Classification And Market Forms

The following terms are used to classify poultry:

Kind—the species, such as chicken, turkey, or duck.

Class—the subdivision of kind, depending on age and sex.

Style—the amount of cleaning and processing.

Live: almost never purchased in food service.

Dressed: killed, bled, and plucked.Also rarely seen in food service.

Ready to cook: dressed and eviscerated,with head and feet removed.

State of refrigeration—chilled or frozen.

Table 12.1 describes the kinds and classes of domestic poultry. Chicken is the most common kind of poultry in the kitchen. As indicated in the table, age or maturity determines the differences among the various classes of chicken. Rock Cornish game hens (usually called Cornish hens), broilers, and fryers are young, tender chickens suitable for sauteing,broiling, or frying,while roasters and capons are larger chickens that are usually roasted. Older hens and (rarely marketed) roosters must be simmered or braised to make them tender.

Table 12.1

Domestic Poultry Classes and Characteristics

Kind /Class



Weight range


Rock Cornish game hen

Special breed of young chicken, very tender and delicate.

5 weeks or less

3/4-2 lb (0.34-0.9 kg)

Broiler or fryer

Young chicken of either sex.Tender flesh and flexible cartilage. Smooth skin.

6-12 weeks

Broiler: 112-212 lb (0.7-1.1 kg) Fryer: 212-312 lb (1.1-1.6 kg)


Young chicken of either sex.Tender flesh and smooth skin, but less flexible cartilage.

3-5 months

312-5 lb (1.6-2.3 kg)


Castrated male chicken. Flesh very tender and well flavored. Large breast. Expensive.

Under 8 months

5-8 lb (2.3-3.6 kg)

Hen or fowl

Mature female.Tough flesh and coarse skin. Hardened breastbone cartilage.

Over 10 months

312-6 lb (1.6-2.7 kg)

Cock or rooster

Mature male. Coarse skin.Tough, dark meat.

Over 10 months

4-6 lb (1.8-2.7 kg)



Young bird of either sex.Tender flesh, smooth skin, and flexible cartilage.

Under 16 weeks

4-9 lb (1.8-4 kg)

Young turkey (hen or tom)

Young turkeys with tender flesh but firmer cartilage.

5-7 months

8-22 lb (3.6-10 kg)

Yearling turkey

Fully matured turkey that is still reasonably tender.

Under 15 months

10-30 lb (4.5-14 kg)

Mature turkey or old turkey (hen or tom)

Old turkey with tough flesh and coarse skin.

Over 15 months

10-30 lb (4.5-14 kg)


Broiler or fryer duckling

Young tender duck with soft bill and windpipe.

Under 8 weeks

2-4 lb (0.9-1.8 kg)

Roaster duckling

Young tender duck with bill and windpipe that are just starting to harden.

Under 16 weeks

4-6 lb (1.8-2.7 kg)

Mature duck

Old duck with tough flesh and hard bill and windpipe.

Over 6 months

4-6 lb (1.8-2.7 kg)


Young goose

Young bird with tender flesh.

Under 6 months

6-10 lb (2.7-4.5 kg)

Mature goose

Tough old bird

Over 6 months

10-16 lb (4.5-7.3 kg)


Young guinea

Domestic relatives of the pheasant.Tender.

3-6 months

34-112 lb (0.34-0.7 kg)

Mature guinea


Up to 12 months

1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg)



Very young pigeons with light, tender meat.

3-4 weeks

Under 1 lb (0.45 kg)


Older pigeons with tough, dark meat.

Over 4 weeks

1-2 lb (0.45-0.9 kg)

In addition to the common classes of chicken listed in the table,you may also find poussin (poo-san) on the market in certain localities. Similar to Rock Cornish game hen but often smaller, a poussin is a young chicken weighing 1 pound (450 g) or less. It commands a fairly high price because of the special techniques required for raising it.

Turkeys are larger birds that are usually roasted, although the cooking of turkey parts is increasingly common. For example, legs may be stewed or braised for special dishes (see, for example, Mole Poblano, p. 409), while breasts are cut into cutlets or scaloppine and sauteed like veal cutlets.

Ducks and geese also are usually roasted, although duck parts are sometimes cooked separately. Boneless breast of duck is sauteed or broiled and served rare, sliced into small medallions,and the legs may be braised. Ducks and geese have a thick layer of fat under the skin. Compared with chicken and turkey, they have a low yield. For example, a 4-pound duck yields about 1 pound raw lean meat, and a 4-pound chicken yields about 2 pounds raw lean meat.

Most ducks marketed in North America are a breed called White Pekin; this includes the well-known Long Island duck. A specialty item available in some markets is magret (mah-gray).This is the boneless breast of a breed of duck called moulard. It is thicker and meatier than the breast of a regular Pekin.

Guineas are a domestically raised descendant of the pheasant.They taste like a flavorful chicken and are usually cooked and handled like young chickens.

Squabs are young, domestically raised pigeons, usually weighing less than 1 pound (450 g).Their rich, dark meat,which is usually cooked slightly rare to avoid dryness, has a slightly gamy flavor that combines well with flavorful brown sauces.

Clockwise from left: duckling, free-range chicken, poussin, guinea fowl, squab, quail

Continue reading here: Game Birds And Specialty Products

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  • william
    What poultry are sold in market and their classes?
    1 year ago