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How To Properly Scald A Chicken

chicken scald.jpg

A chicken is scalded by dunking it up and down in hot water. Such action serves to loosen the feathers so the bird plucks easily. Proper scalding of your chickens is critically important for plucking success and satisfaction.

Proper scalding is often a matter of confusion to the neophyte chicken butcherer, but it needn't be. If you follow the simple, never-fail technique below, you will never under-scald a chicken (and have a hassle getting the bird plucked), and you will never over-scald a chicken (and end up with torn skin or cooked flesh).

This technique will easily render the kind of scald that allowed World Champion chicken plucker, Ernest Hausen of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, to hand-pluck a chicken in 4.4 seconds (back in 1939). It is the kind of scald that will allow you to Whizbang-Pluck your chickens (a couple at a time) in about 15 seconds.

First, you will need a thermometer of some sort to measure the temperature of your scald water. 

Second, you will need a pot full of water that you can heat up and dunk your chicken into. I have used a turkey fryer pot over a propane burner. There are people who scald in a pot heated by a wood fire. Either approach will work. If you have a lot of birds to process, my Whizbang Chicken Scalder is the ideal tool for that. 

Heat your scalding water up to between 145 and 150 degrees. I know people who say 148 degrees is best. Others say they successfully scald in water up to 155 degrees. I do not necessarily disagree with either of those claims. The important thing to understand about water temperature is that you do not need an exact temperature in order to get an exact scald. But you need to be in an optimum temperature range. Shoot for 145 to 150 degrees and you will be in the optimum range. In time, you may find that a little cooler or a little hotter is more to your personal liking. 

When your water temperature is within the optimal range, hold your bird (or birds... you can dunk two at a time with one hand) by the feet and dunk down into the hot water. Make sure you dunk the critter(s) in far enough to wet the smallest feathers on the bottom of the legs, just above the feet.

Hold the bird under the water for maybe three seconds and give it a vigorous little up and down jiggle. The jiggle action helps to get hot water to the base of the feathers. Then pull the chicken out momentarily before dunking, jiggling, and removing it again.

After a couple of dunks like this, you need to perform a feather pull test. This test is performed by selecting one large wing or tail feather and pulling it. When you do the feather pull test and the feather slides out with no resistance, the bird is scalded to perfection.

Chances are you will need to dunk the bird more than two times. You may need to dunk it four times, or six times, or more. I don’t know how many times you will need to dunk your bird. There is no magic number. 

The important thing is that you repeatedly dunk the bird, and each time you remove it from the water, you give a pull on one of those big feathers. Make sure it is only one feather, and when it slides out with absolutely no resistance, the bird is ready to pluck.

Now you know how to easily scald a chicken to feather-pickin’ perfection. Now you know the secret.

I can tell you this technique also works on turkeys. Ducks and geese are, however, birds of a different feather. CLICK HERE for some specific information on scalding and plucking ducks and geese.

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