Meat & Poultry - Poultry

The Best Way to Cook Stewing Hens

stewing hen vs broiler
Comparison of a Cornish Rock hen to a Production Red hen.
Comparison of a Cornish X meat chicken to a Production Red stewing hen (right).

What’s The Best Way To Prepare Stewing Hens?

Old stewing hens are pretty tough birds. I have found that the following methods are the best ways to prepare them:

  • pressure cooking
  • pressure canning in broth
  • boning and grinding the meat (raw or cooked)

These methods work very well for making old chickens tender. It does take some work but it’s worth the effort and provides delicious meals from birds that most people don’t want. You may even find people giving away their old chickens on Craigslist or Freecycle in your area. If you have the time and energy, you can get some ‘free meals’…just pay for the cost of cooking, grinding or canning them.

Stewing hens - I use the feet to make the stock richer.
Stewing hens – I put the cleaned feet in too for thicker stock.

Old Stewing Hens

Every year I have a number of old laying hens that aren’t earning their keep.  I can’t afford to feed chickens that aren’t laying, so these old hens are butchered and used as stewing hens. I feel bad killing them and I always put it off for a while, waiting for the ‘right weather’ or the ‘best time,’ when really it is mostly a matter of getting up the gumption to just do it.

This week I processed a young rooster and 4 of my old hens and cooked them on our woodstove until the meat was falling off the bones.

Meat picked from 5 chickens.

I chilled them overnight and the next morning I picked the meat off the bones. The scraps and broth went back in the pot on the woodstove for the afternoon to make a nutritious bone broth.

Stewing hens – I use the feet to make the stock richer.

That evening I pressure canned the strained broth and meat. It is a time-consuming process but it provides quite a few meals of very flavorful and tender meat and stock.

I still have around 10 older laying hens to process this fall. I’d like to get the job done in the next week so I’ll have room for some young chickens from my friends at Trogg’s Hollow.

Do you cook your old stewing hens? What is your favorite way to use them?

11 Comments on “The Best Way to Cook Stewing Hens

  1. I reckon grinding the meat is the best way, we made some delicious meatballs! I’ve tried slow cooking the meat, but its still stringy, particularly the old roosters…. best part about the hens is all the fat, I love cooking with chicken fat!

    1. Hi Farmer Liz,
      Thanks for stopping by! I want to try the slow cooking again, after reading the comments, but my experience in the past was also ‘stringy’…My hens did have quite a bit of fat in their abdomens, I fed it back to the flock, but maybe I should try cooking with it too. Do you use if for frying? or in place of lard? Thanks for sharing!

    2. Hey, I did say chopped chicken. It has to be diced up. Then it’s very versatile. It’s way faster for me to pick them cooked then raw, that’s why I do it that way. I would like to know how do you use the fat?

  2. My question is totally different from the topic, so I hope you do not mind!
    I’ve been in the market for a good stockpot, and I noticed yours on the wood stove. Cannot tell the size of it, but it is a nice one. If you or your readers could recommend a 20 qt.size one, I would be so appreciative. I want stainless steel that will not tarnish, and as I have learned, not all stainless steel are created equal!
    Thank you again!

    1. Hi Ve,
      I don’t mind at all! That very same pot is on the stove full of apples for applesauce as I write this 🙂 It is a Revere Ware pot and I bought it probably around 15+ years ago. It has served me well and continues to do so. It has a nice thick bottom to help prevent scorching.

      I hope that this helps 🙂 Best wishes with your stainless steel pot shopping!

  3. I’m with Melissa. Using the crock pot gets the job done while I work on other things about the house. I had a bunch of rubber roosters that I processed this way. They were very tasty after all day in the crock pot! I froze the meat in two person portions and used it many ways throughout the summer.

  4. I use a crock pot for my old hens. Drop them in on low before bed and the next morning after chores and breakfast they are ready for picking the meat off the bones. Nice and tender and flavorful. Can be used many ways after that. Soups, enchiladas, sandwiches, anything that uses chopped up chicken. Or I bottle it up after too if I have more than I can use in a reasonable amount of time. Or freeze it, or dehydrate. Cooked chicken has many many uses and some 12 hrs in a crock pot makes it tender no matter the age. Of course you could use a pot on the wood stove over night too or all day which ever way works into your schedule. Picking in the morning tends to work better for me when the kids are gone to school and in not trying to get dinner on the table, cleaned up again and everyone to bed.

  5. We always raised our chickens for the eggs and as long as they paid for themselves the lived. I’m lucky as they are free range and my feed bill is rather small. This year we did get a mixed run and butchered the extra fellows. I was surprised at how much easy for me it was. Still killing and eating golda, fat cheeks, red, and my other old bitties, Guess I’m not ready there. Next year when they go broody I’ll just let them raise some roos. lol

    1. Hi Debbie,
      I understand how difficult it would be to butcher your laying hens! When you name them and have them around for a long time, it is easy to get attached. Good for you for ‘taking care of’ the extra roos! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

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