Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Alien Ingredient #13: Silkie (Black) Chicken

You've seen them on cooking shows on TV, those small black-skinned chickens. I'm certain that other than its coloration, it's just another kind of chicken. But since I've never cooked one (though there was one in particular I wanted to cook, but more on that story in a minute) I am curious if it has a richer flavor than the chickens we normally eat.

These black-skinned birds are Silkies, an old breed probably originating in China. Although black-feathered ones exist, I've only ever seen the ones with fluffy white feathers and black wattles. Wikipedia currently says "Silkies are well known for their calm, friendly temperament. Among the most docile of poultry, Silkies are considered an ideal pet." Which brings me back the the Silkie I once wanted to cook.

When I was a kid, we had a Silkie rooster that reigned over the flock of bantams that scurried here and there about our yard eating bugs and whatever else they could find. This pint-sized rooster wannabe was a white furball with a black face and undoubtedly lays claim to the title of the nastiest son of a bitch to walk the face of the planet. I hated that chicken. Every time I would go into the chicken pen to look for eggs or to feed the chickens and ducks, that damned bird would come flying at me, his three-inch spurs forward in full-on combat mode, trying to slash me. I guess he hated me too. What the hell does Wikipedia know anyway? Maybe I will just go and edit the Silkie entry.

Back to the chicken at hand. Expecting a tougher than usual bird, I poached this scrawny chicken, first for one hour and then for a second. Not a good sign. I can report that what little meat there was on this tiny bird was tough as leather despite the leisurely poaching. And there was no fat on the bird anywhere: there was only about a tablespoon of fat on top of the broth. The meat is only slightly darker than the average chicken, but it is not black as some have reported. The skin does not necessarily separate from the meat very easily: that may be why some people are confused about the color of the meat. Some of the bones and all the cartilage are black, though.

What about flavor? The meat has a rich chicken flavor, almost as good as the best chickens I have ever had, but it is tough almost beyond compare. The broth is where all the goodness is. Once I picked the chicken, I reheated the meager five ounces of meat with the broth, green onions, ginger, garlic, and a touch of soy sauce. After 10 minutes, I added shredded napa cabbage. The soup as you see it here is truly delicious despite the tough meat. Crew comments: "Bomb!" and "Excellent!"

Vote: Nah! Silkies have good chicken flavor, but the meat is tough and the flavor is not good enough to merit the $13 price tag for this 18-ounce bird.


  1. I have passed this 20 times at the market. Always wondering what it was. Thanks for trying it out. I think I'll pass at that price as well

  2. I saw them in the freezer case of Food Maxx and told myself I needed to do some research (the price tag made it a luxury item I would not buy on a whim!). Thank you for the research and the testing.

  3. Thank you for posting this. My wife and I have had chickens for eggs for a while. We are picking up 10 bantam silkie chickens tonight. The deal was buy 4 hens and get 6 roosters free or no deal. Given your accurate description of your average rooster, we may need some cooking ideas for our bantam roo's here pretty soon.