Pure. Fresh. Taste—That's the Air-Chilled Difference
What makes chicken tender, juicy, and delicious? Of course the way it’s cooked is important—final temperature, preparation methods like brining, and whether it’s grilled, broiled, or roasted all contribute to a great piece of chicken. Also crucial is the quality of the chicken you start with, and you might be surprised to learn that the way chicken is processed—more specifically, the way it’s chilled—plays a key role in the tenderness, texture, and overall flavor of the end product. At Smart Chicken®, our chilling process (like all of the considerations that go into care and production) is aligned with quality.
In the production of fresh chicken, the birds must be quickly cooled within a specified timeframe after sacrifice. It’s an absolutely crucial step, ensuring that the chicken is safe for consumers. But the method by which fresh chicken is cooled also has a dramatic impact on the overall quality of the meat. Most chicken passes through a cooling process called water immersion chilling, which involves a soak in treated water that rapidly cools chicken to a safe temperature. As it soaks, the chicken begins absorbing the liquid, which can adversely affect the meat’s taste, texture, and overall quality.
The Air-Chilled Advantage
With air chilling—a processing method that Smart Chicken adopted from European producers nearly two decades ago—chicken is circulated through a series of chill chambers cooled with purified cold air. Air chilling produces the best-quality chicken, which is (and has always been) Smart Chicken’s number one goal.
When it comes to taste, 100% pure air-chilled Smart Chicken offers chicken with undiluted flavor that cooks more consistently and remains tender and juicy throughout the cooking process. The exterior browns and crisps up nicely, especially with skin-on cuts like wings, legs, and whole birds. While Smart Chicken was the first, it is no longer the only chicken producer using air chilling methods, but it’s important to note that not all airchilled chicken is chilled under the same processing standards. Smart Chicken is the only producer in the country that is USDA Process Verified 100% pure air chilled with no water added.
The distinction between air-chilled chicken and chickens chilled by water immersion is perhaps best described in All about Roasting: A New Approach to a Classic Art—an award-winning cookbook by acclaimed author Molly Stevens that centers on truly perfecting the technique of roasting meats, including poultry. In her recommendations for purchasing quality chicken, Stevens singles out air-chilling as a crucial differentiator between good and great chicken: “Air chilling maintains more of the integrity of flavor and texture of the natural chicken, and perhaps best of all, the skin of an air-chilled chicken will brown up much more readily (and will be crispier) when roasted.”
Better & Safer
In addition to producing chicken with a pure, fresh taste, air-chilling is also better for the environment, saving gallons upon gallons of water. And when it comes to food safety, Smart Chicken refuses to compromise, producing a consistently wholesome and safe product. Smart Chicken was the first chicken producer in the country to obtain the SQF (Safe Quality Foods) Level 3 certification—the highest level of food safety in the industry.
There’s no doubt the chilling process has a huge impact on the overall quality of fresh chicken. Smart Chicken’s USDA Process Verified 100% pure air chill technology is like no other—and it’s one of the key reasons Smart Chicken stands out as the best-tasting, highest-quality chicken available.