Learn how to clean chicken, Haitian Style. Cleaning meats is not just a process but an art form.
As you may have noticed, Haitian cooking is a process, and it is no different when cleaning our meats.
When you eat at a Haitian person’s home, if you can smell the meat, it is a sign of uncleanliness and a form of disrespect to the guest.
Therefore, it is vital to learn how to clean chicken properly when preparing Haitian meals and also to avoid consuming bacteria.
HOW TO CLEAN CHICKEN
Chicken is the most consumed form of protein in the country. With temperatures averaging in the mid-80s year around and minimal household refrigeration, bacteria can become rampant if you are not careful.
That is why, we pay so much attention to preparing our dishes. Salmonella and other food poisoning were not common when we were growing up.
Haitian Style Chicken Cleaning Method
Cleaning poultry or fish when preparing a Haitian meat dish need patience and certain “rules” must be followed.
Again, when we clean meat, we often include vinegar; which I use the most to help clean and tenderize the meat, lime, and or sour oranges, and boiled water; here’s why:
Haiti is a very hot and humid country. Most of the population do not have access to a refrigerator or frozen ingredients.
Most of our ingredients are bought the day the food will be prepared. Most of the ingredients are found in an outdoor market; some are covered and some are not.
Once you arrive home, the meat is cleaned to perfection and it is a process! For example, all fats, blood vessels, and “gunk” must be removed. The skin is sometimes removed as well.
All of the small pieces underneath the muscle or bone must be removed. Otherwise, it will create a “raw” or uninviting order when cooking.
We know it may sound crazy, but we could almost always tell if the meat has not gone through the proper steps of cleaning. Believe it or not, by not removing the fats and “gunk” (as I call it), it actually make a difference.
The meat is not as “light” when you taste it.
In a nutshell, there should be little to no fat visible after the meat is cleaned.
If the skin is left on, it is recommended that you go underneath the skin to make sure you remove all the slippery substance as much as possible.
Slits are usually made on the meat to allow proper cleaning (I forget to do this at times), and also to allow the seasoning to manifest its way through the meat.
Why Do We Use So Much Acidity?
When learning how to clean chicken, Haitian style, acidity is important because of its ability to kill a high percentage of food-borne bacteria.
For instance, distilled white vinegar can be used for cleaning surfaces or cooking.
It is a multipurpose agent that works marvelously for meat cleaning, especially chicken.
I grew up doing it this way, so it is embedded in me and I do not feel comfortable preparing my meat dishes without using this method.
Now in Haiti, sour oranges are certainly popular because it does not cost much. Most people can afford to use it.
Sour oranges are not made for consumption due to their unpleasant flavor; it is sour; therefore, we use them to clear and marinate our meats.
Some people even add salt to the water as it boils to help further prevent food-borne bacteria.
And if you ask why salt, that is because it helps to flavor the meat a little prior to marinating it.
But also keep in mind that salt is a preservative. So besides added flavor, it also helps preserve the chicken especially if marinating overnight.
What Type Of Citrus Is Best To Use?
Truthfully, it does not matter whether you use lime or lemon. The most important is to use something rather than nothing.
You can even use vinegar. Regardless of what type of citrus you use, simply rinse your meat afterward.
Why Add Boiled Water When Cleaning Chicken?
When cleaning chicken, pouring hot boiled water is the final step to cleaning the meat. It helps to kill any bacteria that are left behind, or we may have been missed from the initial cleaning process.
It also helps to keep the natural juices from coming out of the meat.
Agaim, boiled water is often used as the last method to complete the cleaning process. Why? Haitian believe strongly in quick steam before seasoning can be applied to the meat for marinating.
The boiling water metod only applies to red meat, poultry, or pork. It does not apply to fish or any other seafood.
Why Does The Meat Change Color?
As you clean the meat and especially after adding the boiled water, it will change in color. It is not cooking it, but it does change the composition of the meat.
What you will see is that it will look cleaner and a little less bloody.
As you can see, cleaning chicken or any type of meat in Haiti is an Art. It is all part of the process of making Haitian food.
People take great pride in cleaning the meats, especially chicken.
Now if you ask about ground meat, the answer is no. Unless you are making ground meat from fresh meat, then in this case, you will wash the meat first prior to grinding it.
Pre-packaged ground meat does not go through the same process of meat cleaning and that is because the meat will fall apart.
But you do take the time to season it well as you can see in our Haitian meatball recipe.
Does Cleaning The Meat Change The Flavor?
It does not actually. Cleaning the meat gives you a fresher and lighter taste, but it does not alter the flavor by any means.
Now the flavor comes from your spices. And remember you rinse your chicken after cleaning it, therefore, removing the acidity that you bathe the chicken in.
Once you have completed the cleaning process now you are ready to season it to perfection.
Our Poulet En Sauce (Haitian Chicken Stew) paired with our Du riz Djon Djon (Diri Djon Djon) rice is a good place to check your Haitian cuisine culinary skills.
How Long Does It Take To Wash The Chicken?
Now if you thought that it is going to take you all day that is not the case. All you need is about 15-30 minutes depending on the quantity.
And most of it is probably waiting for your water to get to a boil.
Once completed with the cleaning process, you can do so quickly and put on your spices and bake or air fry the chicken.
So, if you thought that cleaning your chicken is going to take an absurd amount of time, think again. But there is a process.
Chicken Recipes You’ll Love
After cleaning the chicken, below are a few recipes to try.
Japanese Fried Chicken (Chicken Karaage)
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