The first time I tried cooking Sam’s pasture-raised chicken (for those of you who don’t know – I’m Delk, Sam’s dad), I put it on the grill as all backyard Dads do, put some breasts and thighs on a hot grill, added a little BBQ sauce, turned them, cooked them until they looked about right, poked them, saw that the juice was clear, and then yelled, “Mary, it’s ready, I’m bringing the chicken in.” It was not done, not raw, but clearly not done enough to eat.

What we all have found since is that Glendale Farm Pasture-Raised Chicken requires either more heat or a longer cooking time than chicken from the grocery store. This will be true whether it is chicken cuts, whole chickens, on the grill or in the oven.

Berry Kennedy and Bo Duling preparing Garlic-Pesto Roast Chicken with Kielba Roast Potatoes

I set about to experiment to determine exactly how much more heat or time would be required, so I could publish some recipes to give guidance. All chicken recipes say cook a chicken, or a chicken cut, to 165 degrees  F. with a meat thermometer placed in the thickest portion of the cut or bird. I tried cooking a chicken to 180 degrees with a meat thermometer, both in the oven and on the grill. This actually worked pretty well.

But I changed my thinking on it when last week I delivered a load of our “red bird” chickens to Matt Lackey at Flyte Restaurant in Nashville. Matt and Flyte could easily be called the rock-star and the epi-center of really good local food in Nashville. Read more about Matt inEater here and all about Flyte here.

I said Matt, “Am I imagining something, or do these chickens take longer to cook or more heat than a store chicken?” Matt smiled and quickly said, “Yes, definitely.” He explained that these pasture-raised chickens have a better moisture content (in technical terms which I did not understand) and will require more cooking.

I told Matt that I had been experimenting with cooking these chickens to 180 degrees with a meat thermometer. Matt screwed  up his face; clearly this was not the approach he would take. Basically he explained that because of the better moisture content of our pasture-raised chickens, they could take that kind of abuse and still be good, but he doesn’t do that.

So what is Matt’s solution — Matt said that what he likes to do is bring the internal temperature of the meat at the thickest place up to about 165 degrees, then he adjusts to hold the temperature at that level for another 20 to 30 minutes.

This weekend we set about to do some experiments using Matt’s advice. Here is what we did:

  1. Prepare chicken with marinade or spices per recipe. Truss the chicken by simply tying the legs together and trying the wings up close to the body.
  2. Place it breast side down on a rack inside a roasting pan and place in the oven at 400 degrees. After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Jiggle the chicken a bit to keep the breasts from sticking to the rack.
  3. Roast for 30 minutes and then turn the chicken over to brown the breasts.
  4. When chicken reaches 160 degrees in the thickest part of the meat, turn oven off and let chicken continue to sit in oven with the door closed for 20 minutes. It will continue to cook during this time. Remove and place on counter, covered in foil for an additional  10 minutes.

Here is how my daughter Berry described the result.”I’ve eaten a lot of great Glendale farm chicken, but this might be some if my favorite,” she said. Sam’s chicken always has such a great flavor, and this one was extra moist. Mostly, she’s just happy to learn that pasture-raised birds are more tolerant of beginner cooks.  “The method we used of getting the bird up to 160 degrees and then turning the oven off and letting the bird continue to cook inside for another 20 minutes was really easy. I’m going to try it if next time I take chicken home. I don’t even own a meat thermometer, but it shouldn’t be that hard to approximate. I am mainly glad to know that because of the moisture thing, Sam’s chickens are harder for me to mess up!”

If you want to try the low and slow method of cooking pasture-raised birds, this method  worked well with a whole chicken for Mary Susan and I. Please let us know what are your favorite ways to cook these delicious pasture-raised birds. We are always excited to try new recipes and suggestions!

Men, if you are cooking on the grill, the old slice-in and look method works perfectly well. You will find that it takes longer to get Pasture-Raised Chicken done, whether cooking a whole bird or cuts. Try mimicking the recipe above by cooking the chicken on a hot grill for awhile and then moving it to a cooler area of the grill to finish it up.

Now have a dinner party.