The Best Way to Cook Stewing Hens

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

    • Melissa
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