At first, the thought of grinding chicken meat didn’t excite me. In fact, it took a while to become accustomed to the idea. Y’see, I equate ground chicken with fast food. Fast food and I have hated one another for years.
And when I think of ground chicken, I think of chicken strips, chicken nuggets and worst of all…I think of a luke-warm, golden-colored puck (supposedly chicken) slathered in mayo and ketchup, clasped between to pieces of white bread with warm lettuce falling out the sides.
And they call that food? I always thought it tasted something like deep fried, well salted cardboard. With ketchup and mayo, two condiments I can hardly stomach.
Pardon me, fast food lovers, but you have been deprived of life’s delights on your palate if you prefer that…I don’t even know WHAT to call it…to a home-grown, home-cooked meal!
Chicken burger was associated with unpleasant visuals and this was enough to keep me from making our own. And besides, I usually pressure canned the yearly 25-50 old hens given us by neighbors. We were always happy with these results!
This fall we butchered 40 birds and they needed to be processed. Whole birds sitting in the freezer, taking up space and calling my name!
But folks? I was so done! Done butchering. Done canning. Done being responsible. Ready to just crash.
Go ahead and turn it into cardboard-tasting nastiness. I no longer cared!
And so we did. All of it!
I willingly confess that the result astounded me! I’ll never again think of ground chicken in the same odious manner! This stuff was real (dunno what the fast food “chicken” items are made of, but it isn’t home-raised birds!), packed with flavor and so delicious…we’re gonna grind it all again next year!
And here is what we learned from our first time experience:
FREEZING THE MEAT
Chicken can be kept in the freezer (whole or de-boned) until a day or two before grinding. Doing so enabled us to keep birds until butchering season was through and meat could be processed all at once.
If freezing the meat, be sure it is thawed for grinding day. Our whole birds took 1 1/2 days to do so in our basement. If meat is already de-boned and bagged, be aware that thawing process will take longer.
IT TAKES TIME!
Thinking it would take an hour to debone 40 birds, we finally finished 4+ hrs later. Need I mention is was an hour past our bedtime?! Bone must be removed and it takes not only sharp knives and effort, but also time!
Ah yes, here it is the following morning: 40 lbs of boneless chicken meat.
YIELD PER BIRD
Our supply came from roos and old laying hens. Certainly not classified as “meat birds” in any way! We averaged 1 lb of bone-free meat per bird. I imagine broilers would yield at least twice that amount….
WHICH PARTS CAN BE USED?
Breasts are the prime cut when it comes to making chicken burger. We also removed meat from thighs and drumsticks. But really? Anything can be used, so long as it is bone free.
SAFETY IN DEBONING
We quickly discovered when working on the drumstick that there is a long, thin, sharp bone next to the actual leg bone. These are nasty and can be avoided by working backward: start with the thigh and work down toward the end of the leg.
HOW TO AVOID GRISTLE
If you wish to avoid gristle (tough unchewable stuff), you can’t be frugal! We learned this the hard way! Oh, our ground chicken is still totally edible, but next time we’ll leave a bit of meat intact at the end of each leg shank.
Also avoid cutting into the cartilage around joints. Save them thar’ bones for the soup pot and nothing will go to waste!
TIP TO SPEED THE PROCESS
We preferred working with the chicken when chilled or even semi-frozen. Much easier to handle and speeds the process!
Depending on your grinder, flesh may need to be cut to size! The one we used could take whole chicken breasts. But remember these were not meat birds!
First time through we did a coarse grind and followed it up with medium. We, as in our friend and his meat grinder. We are happy with the results!
This is the finished product. Can you tell it’s lighter in color than ground beef/venison?!
Pardon the low-quality photos. My camera is out of commission and we are making due with the terrible shots our phone takes!
We wrapped ground chicken in the same manner we do our ground red meat: with butcher paper and tape. In fact, they look exactly like our red-meat packages. Which is why a felt pen is always a good thing!
COOKING WITH GROUND CHICKEN
Folks, we are new to this, so I don’t really have advice to offer. This evening, I cooked it up for the first time ever.
My observations thus far? Being lean, ground chicken and doesn’t hold together so well as ground beef with it’s high fat content. I’d be curious to add in pork fat next time we grind. Y’know? Just to see if we could break down the leanness.
Here’s the recipe I ‘dreamed’ up tonight. Sorry, no photos. I couldn’t wait to try this food and when I did, I couldn’t stop trying it!
Here’s how it went down:
- 1 to 1&1/2 lbs ground chicken
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp rubbed sage
- 2 leeks
- schmaltz for frying patties
- a cast iron skillet
Dice leeks and saute half while mixing up the meat. Add salt, pepper, sage and remaining leeks to ground chicken. Mix and smoosh together. Form 4 patties. Move sauteing leeks to the side and place patties in pan. Fry until lightly browned on one side. Flip. Cook until done throughout. Serve beside fried eggs and see if you don’t fall in love!
It’s good. So good!
I can’t say how good and maintain my ladylike dignity!
Why did I waste hours and hours with the pressure canner?!!! Why, oh why?! Please, tell me! And excuse me while I go comfort myself by finishing off the last patty!