When shopping for a whole chicken, look for a well-shaped bird with a plump, rounded breast, and more breast than leg. You can tell the approximate age of a bird by pressing against the breastbone. If it is pliable, the chicken is young and will have tender meat. Chicken parts should be moist and plump. Both whole chickens and chicken parts should have a clean smell.
One way to get a really fresh chicken is to check the “sell by” date on the store’s label. Chicken can reach the supermarket as early as the next morning after slaughter. The sell-by date is seven to 10 days from slaughter and it’s the last day recommended for sale. However, the bird will remain fresh for up to three days afterward if properly refrigerated.
The color of the skin has no bearing on quality or nutritional value. The poultry industry turns out white and yellow chickens to suit consumer preferences, which vary from region to region. The color of the skin depends on the breed and what the chicken was fed. If the chicken was fed substances containing yellow pigment, such as marigold petals, its skin will be yellow. No matter what the color of the skin is, make sure it does not appear transparent or mottled.
Frozen chicken should be rock-hard and show no signs of freezer burn or ice crystals inside the package. Choose packages from below the freezer line in the grocer’s case. If there is frozen liquid inside the package, the chicken has likely been defrosted and then refrozen. This does not mean that the chicken is spoiled, but the taste will suffer since the juices that make a bird flavorful have seeped out.