Invented in Europe and commonplace in Canada, air chilling has just started to become popular in the United States. From the cook’s point of view air chilled chickens taste far superior to water chilled birds. They also cook faster. The difference is in how the chickens are handled. Traditional methods call for immersing freshly slaughtered birds in a large chlorinated vat of ice water before being frozen. Chickens treated in this manner absorb a lot of water. Not only is this arguably less sanitary but all that water effects the taste.
Air chilling on the other hand works by individually suspending birds from a track that moves through two chambers. In the first chamber cold purified air is run over each bird to quickly reduce its temperature. The second chamber lowers the temperature to the desired 32 F to 34 F degree range. That’s it. The frozen chicken is ready for packaging and shipping. No excess water and no excess exposure to the other birds.
So what’s the big deal? The difference is in the taste. These chickens simply taste better. Better yet these chickens cook faster because they haven’t absorbed all the excess water. The USDA allows the water-immerse chickens to absorb up to 8% of its weight in water. So when you buy a water-immersed bird you are paying chicken prices for water. Buying air-chilled means that you are getting much more of what you pay for. Within the European Union processors are required by law to use the air-chilled process. The only processors that are allowed to use water-immersion are those that exclusively ship out of the region.
Smart Chicken Brand is the only chicken processor that I am aware of the currently offers air-chilled chicken in the United States. Fortunately for you their brand is carried in major supermarkets in all but ten of the fifty states. Hopefully other processors will adopt this technology soon. It has, after all, been around for over thirty-five years.
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