Poultry-based dishes range from down-home fried chicken to exotic pheasant under glass. Just as beef can be either economical or pricey, depending upon the cut, birds in the poultry category can be purchased in a range of prices. You'll find more familiar poultry such as chicken and turkey in almost any supermarket, but you may have to look to specialty shops for less-common game birds.
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Finger Lickin' Chicken
Chicken's reputation for diversity is due in large part to the number of ways it is sold and can be prepared. You'll find whole roasted rotisserie chickens at many supermarkets, as well as raw whole chicken for you to roast at home. Boneless chicken breasts can be stuffed and pounded and rolled up -- or simply baked or poached after being lightly breaded. Thighs and drumsticks can be braised or fried. Chicken wings form the base for flavorful stock, or slather them with barbecue sauce and toss them on the grill.
Turkey All Year
Roasted or smoked whole turkey yields a bounty of second- and third-night leftovers, from hearty sandwiches to stews and casseroles. Or buy turkey already in pieces. The breast is available in boneless sections such as "tenderloin" cuts and in larger, bone-in sections. Poach turkey breast, or give it plenty of moisture-retaining breading to keep the lean meat from drying out. Additional cuts include separate drumsticks and thighs or non-separated hind quarters. Stew, braise or roast them as you would chicken drumsticks and thighs. Ground turkey breast subs for ground beef in chili and burgers. Look for the lighter-colored ground turkey, which indicates turkey breast was used, which has about 1/6th the saturated fat of darker ground turkey. Sliced plain or smoked turkey breast, usually found at the deli case, is a lean sandwich alternative to sliced ham or roast beef.
Good Things in Small Packages
Among the smaller birds in the poultry category are Cornish game hens, a small breed of chicken. These diminutive hens are almost always roasted whole, with each diner served his own hen. Other small poultry include quail, grouse and squab. Slightly larger poultry that can serve two or three people include guinea fowl or pheasant, both of which are intensely flavorful and somewhat expensive. To keep these non-fatty birds from drying out as they roast, wrap them in bacon before oven-roasting. Alternatively, look for boneless pheasant breasts to make classic dishes such as pheasant under glass, which is cooked in a skillet and topped with a creamy wine sauce and mushrooms.
Duck and geese have dark, fatty meat, which can make cooking them a challenge. Goose is slightly leaner than duck, with the average goose typically providing more meat than duck. Whole, roasted goose is a traditional holiday entree in some parts of Europe, but cubed, browned goose can also be used in hearty casseroles like beef; just take care to remove as much fat as possible. Muscovy duck is the best type to use for breast meat, and the boneless cuts are prepared much like a beef steak. Opt for Peking duck when roasting whole birds, and siphon off the fat from the roasting pan as it cooks.