Chicken Meat – Thawing, Breading, Cooking, Browning

Chicken Meat – Thawing, Breading, Cooking, Browning
Eben van Tonder
8 May 2020



Cooking of previously frozen chicken pieces may be a requirement of government due to import regulations. What options are there?

Before cooking, the meat must be thawed, which is the first place where weight can be lost. After this, it is either cooked immediately or further processing steps are used before it is finally cooked.

The second place where weight is lost is the cooking step.  Here there are two options.  Either cook it in water or steam as soon as it has been thawed and pack, freeze and sell it, or after thawing, use it in further processing, then cook the product made and after this, chill or freeze for distribution.

If it is cooked immediately, one can expect around 10% weight loss on gizzards and around 35% in leg quarters or chicken breasts.  The general rule is that the firmer the meat, the less weight will be lost.  As such, chicken drums will have less cooking loss than breasts.  If the meat is used for further processing and then cooked, this allows for the least amount of weight loss during the cooking step.  As little as 10% in cooked sausages and in cooked hams, of course there does not need to be any loss.

Browning is an important step to be performed either in the consumer’s home, by someone serving chicken such as in restaurants or by a producer who browns the chicken pieces and packs it for sale to consumers through retail or catering companies.  It is therefore important to take the total loss into account of whole chicken pieces, from thawing to browning.

Step 1: Defrosting

Meat comes in 20 or 25 kg boxes, frozen.  Defrost meat.  The best line for defrosting, I found, is: Microwave to bring it up to the point just before the phase change -> Lutetia Massager with steam injection into chamber under vacuum to facilitate the phase change.

It now either goes to chilling and freezing / packaging or to processing.

Step 2: Processing

1. Meat Preparation

  • Gizzards -> mince fine to same texture as MDM/ MRM. Cut with bandsaw.
  • Bone-in Chicken Pieces -> either debon and put through the mincer without a plate (only one or two knives to cut meat into chunks) or only debone.  It can, of course, first be cooked and then deboned, in which case this meat loses much of its binding ability and will, at best, act as larger show pieces in sausages or hams. Remember that it can be cooked and used in products which will be cooked again. (Vannieuwenhuyse)

2. Further Processing

  • Chicken Gizzards. Use the gizzards in emulsion sausages that must be cooked.  This is done as follows: Cut frozen block of gizzards into small chunks with bandsaw in the same way it’s done with MDM;  Mince the gizzards fine (texture same as MDM).  Replace around 20% of MDM with the gizzards.  Not too much as this will affect the taste. (Vannieuwenhuyse)
  • Chicken Leg Quarters or drumsticks can be used for any one of the following products (this is a work-in-progress document – please send any other suggestions to me at

For Chicken Ham

Debone.   Inject 30 – 35% brine.  Top up to the level before tumbling to 35%.  Tumble for 3 to 4 hours.  Fill into mold or casing for chicken ham. (Vannieuwenhuyse)


Or, put the chunks which were put through a mincer with only one or two knives – no plate and yielded small chicken chunks. Tumble between 30, 60 or even 70% into product.  Obviously, using a brine which can handle the target pick up if a chicken ham is made, for example, with gelling agents, fibre, before it is filled into a mold or casing as ham. (Vannieuwenhuyse)

For Chick in Aspic

Inject, cook (not too dry), chop, aspic gelatin with lemon taste.  Add meat in a tray, gelatin over it.  Cool. (Vannieuwenhuyse)

chick in aspic

For Use as Showpieces in Sausages or Hams (if it’s cooked before processing)

Defrost, cook, add to sausages or hams as show pieces. The weight loss during cooking increases the protein % which will impact the sausage formulation (greater extension to make up for chicken cooking loss). (Mellett)


For producing Crumbed Chicken Pieces

Love and Goodwin (1974) found that “chicken parts that were breaded prior to steam cooking, which involved breading in the raw state, had better breading adhesion and breading uptake than those parts breaded after water cooking.”

Breading -> steam cooking can result in a 9% better yield than water cooked parts during the pre-cooking operation. “This effect was thought to be largely due to the protective coating given by the breading, which seemed to seal in and / or soak up the juices normally lost in the steam cooking process.” (Love and Goodwin, 1974)

oven fried chicken drums

For Producing Pie Meat

Defrost, debone, massage and add 35% water with the right brine and cook for pie meat.

chicken pie

For Chicadella

Here is a recipe: Chicadella beef-chicken (courtesy of Vannieuwenhuyse). Customers must deep fry at home.


