Fowl play: six great alternatives to cooking with chicken
Chicken has become something of an ever present on the dinner table. As one of the few ingredients eaten the world over, chef’s have come up with innumerable ways of preparing, cooking and flavouring what is probably the most versatile meat out there. However, as chicken has become so beloved, it has also become boring. It’s difficult to satisfy a craving for the unknown with a chicken breast. For those looking to shake up their poultry choices beyond the obvious alternatives like turkey, here’s a selection of great birds to try.
Originating from Africa, guinea fowl represent a great introduction to game birds for the uninitiated. With protein rich flesh and roughly half the fat of chicken, they make for a healthy poultry alternative. Usually roasted whole, preparation is relatively simple and straightforward, the only danger being overcooking and subsequently drying out the lean meat. Available in most supermarkets, guinea fowl are a fantastic chicken alternative.
A delicate and moist meat, partridge is popular ingredient across Europe and Africa. Significantly smaller than chicken, a whole bird is required to feed one person. However, when cooked correctly, the flavour is far more rewarding than its larger domesticated counterpart. Like all game birds, the meat is best served slightly pink in order to retain its moist and tender texture. A more refined option for when you fancy showing off at dinnertime.
For those who want a completely different eating experience from their birds, pigeon represents a total departure from traditional chicken. With a bold, meaty flavour, the pigeon is a great choice for those who enjoy strong flavours. The pinnacle of pigeon cookery is squab - young, domesticated pigeons famed for their fatty, flavourful skin, silky texture and great taste. Perfectly paired with red wine and strong sauce, pigeon makes for top quality poultry.
Prized in French and Asian cooking, duck is regarded in some circles as the king of all birds when it comes to eating. Part of its appeal is its flexibility. Fatty breasts can be pan seared to produce a crispy skin/rare fillet combo that’s a favourite of bistros the world over. The legs can be slowly confited to yield meat that literally falls off the bone, or the whole bird can be roasted with rich, flavourful results. With so many options available, duck cookery is a great weapon to add to your culinary arsenal.
Finding a great chicken replacement does not necessarily mean looking to other birds. The increasing popularity of vegetarianism and veganism has given rise to a range of meat alternatives that provide a healthy option for those who want a break from eating animal. Perhaps the tastiest of these is seitan, which is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants as well as in the home. Easily flavoured and extremely flexible, seitan is definitely a viable option for those looking to leave meat behind altogether.
Similarly, some great chicken-like meats can be found from other corners of the animal kingdom. Before the major myxomatosis outbreak of the 1950s, rabbit was among the most popular meats in the UK. The white flesh has a very similar consistency to chicken, and is perfectly suited to stewing, frying or roasting. Anyone feeling nostalgic for old ingredients is well advised to give rabbit a go.
With so many options on the table, if you’re ever feeling bored of chicken you have no need to despair. Though chicken will always be a popular choice, it pays to know how many other choices there are. For anyone looking to push the boat out, these alternatives are certain to impress.