What is seasoned chicken?

Have you ever bought chicken, looked at the label and read “seasoned chicken” and wondered what that meant?

Raw chicken legs on a cutting board.

It doesn’t mean the chicken has been nicely seasoned with herbs and spices, it means the fresh chicken has been injected with a brine containing water, sodium phosphate and salt. This is done to make naturally lean chicken more plump, juicy and tender, making the meat more moist even if it’s overcooked.

Seasoning meat is a wide spread practice in the poultry and pork industries. Not all chicken or pork sold at the grocery store is “seasoned”, but any meat that is, has to be labeled as such and include the percentage of meat protein. Raw unseasoned chicken is about 21% meat protein, but “seasoned” chicken is only 15-17% protein, indicating the addition of the brine.

I have a few issues with seasoned chicken.

1) I am paying for salt and water at the same price as chicken…I would rather just have chicken.

2) “Seasoning” adds a lot of hidden sodium to chicken, as much as 5 times the amount in unseasoned chicken.

3) I find that seasoned chicken has an unappealing, kinda spongy texture that is different from unseasoned, fresh chicken.

In the Test Kitchen, we like to add our own brine to chicken and turkey, like in this Cider-Brined Turkey with Gravy.

cider-brined-turkey-with-gravy

 

Photography by Yvonne Duivenvoorden (bottom); chicken photo (top) from thinkstockphotos.ca

 

Follow me on Twitter.