Whether Hunan glazed chicken or pollo en naranja, the Mexican version, the sweet tanginess of orange complements poultry around the world, in a variety of cuisines. Often used as a marinade or a glaze, the fruit is generally juiced, and the rinds discarded. However, with the easy access of pre-made juices and concentrates in grocery stores around the globe, it is difficult to determine what version to use. Orange concentrate and orange juice, while similar in taste, have different preparation and cooking times than one another, so the choice depends on the desired texture and flavor of the dish.
Juice vs. Concentrate
Fruit juice comes in three varieties, freshly squeezed, not from concentrate and fruit concentrate. Freshly squeezed is just that -- taken directly from the orange itself, generally with pulp, and used within one to two days of squeezing. Not from concentrate is a heavily processed juice with additives to lengthen its shelf life. Fruit concentrate is juice that is concentrated by removing over half its water. Often containing additional sugar, water must be added back to the concentrate to bring it back to the viscosity of juice.
Whisk juice concentrate with other desired flavors, such as garlic or pepper, to create a sweet glaze for chicken. This is perfect for making orange chicken that is pan-fried or roasted, and is easier than using orange juice. Juice must be thickened with cornstarch or reduced through simmering before glazing, and concentrate is the easy alternative. Add molasses or honey alongside vinegar to give the concentrate a barbecue sauce flavor.
Use orange juice, whether fresh squeezed or not from concentrate, when stewing chicken, such as for Mexican orange chicken. The excess water in the juice itself will burn off during the cooking process, concentrating the juice as it cooks. Do not use juice concentrate unless you dilute it with broth or water, as it will concentrate even more during cooking and create too strong a flavor and not enough liquid to thoroughly cook the chicken.
Nutritional content between both juice and concentrate are similar, when the latter is diluted according to packaging. However, choose concentrate that is made from natural juices and does not contain any additional sugar for the best flavor. Try using other fruit juices or concentrates for a different flavor on chicken -- cranberry or apple work well with poultry. Never reuse an orange juice or concentrate marinade after it has been in contact with chicken, as it can carry bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses.
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