Chickens are considered something a little more special than just meat by Chinese. One large chicken can often be worked in several different ways. For instance, the white meat can be sliced to make a stir-frying dish. Dark meat and bones can be used for slow-cooking soup. The meat in the soup, if not overcooked, can be used to make White Cut Chicken, or combined with dark soy sauce to make one form of Red-Cooked Chicken, an Eastern or Shanghai style cooking. With young chicken, after the white meat is used in shallow fry, the other parts can be used in deep fry. Thus, Chinese have names like Chicken-in-Three-Flavors or three dishes coming from one chicken.
While most Westerners discard them, chicken giblets and other parts such as necks are very usefulin the Chinese kitchen. Some like them better than meat and chicken. Chicken gizzards, hearts, skinned feet and necks make beautifully clear stock. Chicken livers are never used in the stock but are reserved for inclusion in special dishes, or cooked as a dish itself. The feet have more goodness than one might think and is very delicious cooked in Chinese recipes. For soup, Chinese usually use big fat hens. When the recipe calls for spring chicken, it is usually young roosters.
||When buying chicken, look for bright eyes and moist toes and skin, indications that they are healthy. They should be free from bruises and blemishes too. Gourmets seek out "free-range" chickens, which are allowed access to the outdoors rather than being confined to henhouses and are fed a vegetarian diet. These conditions result in tastier meat but are costly; free-range chickens are generally much more expensive than mass-produced birds.
Relative to chicken, duck is more commonly used in China than in the West, probably because of the greater variety of ways of preparing it. The Chinese are credited with being the first to raise ducks for food, over 4,000 years ago. Ducks are slow-boiled, red-cooked, or roasted, but very rarely stir-fried. There are several ways of salting ducks. One form is to salt them, dry in the sun, and then cook by steaming. Another form is to store in vegetable oil and take out to steam as needed. These forms are very common in Guang Dong. Peking duck, a dish famous throughout the world, is a traditional Chinese dish that takes several hours to prepare and involves coating the duck with a sweet-and-sour sauce, then roasting it.
Always discard the tail-end, including the oil pouch (just above the tail) of the duck before cooking. Most people object to the strong-odor it gives out.
In the US , the government grades duck quality by USDA classifications A, B and C. The highest grade is A, and is what is usually found in markets. Grade B ducks are less meaty and well finished; grade C ducks are typically used for commercial purposes. The grade stamp can be found within a shield on the package wrapping or sometimes on a tag attached to the bird's wing.