5 Things to Know About Air Chilled Chicken

Maybe you’ve noticed that some fresh poultry just tastes, well. . . fresher, but have you ever thought about why? In fact, the details of how chicken is processed, especially how the method used to chill it, have a profound impact on the quality of the end product. Here are five things to know about air chilling.

1. How Air Chilling Works 
In chicken processing, birds must quickly be brought below 40˚ Fahrenheit after feather removal. The industry standard accomplishes this by immersing the chickens in a cold water bath. Some of that water is absorbed into the chicken, compromising its flavor and texture. By contrast, airchilling is a process by which chickens are circulated through purified cold air to bring the birds down to a safe temperature.

2. Not All Air Chilling Is Equal 
There are also chilling processes that fall somewhere in the middle, using a combination of water and cold air; producers can seek process verification through the USDA to distinguish air chilling from 100% pure air chilling.

3. Air Chilling Ensures Better Flavor & Texture
Water-chilled chicken actually becomes waterlogged during processing. Water absorbed during processing tends to purge into the package; what remains in the meat evaporates out during cooking, leaving dry meat that doesn’t take on seasonings or flavors readily. Air chilled chicken by contrast produces tender meat with better flavor and texture.

4. No Added Water Means Crispier Skin 
If you love grilled, roasted, or panseared chicken with crispy, golden skin, air chilled chicken is ideal. Because the process uses no added water, the chicken skin remains taught and never soggy or laden with liquid, even in the package. That means that when you cook it—whether on the grill, in the oven, or in a cast iron pan—the chicken sears up nice and crispy.

5. Air Chilled Chicken Is A Better Value 
Absorbed water also adds weight to the chicken you purchase at a per-pound rate. That makes air chilled chicken a better value because there’s no added weight from either processing liquid, injected broths, or marinades.