Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Tyson rules the roost

Taste Team rates 'Tastybasted' tops in flock of chicken breasts

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        How do we eat skinless, boneless chicken breast? Can we possibly count the ways?

        Skinless, boneless chicken breast wrapped in tacos and tortillas, simmered into pasta sauce, swaddled and baked in cheesy casseroles, breaded and fried, marinated and grilled, stripped and diced into soups and stews, stuffed with cheese, sauteed with peppers and mushrooms.

        The list is unending.

        Versatile, low-fat and easy to prepare, skinless, boneless chicken breast is the most popular item in the meat case. But just because this piece of poultry is seemingly ubiquitous, does it mean all chicken breast tastes the same?

    The Taste Team rated boneless, skinless chicken breast on taste, texture and appearance on a 1 to 10 scale. Here are the top three with average scores in parentheses.
    1. Tyson “Tastybasted” (8.1)
    2. Sanderson Farms (7.7)
    3. Miller Amish Country Poultry (7.3)
        We didn't think so. To find the best-tasting chicken breast, we asked the Taste Team to sample nine fresh grocery and supermarket brands. All but two were sold as skinless and boneless — we skinned and boned the breasts from one sold as a whole chicken and another sold as bone-in breasts.

        Without adding salt or other seasoning, we roasted the chicken at 375-degrees until it reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees. The team then rated the blind samples on taste, texture and appearance.

        The clear winner: Tyson “Tastybasted” Chicken Breast, which is basted with chicken broth to enhance its flavor and texture. The team liked the “real” chicken flavor of the Tyson product and praised its texture for being “not too stringy or too soft.” At $3.69 per pound, the Tyson Tastybasted was one of the least expensive products sampled.

        Mississippi-based Sanderson Farms finished second in our taste test, followed by Miller Amish Country Poultry of Indiana. Another Tyson product, Tyson “All-Natural” chicken breast, finished fourth.

        Chicken breasts processed by Motz Poultry of Batavia finished fifth in our taste test.

        The team rated a Kroger store brand chicken breast last, describing it as “bland” and rubbery.

Where we bought the chicken

        • Butterball: Kroger (available at other supermarkets and groceries)

        • Goldkist Farms: Thriftway.

        • Miller Amish Poultry: Bigg's (also available at some Kroger stores).

        • Motz Poultry: Bracke Meats & Produce, Mount Lookout (also available at S & S Specialty Foods, Anderson Township, Dave's Meats, West Chester, Langen's Meats, White Oak and other small meat markets).

        • Sanderson Farms: Thriftway.

        • Tyson: Kroger (also available at other supermarkets and groceries).

Chicken tips

        • Cooking chicken with its skin on and then removing the skin before eating helps keep the bird moist, but adds no fat or calories. (One half of a poached chicken breast with skin and bone contains 8 grams of fat and 202 calories. One half of a poached breast without skin and bone contains 3 fat grams and 128 calories.)

        • When buying chicken, add an extra ounce per serving of boneless poultry to allow for shrinkage. Add another 2 ounces per serving to allow for bone.

        • Store chicken in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Raw poultry can be refrigerated for up to two days, cooked poultry for up to three days.

        • Freeze chicken in freezer-proof plastic bags or wrapped tightly in aluminum foil. Freeze raw chicken for up to six months, cooked chicken for up to three months.

        • Don't leave cooked chicken sitting out at room temperature longer than two hours. Refrigerate cooked chicken or keep warm (140 to 165 degrees).
       Sources: The Food Lover's Tiptionary (Hearst; $15) and The Nutrition Bible (Quill; $17)

What makes it “tastybasted?”

        To create its Tastybasted chicken, Tyson tumbles the boned, skinless chicken in seasoned chicken broth for about 25 minutes to make it more juicy and flavorful. (It's the same concept as injecting turkey breasts with “self-basting” broth.) The Arkansas chicken processor introduced the Tastybasted products in May, and the new Tyson line includes “Lemon Herb,” “Italian,” “Teriyaki” and other marinated chicken flavors.

How they rated

        The Taste Team rated the following chicken breasts 1 to 10 (1=poor; 10=excellent) on taste, texture and appearance. Unless noted otherwise, all chicken was purchased as skinless, boneless breasts. (For the test, whole and bone-in chicken was boned and skinned.)

1. Tyson “Tastybasted”
Average score: 8.1.
       Price: $3.69 per pound.
       Comments: Real chicken flavor. Looks fresh. Not too stringy, not too soft.

2. Sanderson Farms “All Natural”
Average score: 7.7.
       Price: $2.19 per pound (skin on, bone-in breasts).
       Comments: Good flavor. Natural texture. Very moist.

3. Miller Amish Country Poultry
Average score: 7.3.
       Price: $1.19 per pound (whole chicken).
       Comments: Good color. Juicy. Pleasing texture.

4. Tyson “All Natural”
Average score: 7.1.
       Price: $4.49 per pound.
       Comments: A little dry. Good chicken flavor. Good, dense texture.

5. Motz Poultry
Average score: 6.3.
       Price: $4.99 per pound.
       Comments: Strong chicken flavor. Moist. Solid, chewy texture.

6. Goldkist Farms
Average score: 6.1.
       Price: $3.99 per pound.
       Comments: Bland flavor. Frozen or “flat” flavor. Dry and stringy texture.

7. Butterball
Average score: 5.7.
       Price: $4.69 per pound.
       Comments: Processed flavor. Salty. Looks processed.

8. Bigg's
Average score: 5.6.
       Price: $3.29 per pound.
       Comments: Dull flavor. Processed texture. Very chewy.

9. Kroger
Average score: 5.4.
       Price: $4.49 per pound.
       Comments: Very bland. Chewy. Weird color.


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