and put the pan on the cool side of the grill. Adjust the vents so the temp is cooled down- 300 or so. Now you’re slow-cooking the chicken in its own juices, and the end result is falling-off the bone tender chicken. Ue a meat thermometer to get internal temp to 165.
  • The traditional side dish is Jamaican “peas and rice”. The peas are pigeon peas, which are actually a type of bean, and hard to find, so I usually use black or pinto beans. When serving, you can ladle a bit of the chicken juices from the pan over the peas and rice on the plate for extra flavor.

Depends where you are for the pigeon peas. Here in Chicago, at least, they’re pretty easy to find, usually Goya brand.

Hmm, I’ll keep an eye out for pigeon peas then, next time I’m shopping. Might be I just use black or pinto beans because I usually have those on hand. I’m getting in the mood for some jerk chicken soon.

Might also be the ethnic make-up of your neighborhood and the particular stores you shop at, but around the SW side (predominantly Hispanic neighborhood), I’ve seen them available for at least 10-15 years. I definitely see them in the canned section, and I’m almost sure I also see them dried.

Tip on the jerk paste: check to see if your local store sells Walkerswood. I make my own jerk paste half the time, but Walkerswood is excellent and pretty much as good as my own. (The main components of jerk paste are Scotch bonnet peppers and allspice, and usually also thyme and scallions, for those interested. As long as you hit those notes, you’re pretty close to the flavor profile.) Sometimes I also find other Jamaican brands here like Grace, Eaton’s, and Jamaican Country Style. All those are good. I would say avoid something like Lawry’s jerk marinade. I bought it once and it was way too sweet, not nearly spicy enough (if at all), and just didn’t hit the right jerk notes.

I personally like doing my jerk as a straight-up grill/smoke, without the second step you mentioned. I’ve seen both approaches here, but my understanding is that it’s typically just grilled/smoked over pimento wood and coals, like in the video here.

As for the OP, was this a young chicken you bought? I see no reason why you wouldn’t be able to grill it. I only usually see recommendations to braise or use for soup stewing hens and older roasters. A broiler/fryer, which is usually around 2 1/2 to 4 pounds and 6 to 8 weeks old, is best for quick dry heat applications. If it is a young chicken and you want to be safe, either brine it yourself and/or use a meat thermometer to judge the doneness of the meat. You don’t want to over cook breast if you want to keep it moist. Thighs and legs usually can use a bit of extra cooking on the slow/indirect side of the grill to render some of that collagen. I tend to take thighs and legs to 170-175, and breast to 155 or so. (Harold McGee and Kenji Alt-Lopez both recommend 150 for breast and 160-170 for thigh, but I like it a skoosh higher.)

Sure, you can just grill the marinated chicken, and I did that for years when I’d make jerk-style chicken. But the jerk chicken meal at Fenton’s Jamaican Jerk Chicken in Southfield, Michigan (made from an authentic family recipe) was about the best thing I ever ate, and ever since I started going there for lunch a couple times a month I tried to reverse-engineer their recipe at home. They used that 2-step process and their chicken as a result was falling-off-the-bone tender. Since I figured out they used that 2-step cooking process I’ve gotten closer but my jerk is still not as good flavor-wise. I also thought that second step might help the OP make sure their chicken was not too dried out, since that was a concern with the non-brined farmer’s market chicken.

Sadly, Fenton Brown Sr., the owner of Fenton’s, died back in February and the restaurant is no more.

Aw, that stinks. Would have loved to try it.

I do have a couple of written down jerk recipes I’ve developed over the years, but I typically wing it these days. This is my most straightforward one:

8-12 Scotch bonnets or habanero peppers
3 tablespoons freshly ground allspice
2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or half the amount dried)
8 cloves garlic
1 large bunch scallions or red onion
1/4 C dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1/4 C lime juice (or other citrus juice)
1/4 C oil of your choice
3 tablespoons soy sauce

I often will add about an inch worth of ginger, grated, to that, as well, and the citrus component I may substitute with whatever citrus I have around. It says 1/4 cup there, but it’s probably a bit more than that. Just use enough to get a decent paste and everything moving in a food processor. All spice ingredient measurements are given as ground (grind whole spices yourself for best flavor.) I like my jerk on the very hot and very allspicy side, so you may want to cut the peppers down to 2-3 and the allspice down to 1 tablespoon. Marinade at least overnight. Works great on pork, as well.

