And Now A Word About the Sad State of The American Chicken Industry

CRAPPY.

I’ll add a little more to that.

REALLY CRAPPY.

I used to be an active member of the competitive BBQ “circuit” to a small extent, and I loves me some BBQ. The very first category I did well in, and continued to do well in was chicken. I won numerous ribbons and have a rabid following among my family and friends all asking every time I fire up my smokers, “are you making chicken?”

The funny thing is that I just don’t care for it that much. Of the “Big 4” KCBS categories (chicken, pork ribs, pork butt and beef brisket) it’s my least favorite. But as I alluded to, I haven’t been as active in BBQ lately. Last year a couple of guys on the team had some job changes, and this year I’m finally zeroing in on scheduling a lap-band surgery. However, today was a potluck dinner at church, and since I hadn’t done any big BBQ lately I thought I’d have a practice run with the whole “big 4.” And that meant getting a bunch of chicken thighs.

Like most competitors I use thighs – they’re moist, easy to cook and look good when presented in the box. They’re much more forgiving than the breast (the cut I prefer), and especially when cooking a day before serving they’re just the best choice. When I compete I prefer to use a higher-grade chicken – not free range, as they’re fairly tough (but VERY tasty – they just take longer to smoke and get tender), but the untouched organic stuff. Friday I was unable to get any, so I had to settle for the mass market brand from the big company in Arkansas that rhymes with Dyson and sucks just as much.

I take quite a bit of care to make certain that the chicken is trimmed up and gone over pretty well before I prep it for the smoker, and this batch of 2 dozen thighs was just plain nasty. For 2 dozen thighs there was over ONE POUND of EXCESS skin. I don’t remove all the skin, just the huge flaps that seemed to envelop each thigh like some kind of fatty blanket. In addition, many of the thighs had quite obvious pinfeathers in the skin, and their overall condition was just pretty crappy.

It took me almost an hour to get those thighs into what I consider to be cookable condition. I consider myself lucky that this chicken hadn’t been “flavor-enhanced” and I was able to brine it myself, but compared to the natural organic stuff that I usually pay a little bit more for competition use, it was truly nasty. Next time I’ll just call a day ahead and get the good stuff.

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