Sunday, February 6, 2011

I know you are wondering how that baked hen turned out. I am so confused.

I had such high hopes.

When I found that really huge hen, with the uber-cute packaging, the one that weighed a ton, I just knew I found a winner.

Turns out I was wrong.

It was disgusting.

Sent shivers down my spine, actually.

What went wrong?  I did all my good moves, my regular moves.  Maybe that’s it.  I should have done something different.  Approached it differently.  I treated it like I did all my other chickens.  Bake.  350 degrees.   Olive Oil rub with simple seasonings.  Salt.  Pepper. Garlic Powder.  Just a touch.  Inserted digital timer into it’s colossal thick breast.  Waited for 165 degrees.  Continued to cook until it was 170 degrees.  It’s what I do.  Keep it safe.

Something just didn’t look right. 

Baked 20 minutes longer.

The juices ran red.  The skin was thick, rubbery, a sickly pale tone.  And then I sliced.  Tough, rubbery, not dry, not wet.  Just odd. 

More shivers down my spine.

There was no saving this one.  $8, down the drain.

So that begs me to ask:  What did I do wrong?  Should a hen be treated differently than a chicken?  Should it be slow cooked, boiled, grilled, roasted, or ignored?

I am bound and determined to find out.  To search out the answer.

First place to search? You.  Do you have any suggestions?

Second place to search?  The company who makes the hens.  Sigh.  Besides the cute packaging, I was already falling in love with their philosophy.  “Do unto others as they would do unto you.”  That is their motto, right?  They will want to help, right?

That’s it.  I am going to ask them for advice, too.

More to come...


  1. I've never cooked a hen of that size before, but the smaller game hens I have made seemed to be entirely dark meat. For those, I stuff a small soft apple inside, along with sprigs of rosemary, marjoram and thyme. I tie the legs together to hold it in, then mix a "paste" of butter, sea salt and pepper and coat the little bird. I roast it covered in foil at 300 and monitor the temp. When it's close to done, I pull the foil, baste a few times for color and let the skin crisp.

    When it gets to temp, I remove it and let it rest for at least ten minutes before I DARE cut into it. I don't know if that works for the big hens, but it works for my little gals.

  2. A few things; (maybe, as I am a vegetarian, but I do dabble in cooking in meats for friends)

    1) try brining the hens, that should keep it moist
    2) I'm not sure how old this hen was, but generally if the hen was older than a normal bird that was bake, then it has a lot of tough, connective tissue, and hence the term low and slow, will help break that down and make it tender (not rubbery and such (brining will also help with this aspect))
    3) Was the Hen bigger than a normal bird you roast? If so, then cooking at 350 will cook a good part of it, but closer to the core will not be fully cooked as the outside would. (Also consider where the thickest part of the bird is and how it is exposed in the oven. I it was a leg, then it would stick out and be exposed to more heat. If it was the breast, and it was face up in the oven, it would cook faster then the back, which is face down and protected from the heat by the pan.)

    Just a few hints. I have no doubt in your culinary powers. :)

    Cyclist food of NWA

  3. Wow, entirely dark meat? Now that I think about it, this hen was not entirely a pure white meat. Not so much a dark meat, but definitely not white.

    Thanks for sharing your process. Let's see, I did let it rest but I didn't stuff the inside like you did (like stuffing a turkey!) but I didn't crisp the skin! I should've done that, too.

    Thanks WC!

  4. Hey yeast-n-math,

    Good to hear from you again!

    1) OF COURSE!! Why didn't I think of that?! Brining is an excellent idea! I even have a jar of Williams-Sonoma brining mix from Thanksgiving. Brilliant.
    2) It's a hen, so she is mature. Low and slow + brining = I'll just bet you that will do it.
    3) Yes! It was several pounds bigger. Reminded me of a small turkey. Next time I will find another spot to stick the thermometer into.

    Great advice. Plus, I can load up the inside like WC mentioned. I think I need to treat this hen like a turkey.

    And thanks for your vote of confidence in my culinary powers. I am bound and determined. :)

  5. Agree: brine. A regular roasting chicken wouldn't need it but a hen might. But I think that the problem was with the roasting thermometer. You would think they would be designed not to malfunction in heat but I have never not had that happen eventually, and I think your thermometer's time came. I use a Taylor stick thermometer, checking the chicken in the fatty part of the thigh after an hour.

  6. Hey Eric,

    Brine, baby, brine!

    And yep, I'm blaming the entire disaster on my thermometer. There. I feel better.

    Thanks man!


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