Chewy roast hen

Tonight I was teaching a friend how to make a basic roast chicken. When it was time to cut it up it was beyond tough. The meat was moist but terribly chewy. After the meal she looked at the package and it was a hen. Are hens typically chewy? Was there something I could have done to prevent this? I have been roasting chickens forever with the same recipe and I have alway had amazing success. I have never used a hen before.

  • Posted by: Hildee
  • August 30, 2011


Greenstuff August 31, 2011
I see there's another whole discussion going on about tough birds!
Greenstuff August 31, 2011
While it is true that it's hard to find old hens in the US these days, there are some breeds that are naturally tougher, needing the slower cooking. One example is the blue-footed chickens from BN Ranch. Meat aficionados will recognize BN as Bob Niman. These chickens were bred in Canada as an American take on poulet de Bresse, the great French chicken. Unfortunately, all the Canadian birds had to be destroyed during the avian flu scare. But fortunately, the Canadian grower had sent a small flock to California. And now they're are marketed, at least in a small way. Marin Sun Farms, also in California, also markets a chicken that is more flavorful and also more tough (until cooked properly) than most Americans are used to. The irony, of course, is that these tough birds go for top dollar.
usuba D. August 31, 2011
In the US, you can not buy a proper spent hen anymore from the commercial layers. The laying hens are tiny, breed to eat very little, while laying plenty of eggs. It is possible to buy large hens for backyard egg operations, even some slightly larger organic operations will use them. I would be curious where the hen was bought and the brand name, unless it was a local farmers market.
innoabrd August 31, 2011
Not sure about where you are, but in some places (ie. the UK) I've been able to buy old, retired, laying hens. Perhaps that's what this is. Great for stewing or making stock/soup, but not roasting.
Hildee August 31, 2011
Wonderful information, bunches of thanks to you!
Greenstuff August 30, 2011
Look on the bright side--now you know about stewing chickens, hens, and varieties that are tough--but more flavorful. They're great to use in soups and stews, much better than young, tender, less flavorful birds.
inpatskitchen August 30, 2011
Hens are usually very tough old chickens and probably need to be stewed or braised for some length of time. When done right the flavor is magnificent! For roasting I'd use a large broiler or capon.
Recommended by Food52