Next time you're grocery shopping and notice a bird labeled "air-chilled chicken," you might want to take note. The process is said to make chickens more flavorful and less susceptible to food-borne illnesses like salmonella, and chicken processors are starting to catch on.
While the process of air-chilling has been commonplace in the U.K. for decades, it's starting to be used more often in the United States, Whole Foods says. First up, here's what it means: In order to comply with USDA standards, poultry has to be chilled to below 40° F within four hours of being killed. To do so, chickens are typically water-chilled, meaning they are submerged in ice-cold water. This cools them down quickly, but also means excess water seeps into their skin, watering down the bird's natural juices.
With air-chilling, though, birds move through temperature-controlled chambers where purified air is blasted onto them for up to three hours, Whole Foods explains. During this process, the chickens actually lose a little bit of water, which in turn makes for crispier and more flavorful roasted chickens.
Aside from taste, air-chilled chicken comes with less risk of cross-contamination, since the birds aren't all floating in one vat of water. It also reduces water usage, making it a better environmental choice. Since air-chilling takes longer, chickens processed this way usually have a higher price tag; however, you're getting more and better-quality chicken out of it.
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h/t The Kitchn
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