Boiling fowl
Food lexicon

Boiling fowl

Extra taste, zero waste! Laying hens are very tasty when used as boiling fowl.

If you use a whole boiling fowl, your chicken soup will be especially tasty and nutritious. Reduced to a broth, the liquid will make a tasty basis for poultry sauces and stews. The meat of a boiling fowl can be used for a hearty chicken soup and other recipes.

What is a boiling fowl?

While the term “boiling fowl” may be easy enough to understand at a literal level, many may not know exactly what’s behind the name. Boiling fowl are exclusively female hens that were previously laying hens. They grow from chicks into laying hens in the rearing shed and then spend around a year in the laying barn. After around 500 days, the hens are slaughtered and sold as boiling fowl.

Chicken vs. boiling fowl: What is the difference?

Chicken meat is sold in shops under various labels. The label provides clues as to which recipes and cooking methods are best suited to the meat in question.

Chicken can include both male and female broilers that have been reared in feedlots, specifically for the meat industry. These birds quickly reach the desired weight for slaughter (30 to 70 days depending on the rearing method). Their meat is suitable for all poultry dishes – whether crispy-fried or in a curry.

Unlike a broiler, a boiling fowl is not reared solely for consumption, but instead has a comparatively long life as a laying hen. Boiling fowl used to be considered as high in fat, however this is seldom the case with modern-day breeds.

Compared to chicken meat, the slightly tougher meat of a boiling fowl makes an aromatic basis for soups and sauces once cooked. The meat should also be eaten as it is very tasty. What’s more, it is sustainable to use the meat from hens that would be slaughtered anyway as part of the egg production process.

One of the most famous chicken dishes is the healthy, hearty chicken soup. Traditionally it was made for the sick and for mothers after childbirth to help them get their strength back. This soup is particularly flavoursome when you make it with boiling fowl as opposed to chicken or chicken breast.

Boiling fowl Food facts

Category: Poultry (domestic hen)

Calories:  257 kcal per 100 g

Nutrients: 0 g carbohydrates, 20.3 g fat, 19 g protein per 100 g

Season: available all year round

Storage: 0-2°C in the fridge or frozen

Shelf life: max. 4 days (fresh), 6-12 months (frozen)

Prepare the boiling fowl before cooking

Whether you buy it fresh from the butcher or frozen, you must first prepare the bird. A fresh fowl should be washed thoroughly inside and out under running water in order to rinse off any remaining blood and remove any residue left over from slaughter.

A frozen boiling fowl must first be completely defrosted, which can take up to 15 hours depending on the size. Cooking a boiling fowl from frozen is not recommended as the meat will not cook evenly. Cooked properly, however, it is delicious.

When preparing the boiling fowl, kitchen hygiene is paramount as bacteria multiply quickly on raw poultry meat. Pour away all of the defrosting liquid and wash any used knives, bowls and colanders thoroughly.

How to cook boiling fowl correctly

Boiling fowl is primarily used in the making of flavoursome soups and hearty broths. You can always use the following basic recipe for a tasty chicken soup and then go on to use the liquid and the meat in other dishes, as desired.

    1.     Place the whole rinsed boiling fowl in a suitably sized pan and cover with water. 

    2.     Add finely chopped vegetables (carrot, celery, leek, onion, parsley), season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf, and bring to the boil. 

    3.     Simmer the liquid until the meat is cooked. Add more water if the boiling fowl is no longer completely covered. Depending on the size of the boiling fowl, the cooking time is around 2 hours. 

    4.     Once cooked, remove the boiling fowl from the pan. Now you can strain the soup

If you want to enjoy the soup fresh, add raw vegetables to suit your taste and cook for a further 10-15 minutes. However, you can also reduce the liquid to a broth and freeze it in small portions. Broth can also be kept unrefrigerated for a while: pour it into preserving jars while it is still hot and screw the lids on tightly. This will ensure you always have a tasty basis for poultry sauces, soups and stews.

Which recipes use the meat of a boiling fowl?

The meat of a boiling fowl is best removed from the skin and bones immediately after cooking. Providing it is still hot, it should come away relatively easily. Chop it up small and add it to the hot broth or turn it into a tasty fricassee.

These tasty morsels of boiling fowl are also ideal for poultry salads or as an accompaniment to leaf salads. We don’t recommend grilling a boiling fowl, however. Laying hens have much less meat on them than chickens.

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