Rippled Breasts

Whenever you buy a chicken you need to decide on the breed, price and origin. This was the first time I purchased a whole chicken in Japan, free range (whatever that means) and the skin as you can see retracted after I rendered the fat. The first signs of a chicken’s diet and quality is the skin. If you have ever handed a “french bird” you would know what I mean.

This breast meat rippled (see photo) and that puzzled me at first. I guessed that the physiological structure of the chicken’s flesh was such that it drooped. Chicken breast muscle is usually considered to be a relatively homogeneous white muscle. Chicken breasts are built predominately of light muscle fibers geared for short, intense bursts of activity.

The white meat is lean because light fibers cannot burn fat and because a chicken is not a frequent flier, the connective tissue is relatively weak. That is why chicken breasts are suitable for quick cooking, but also why it is easy to overcook them.

The fibres in this chicken breast were given a quick scalding in a water bath which should have made them retract and hold but in this case the opposite happened. It is possible that the water bath wasn’t executed properly and the chicken muscle were not cooked evenly.

I also had the feeling that this chicken had a slightly salty diet. In general, sodium is added to chicken feeds at the rate of about 0.15% sodium in the feed mix. Without salt, growth is slowed, and chicks are dull and listless.

But you are probably wondering why the bird is propped up on a beer can. I cut the top off the beer can, and I fill it with water in order that the chicken gets hydration during cooking. The oven has a vapor to help mitigate any hot spots, which are difficult to avoid in most dry ovens.

Because collagen makes skin tough, tenderizing it requires heating to temperatures high enough to unravel collagen fibers. But before this happens, the collagen fibers contract, shrinking the skin. The skin shrinks more in one direction than the other. This effect occurs because the woven mesh of collagen fibers is oriented in a particular direction.

As the skin cooks, the mesh shaped collagen fibers contracts, visibly shrinking the skin. Continue cooking for long enough in a very moist environment, and the collagen molecules unwind and split into shorter fragments. Once the chicken rest (24h) in the fridge and dries, you are ready to cook it.