What’s the tastiest breed of chicken?
You might be looking over a wonderful chicken recipe in that new recipe book you got for Christmas, but when it comes to cooking it are you getting the most out of your creation with your chicken selection? Chickens available in the major supermarkets are, by and large, inferior to the type of free-range birds you’ll be able to buy at a decent butcher, or from a breeder who specialises in poultry.
For the avid poultry cook, only premium birds should be allowed anywhere near their dinner plates. This entails cooking free-range fowl that are slow to mature. Free-range chickens have longer breasts and fuller, juicier legs for the pot.
An example of this is the 100-day chicken launched by renowned British organic butchers, The Ginger Pig. This outdoor-reared cross between a Sussex or Dorking hen and a Cornish Game cockerel is bigger than the mean and also perfect for chicken recipes that entail cooking the bird for a long time.
Other highly prized-breeds include the French poulet de Bresse. It’s well known that, in France’s legal system, chickens can only be sold as 'La Bresse' if they are bred in the immediate vicinity of the town of Bourg-en-Bresse.
Staying in France, poulet noir and Landes chickens are other notable breeds. The reason that chickens from France are particularly well regarded is that they are grown for anywhere between 93 and 110 days, which is almost one month more than most British birds. It may surprise many, but even the free-range British chickens sold in supermarkets are around for just 65 days before slaughter.
In terms of the best breeds indigenous to the British Isles, the Label Anglais is a favourite of many household names. It’s so good that John Torode, the Australian chef and judge of the BBC’s MasterChef, declared that the chicken “tastes like it had a perfect life.” This is obviously an opinion also held by Raymond Blanc, who recently put it on his menu.
Recently, however, according to a number of industry experts including Mark Hix and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), most chefs in most professional kitchens in the UK do not know what breed they are cooking with.
If the quality of your chicken matters to you and you’re buying your meat for the weekend, head to a reputable butcher or an online supplier like. If you’re going to be dining out this weekend, chefs and restaurants who care will be able to tell you where their chickens are sourced.