For Spiced Chicken Wings or Drumsticks

Recipe: Spiced Chicken Wings

Super Smokers Wings

Note: As I get suggestions from friends around the world, I will add it to this list of possible products that can be produced.

Production Considerations

Love and Goodwin (1974) reported, contrary to what I expected, that “water cooked chicken had more initial cooking loss than the steam cooked parts during the precooking operation. Wings, regardless of cooking method, lost the least amount of weight during this operation.”

They further found that:

“Steam cooked parts were … more tender than water cooked parts.”

“Browning in deep fat resulted in greater weight loss for steam cooked parts than for water cooked chicken. Wings were shown to have the greatest percentage weight loss in the deep fat fryer. Weight loss in the fryer rose progressively as browning temperature was decreased and time of browning increased. Drums and wings had the highest final yield and thighs had the lowest yield.”

Love and Goodwin (1974) referenced Lowe (1958) who investigated the number of factors which influence cooking losses. They list the following:

  • The degree and distribution of fatness;
  • Covered vs. uncovered pans;
  • Double vs. single cooking periods;
  • Time of cooking;
  • Temperature of cooking;
  • The stage of doneness.

Other researchers added:

  • Method of cooking and the part cooked have an effect on yields;
  • Steam cooking resulted in higher cooking losses than microwave cooking (Webb, 1969).
  • Drumsticks have a higher cooking yield than the breast or thigh parts (Webb, 1969).
  • Ice slush cooling of cooked parts gave much lower TBA or Thiobarbituric Acid numbers than did those parts cooled at room temperature (Webb, 1969).  TBA gives a value or a number which expresses the measure of oxidative rancidity in food.  Webb (1969) found that this number or value correlates to the total fat of the product.
  • It was found that there is no difference in cooking loss results from water or steam cooking of unbreaded parts (Yingst, 1970).
  • Regarding the tenderness of breaded chicken parts, Love and Goodwin (1974) found that steam cooking produced a more tender product than water cooking. “This lower shear value was possibly the result of the protection given the steam cooked parts by the breading applied prior to the cooking process.
  • The percent weight loss was much more for those parts browned at a lower temperature for a longer time than those parts browned at a higher temperature for a shorter time.  When total cooking loss was considered, there was no statistical difference (P< .05) between the parts browned at 149° C. and 177° C. There was, however, a large advantage to be gained by browning parts at 205° C. (Love and Goodwin, 1974).

Cooking loss by itself is, however, not the only consideration.  The process of browning must be taken into account since this will have to be done by either a second manufacturer or by the end-user.  “Parts that were steam cooked prior to browning lost 8.4 percent more weight than water cooked parts during the browning operation.”  This makes steam cooking a very attractive option for cooking.  “The additional heat of the browning process was severe enough to cause the steam cooked parts to lose the juices they had retained in the previous cooking treatment.” (Love and Goodwin, 1974)

“The cooked meat must be chilled effectively immediately after cooking. Best would be single layers in very clean crates, covered when stacked. A third set of workers must then separate the meat and soft tissues from the bone. The discarded bones will attract flies in mass and must be removed off-site immediately.”  (Mellett)


If chicken meat must be cooked for any regulatory reason, there are many processing options.  By taking a view of the end product up till browning allows us to determine yield, not just by the producer, but end user also.  Factoring matters such as browning and tenderness after browning into the product design, will solve the yield challenge for the importer who sells by weight and still ensures that a top quality product is made available for the consumer and the hospitality trade.  Pre-cooking of meat portions designed for this industry and pre-browning has become important product features over the last number of years where the cost of electricity and time to do the cooking and browning has come under close scrutiny.


Love, B. E., Goodwin, T. L..  Effects of Cooking Methods and Browning Temperatures on Yields of Poultry Parts. Poultry Science, Volume 53, Issue 4, 1 July 1974, Pages 1391-1398.

Mellett, F..  Private communication.

Diederich Vannieuwenhuyse.  Private Communication.

Photo Reference