Chicken skin can stay during cooking


October 04, 1994|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,Special to The Sun

Here's a new twist on chicken:

The fat content of chicken meat is the same whether you cook it with the skin on or off, according to Eric Hentges, director of research for the National Livestock and Meat Board.

Mr. Hentges is part of the team that developed the meat Nutri-Facts posters that could appear in your grocery store in late November. Fresh meat and poultry labeling is the second installment of that same Nutrition Labeling and Education Act that required Nutrition Facts labels on virtually all processed foods now in grocery stores.

Originally, point-of-sale information (wall charts, rather than labels on each package) for fresh meat and poultry was due by July 8, as were the Nutrition Facts labels. But wrangling over descriptions for ground meat and poultry's fat content has delayed publication of the rulings by the U.S. Department of Agriculture until Oct. 8. Charts can't be completed until the rulings are in.

As the rules stand, charts must show the fat content when meat is cooked as purchased with fat and skin on, then trimmed after cooking. There will be an option to reveal fat content when meat and poultry are peeled and trimmed first.

Mr. Hentges told a meeting of American Dietetic Association spokesmen and spokeswomen that the membrane under the chicken skin deflects melting fat so it can't be absorbed by the meat. At the same time, the skin and membrane prevent moisture from evaporating from the meat, giving you a juicier, tastier piece of chicken.

This concept doesn't apply to red meat. When you're dealing with steaks, chops or roasts, the membrane has been ruptured during butchering, so there is no protective factor. Mr. Hentges said that the fat travels into the meat during cooking, increasing the fat content of the lean portion.

So when you roast, bake or broil chicken, you can leave the skin on during cooking, if you can resist eating that crispy skin. If you're like the rest of us mere mortals, you might do better to pull the skin off, season the chicken, then cover it with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in.

But trim all visible fat from meat before cooking to reduce fat below what you might see on the charts. Roasting, broiling and grilling very lean meats can produce a tough product if you overcook them. So experiment with moist cooking methods for beef round or flank, like simmering in red wine or tomato sauce for a more tender product.

Savory round steak

Serves 2

2 1/4 -lb. beef eye round steaks, trimmed of visible fat

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, cut into bite- size pieces

1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped

L 1 pound chopped fresh tomatoes, or contents of a 1-pound can

1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced

1 tablespoon each fresh oregano and thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1 cup dry red wine

1/4 teaspoon salt

freshly ground pepper to taste

Water as needed

Spray a large, heavy, non-stick skillet with a burst of cooking spray. Brown round steaks on both sides. Remove from pan.

Add onions and garlic and about two tablespoons of water. Cover pan and cook over low heat until onions and garlic are transparent.

Add red wine and deglaze skillet. Return meat to skillet and surround with vegetables and herbs. Add enough water to cover meat. Cover pan. Simmer about 30 minutes until meat is fork tender. Add salt and pepper. Serve over steamed rice or noodles.

Nutrition Information per serving: 220 calories, 27 gm protein, 15 gm carbohydrate, 5 gm fat, 58 mg cholesterol, 331 mg sodium.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant the the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

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