A Chilly Bird That’s Hot

Niman Ranch's new air-chilled chicken. (Photo courtesy of Niman Ranch)

That’s exactly what air-chilled chicken is these days. 

If you’re versed in organic, free-range, and natural when it comes to poultry, now learn about the newest type of chicken available — air-chilled. 

Processed the same way chicken has been handled in Europe for more than 45 years, air-chilled is now taking Bay Area supermarkets and restaurants by storm. 

Read all about it in my story in today’s San Francisco Chronicle food section.

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  • So glad to see this mentioned. Our local store, Central Market, has been offering this type of chicken for a few years. Previously, they were buying it from a supplier, but now they have their own system for processing air-chilled chicken.

  • That article was really interesting! I wonder if there’s anywhere to get an air-chilled chicken around here…

  • Geez, first you turn us on to wet-aged beef, now it’s dry-aged chicken. What’s next, Carolyn — salt-smoked something or other??

    OK, maybe that doesn’t make too much sense. I was trying to think of something between wet and dry. Maybe some sort of misting technique? I tell ya, there’s always something new in the food world. Isn’t it amazing how a previous generation discovered frozen food, and then TV dinners, and eventually the gourmet pinnacle of bottled salad dressings came along? Remember when Caesar salads were “new”?? Now it’s that foam stuff (which I have yet to experience but sounds absolutely fascinating) Really, being ever-curious, especially about food, I do eagerly wonder “what’s next?” 🙂

  • I’ve tried the air-chilled chicken, and I must say it does seem to have a more robust, chickeny flavor, if you will. And yes, the skin cooks up quite crisp. I can see why it has so many fans.

  • Having no idea what air-chilled meant, we bought some chicken at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago. Great in paella!

  • One of the techniques that America’s Test Kitchen recommends for crispy skin on turkeys is to air-dry them for at least 8 hours in the fridge before roasting. Makes sense that leaving a poultry uncovered in the fridge would dry it out a little. The taste of the meat, though, is dependent on the brine.

  • How interesting! I wonder if the air-chilled chicken is available at Whole Foods on the east coast yet. Will definitely have to look for it.

  • We are committed converts to SMART chicken, the Nebraska brand/company that supplies our free range air cooled chickens to our small town organic grocery in CO. The bird has real old-fashioned chewable meat, flavor, and makes great stock with the solid strong bones. A whole bird is enough for the two of us to have a second meal…and we love it roasted at 475 for 20-30 minutes, encrusted with kosher salt and pepper.

  • Nate: That technique does work well for getting crispy skin. Judy Rogers of Zuni Cafe in SF uses that technique in the recipe for her famous roast chicken with bread salad. The first time I made it at home, the hubster and I just wanted to rip off every last shard of skin from the chicken and eat just that! It was the crispiest chicken skin ever.

    Sheila: Paella — yum! Any leftovers to share? 😉

  • Thanks for sharing the article. I’ve seen air chilled chicken for awhile now and often have bought it but I had no idea what it meant and assumed it was just a marketing gimmick.

  • Wow, I didn’t even realize that regular chicken is submerged in water for an hour. What’s up with that? Interesting article!

  • We do that Zuni Cafe roast chicken quite often. It’s the best!

    But we always end up setting off the smoke alarm…

  • I had no idea. I’ll have to check out our local grocery stores to see if they sell these birds.

  • I’ve always wondered what the deal was with air chilled chickens. Great informative article! Now I feel a bit silly for wet brining my air chilled chicken. I guess I should give dry brining a go.

  • This is the first I’ve ever heard of air-chilled chicken. Given the amount of extra weight absorbed due to water chilling, the price is somewhat mitigated. I’d love to taste this! I just hope I can find it here.

  • we’ve had air chilled chicken here for ages.. btw I always leave my birds uncovered to dry in the fridge before roasting to achieve that nice crispy skin…

    have you done a capon? we did our first for new year’s – man was it wonderful – like Uber chicken – more of what we love about chicken and a large meaty bird – tons of good flavor and soup to die for!


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