Back in the day people didn't have Cornish X broiler chickens, chickens ran about the place, made nests, raised chicks, ate scraps and bugs and spilled grain. Nobody cared if it took them two years to mature, they just went out back and killed some big roosters when they needed chicken meat. Then they hung it in the meathouse however long it needed to age. Or carried the surplus into town where the butcher killed them and hung them in the market square for several days until somebody bought them. Meat needs to be aged, the older the animal, the longer you need to age it. Anything inside of two years old is still edible, if handled properly. Older than that and you need to pressure can it or cook in the crockpot. The biggest contribution the Cornish X bird has made, is to make people forget how to prepare real chicken. Yeah, they are efficient, but I'm not really into the whole going to the post office/plugging in brooder/filling feeders thing, I like chickens a little more natural and less labor intensive. When I started down the road of producing my own chicken, I wondered how my forefathers could stand to eat meat that was so stinking tough. I had the same kind of birds, the same management system, even grandma's old recipes. Looking closer, I realized that my forefathers didn't butcher them out and shove them in a freezer while they were still practically kicking. Heck, in a lot of countries it is common to find birds hanging with feathers on an entrails still inside at the marketplace. They might be third world, but at least they know how to age their chickens so they aren't tough as shoe leather.
tough meat - Page 2
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We even crockpot CX birds, but not as long. Typically, we will crockpot a CX for 4-5 hours and a dual purpose (usually about 5 months old) for 6-8 hours. Google for lots of good recipes.
Recently, I pulled a Chantecler (known for good meat) Partridge cross from the freezer. We had another of these and we crockpotted it. It was the toughest chicken I have ever eaten. Actually, I couldn't eat it...it was literally like trying to chew rubber. So I simmered this one in a stockpot full of water for about 8 hours. It was of course, falling off the bone by then. It was really delicious, not tough at all. Well, not as tender as CX, but certainly very tasty and edible. I pulled all the meat off and made broth from the carcass. By comparison, if I were to cook a CX in a stockpot like this, it would be ready in under 3 hours.
Somewhere out there, I read an excellent article about how to cook chicken. This was written long ago, before the invention of the CX, so all the chickens were slow growing. There are definite ways of cooking these slow growing birds. There were instructions for birds that are 2 months old, 3 months old, 4 months old and on up to 6 months. If you are raising them for meat, typically you won't butcher past 6 months of age, because they don't get much bigger and the meat just gets tougher. You certainly can eat most any bird older than 6 months, but you will absolutely need to employ a slow cook method like a crockpot or a long stew in a stock pot and even then, the meat will be delicious (more flavor from age) but a bit tougher than CX.
This isn't the exact article I am referring to, but this one covers much of the same material: http://www.albc-usa.org/documents/cookingwheritagechicken.pdf
EDIT: this is quoted from the article, it corrects and clarifies what I said above:
"The chicken meat most of us take for granted today is quite different from what our grandparents experienced. Today commercial chicken meat production is very different from methods and ideas common before the mid-20th century. Those of us who want to conserve old chicken breeds need to understand the traditional chicken meat classes and their excellent cooking qualities.
There are 4 traditional chicken meat classes: broiler, fryer, roaster and fowl. The traditional broiler age range was from 7 to 12 weeks, and carcass weight from 1 to 2 1/2 lbs. (Squab broilers would be youngest and smallest of these, typically Leghorn cockerels about 3/4 to 1 pound dressed.) The next age and weight group was called the fryer. Traditional fryer age range was from 14 to 20 weeks, and carcass weight from 2 1/2 to 4 lbs. Traditional roaster age range was from 5 to 12 months, and carcass weight from 4 to 8 pounds. Most roasters were butchered between 6 and 9 months. Hens and roosters 12 months and older were called “fowl” or “stewing fowl” signifying that slow moist cooking methods were required."
I don't recall the exact age, but I think you wouldn't want to try any quick cooking methods (like BBQ) with a bird older than 2 months. Otherwise, it will be tough and you'll be disappointed.
Edited by pdirt - 10/24/15 at 8:18am
... When I started down the road of producing my own chicken, I wondered how my forefathers could stand to eat meat that was so stinking tough. I had the same kind of birds, the same management system, even grandma's old recipes. Looking closer, I realized that my forefathers didn't butcher them out and shove them in a freezer while they were still practically kicking. Heck, in a lot of countries it is common to find birds hanging with feathers on an entrails still inside at the marketplace. They might be third world, but at least they know how to age their chickens so they aren't tough as shoe leather.
While I don't have knowledge on how to safely age chicken meat outside of a fridge, I certainly do this in the fridge. I let them sit in the fridge for 3-4 days after processing before putting them in the freezer. I got this good advice from folks like you here on BYC, and it has worked well so far. I haven't tried skipping the aging step and just put them straight into the freezer to taste the difference, but I'll take your word on it. Our chicken meat is very precious to us and we don't want to end up with tough meat!