The general consensus amongst most meat-eaters (and most vegetarians for that matter) is that chicken is the most versatile meat on the planet. It’s certainly the most common; providing 20 per cent of the world’s animal protein.
You can grill it, broil it, boil it, barbecue it, bake it, roast it, sauté it, fry it and make it the hero of all number of chicken recipes: pies, curries, bakes, stir-fries and pasta. It can be eaten in simple, rustic meals or fancy, cordon-bleu dishes. It can be consumed hot or cold or virtually raw – the Japanese are partial to a delicacy called toriwasa; slices of lightly seared slices of fresh chicken sashimi.
There are a few reasons why chicken is deemed the most versatile of all meats. It’s not just its adaptability to myriad different cooking methods, it’s because it’s ubiquitous, affordable – and bland. Ubiquitous, because it’s relatively cheap and easy to rear and slaughter and affordable for the same reasons. Its inoffensive taste means few people are put off by it and it goes well with all manner of sauces, sides and spices because it doesn’t interfere with, or overwhelm, other flavours and aromas.
Every notable global cuisine has at least one signature chicken dish: there’s Caribbean chicken; coq au vin from France; Sunday roast chicken or chicken and leek pie from England; chicken cacciatore from Italy; Estofado de pollo from Spain; piri-piri chicken from Portugal; chicken Kiev from Russia; Southern-fried chicken for the US; tandoori chicken from India; Moroccan chicken pastilla; chicken yakitori from Japan – the list goes on and on.
It’s not only the flesh and skin that’s eaten either – chicken feet are enormously popular in many countries including China, as are chicken heads, which are consumed brains and all. Chicken necks and testicles are not unusual in Asian dishes while giblets – organs such as the heart, liver and gizzards – can be eaten alone or make great additions to stocks and gravy. Even the oysters, two small round pieces of dark meat located on the back, near the thigh, are known by chefs as the most moist and tender part of a chicken and are regarded as poultry’s ultimate bonne bouche.
Chicken remains one of the most searched for foods in Google: in 2011, chicken was the most popular food search after pizza, and its place in our hearts and our stomachs shows no sign of diminishing.