Oh, and if you want a source for pimento wood, you can find it here. (Though it appears their sticks and chunks are sold out for the moment–they do have the chips.)

Also, you might be interested in this Serious Eats technique, which cooks the chicken over a bed of bay leaves and throws allspice berries onto the coals. I tried it once, and it did impart a nice flavor to the chicken.

That’s very close to my jerk marinade, but Holy Habeneros, “8-12 Scotch bonnets or habanero peppers”?? You do like it hot! I usually use 2 at most. I mean, I do like spicy food, but for jerk I think it works better as more of a complement than a dominant flavor. Fenton’s was never too spicy, but that might have been for American tastes. My jerk is typically spicier than Fenton’s was.

Fresh ginger yes, and for citrus I sometimes throw a whole Mandarin orange in the blender in addition to the lime juice. And I go with more soy sauce and no added salt because I like the umami.

EDIT: thanks for that Serious Eats technique, that looks very interesting! I think this long weekend is definitely going to involve some jerk chicken.

Yes, I admit, I am a bit nuts over how much I put. Jerk can handle it, though, as the other flavors are assertive and cut through the heat. Every year (except for this), we have an opening day baseball party at my friend’s house, and every year, I am required to bring my extra hot jerk wings as the cost of admission. :slight_smile:

But if you’ve ever had Walkerswood hot & spicy jerk paste, it packs a pretty good punch. Even their mild is fairly spicy, by American standards. Not as spicy as mine, but, honestly, not all that far off, either. Look at this recipe, for insance. That one recommends 6-8 Scotch bonnets for an amount of paste that is comparable to mine. Since I like mine on the hotter side, yeah, I have 8-12. But the 8 is not a totally crazy number.

ETA: And, yeah, on the soy. I’ve seen recipes with a lot more soy sauce than I put in. Like up to half a cup or so. And some with Worcestershire sauce (which also makes sense, given its flavor profile.)

Hey pulykamell, I felt like this deserved a thread of its own, so I started one here:
Let’s talk all things Jamaican-Jerk style: recipes, techniques, etc

Huh? I have never seen this.

I’ve seen seasoned cooked chicken, and sometimes there’s packages of prepared meats that can just go straight into the oven, but as far as I know, the raw chicken at the supermarket is just that: raw chicken, and only preparation has been the butchering. There are some shady vendors that inject water into the meat just to add weight, but I’ve never heard of raw chicken being pre-brined.

It’s not just a few shady vendors; “Plumping” or injecting the chicken with a liquid solution of saltwater and possibly other flavors has become an industry standard with typical store-bought chicken. The industry says it’s to add flavor and juiciness, but it also adds significant wieght.

Chicken which has been “plumped” MUST be labeled as such.

Most “plumped” chicken is found in the frozen foods, especially “IQF” chicken. And label will say 8% solution added of chicken broth, salt, water, etc etc.

We had some in our freezer in AZ, and it was part of The Purge of All Things with Salt."

I’m sure everyone here thinks I’ve become neurotic, obsessing about salt. Well, yeah… admittedly, the amount of salt per serving in the IQF chicken is probably reasonable. But where do you draw the line? Use a recipe with soy sauce, it’s not much. And dressing for the salad, such a small amount.

A restricted sodium diet is around 1500 mg a day, and the dietitian recommended aiming for 300 mg a meal. That’s to give you leeway for any hidden sodium that can sneak by.

So I eliminate ALL sodium I can.

A no-salt recipe I like for chicken is in the InstaPot. Get a can of pineapple tidbits, drain off all the juice. Put it in a saucepan, and thicken with a teaspoon or two of cornstarch. Add back the pineapple tidbits and a handful of flaked coconut.

Put the chicken on the rack inside the InstaPot and spoon the pineapple and sauce over the top. Add a half cup or so of water to the bottom of the pot to prevent burning.

Seal the pot, cook using high pressure for 45 minutes.

Serve over coconut basmati rice.

Salt? What salt? Who needs salt?


I have nothing to add except to note that when I first glanced at this thread title, I thought it said “How to mate with a chicken”.

If you want to use the grill, beer can chicken is an easy recipe that most people like.

That is a good way to go, except you need a whole chicken for that, and the OP’s chicken is already cut up in pieces.