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Hi - I’m exploring ways to cook farmer’s market free range chickens - the ones who have run around outside and can be tough if not cooked carefully. Note that this long cooking is definitely not necessary for the free range chickens from the grocery store (the Forum already has many recipes that work beautifully for them).

The 4 ¼ lb. whole bird I bought came frozen solid. I brined approx. 24 hours, drained, and refrigerated another day. I rubbed the bird with canola oil and trussed it. I put it in the smoker with alder chips, breast-side down, in a pan, at approx. 190oF (dial between 180 and 200o) for 5 hours. I turned off the smoker until I was ready (about an hour), turned the bird over and reheated in a 450oF oven about 20 minutes, then broiled until the skin was brown (no, not crispy! Smiler). Fortunately, the meat was moist, tender and delicious. I'd love to hear your approach to smoking free range.
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Welcome to the forum.

I've never cooked a free-range chicken so I can't comment on your method, but I'm glad it came out good.

I've never brined a chicken more than 8 to 10 hours. I'm interested in knowing what your salt to liquid ratio was. I typically use 3/4 cup salt to a gallon of liquid.
Hi SkipQ,and thanks for the nice welcome.

I know. It's a really long time to brine. The farmer's market sellers recommend letting the chicken "rest" for at least 2 days, so I plop it in the brine and leave it. Over time I've cut back the amount of salt I've used for all the brining I do, and currently use only 1/8th cup kosher salt per quart. It's not even supposed to work at that reduced level (and probably won't with a short brine), but you won't get overly salty meat if you decide you're too tired to wrestle the chicken until morning...
I've been reading a bit about free-range chickens, cage free chickens, pastured chickens, organic chickens, and various combination of those attributes.

The consensus appears to be that free-range or pastured chickens are not as tender as the birds produced by the high-volume large scale commercial and intensively farmed "battery" operations, but they have more intense and better flavor. Also I learned that "cage free" is just a marketing term, and to some degree "free range" may be. The latter doesn't necessarily imply that the bird is organically raised or pastured, and the former doesn't mean the bird isn't part of an intensive battery operation.

I'm sure you know all this. It's just an education for me, so I thought I'd mention what I've discovered.

I've never tried any of the free-range birds from Whole Foods or similar stores, nor have I ever bought a farmer's market bird. They're usually quite a bit more expensive than the commercial caged meat birds, and I've always been happy with the latter. But just to see what the difference is myself, I plan to stop by Whole Foods and buy a free-range bird. I'm going to brine it, then roast it on the rotisserie. That's my favorite way to cook chicken.

It sounds like I should be going to the farmer's market to look for old free-range roosters for Coq au Vin. I've noticed that regular supermarket birds just fall apart in that dish. You need an old tough rooster to make a proper Coq au Vin.
Rotisserie? I think ya might be on to something there SkipQ. I guess I can say that I have been taught by Tom to think about what your smoking. He may not know it though,but I feel that thinking right now.

Why smoke something low and slow when there is NO fat to render? Why marinade in salt water?

I'm sure he would have the same thoughts about them dang old yardbirds, don't ya think?
Hi SkipQ – Thanks for the excellent analysis of poultry terms, and good luck with the Whole Foods chicken; I’ll be interested to know if you find a difference. I always have my grip firmly on the wagon when I approach the WF meat counter prices – as you say, “quite a bit more expensive”.

Per the farmer’s market bird (which, by the way, is also very pricey), I haven’t made Coq au Vin, but I did try a recipe from The Grassfed Gourmet Cookbook (Shannon Hayes) for Melt-on-Your-Tongue chicken which cooks the bird in a covered pot (no liquid) at 200o for 8 hours. It was amazing, so I expect a pastured free range bird should enjoy cooking slowly in wine. Smiler

It occurred to me that I should have mentioned that the long brine I used would not be appropriate for a bird that is not frozen solid when you buy it.

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