Craftsy Class Review: Cooking Essentials: All About Chicken, with Marge Perry

Two reviews in one week! Bonus! Actually, I completed both of these classes some time ago and just haven't had the time to post reviews of them until now.

Here's another basic technique class, but this time it's all focused on one particular meat that I use a lot in my house: chicken. I actually like chicken quite a bit and don't get bored with it the way a lot of folks do, but even so, it's always worth picking up a few new recipes and tricks to keep things interesting.

Earlier this summer I picked up Marge Perry's Cooking Essentials: All About Chicken when it was on sale. I watched all the lessons during a period of time when I actually didn't have much time to cook (or quilt, or anything else for that matter). The lessons were a good length to watch on my iPad while I was eating breakfast or lunch, making mental note of things I wanted to try out later once my schedule eased up a bit. 

Roast chicken using Perry's methods--and a variation on her recipe with a mix of lemons, garlic, and fresh rosemary under the skin with salt and pepper on top. Some of the lemons snuck out from under the skin and charred just a bit on the top, but everything else was perfect--the skin was crispy and the chicken moist. Yum.

Roast chicken using Perry's methods--and a variation on her recipe with a mix of lemons, garlic, and fresh rosemary under the skin with salt and pepper on top. Some of the lemons snuck out from under the skin and charred just a bit on the top, but everything else was perfect--the skin was crispy and the chicken moist. Yum.

Finally, I had a Saturday free--and it was a cooler day so I was ready to turn my oven on. Roast chicken seemed just the ticket, so I took advantage of the opportunity to put one of Perry's lessons from the class to work.

I've been roasting chicken for pretty much my entire cooking career, since both my husband and I really like it. (He's also an old hand at roasting chicken and will often make one for himself if I'm out of town.) If I recall, one of the very first dinners we made after we got back from our honeymoon was a roast chicken. In more recent years I've been playing around with different seasoning rubs, stuffing various things under the skin, and so forth. I didn't think Marge Perry would have much to teach me about a roast chicken. But oh, I was wrong. One simple change made a world of difference. Thanks, Marge! I'll be doing it like that from now on!

Each lesson focuses on a particular part of the chicken or taking the chicken as a whole. Each lesson also has a recipe it uses for that part and she walks you through many of the steps for that recipe. If you're looking for techniques and recipes, this is a great class. For myself, I would've liked a little more information on what other types of preparations work well for that particular part of the chicken; for example, qualities of that part that make it work better with certain types of preparations than others, or certain flavor profiles than others, that kind of thing. I am at a stage of cooking in which I far prefer to build my own recipes and want more information that will help me do that, rather than how to follow someone else's recipes.

Still, I did pick up a few good tricks on cooking with chicken in general from this class and, now that we've officially entered fall and cooler weather and more kitchen-based-cooking, I'm looking forward to testing out more of her techniques in the weeks to come.

After all, I just can't resist doing something named "spatchcocking." Don't know what that is? There's a whole lesson on it in the class!

Because this is a technique class, they've created it so you can dive in for one lesson and get everything you need to know for that technique without having had to watch any of the others. That means that there's some foundational information that gets repeated every time. After watching two or three of the lessons, I was quoting along with her how to measure the temperature of the chicken for doneness. But, still, that's not a bad thing to have drilled into my head.

On a scale of 1-10, I think I'd rate this class around a 7, maybe a 7 1/2 for me. But that's just because I want more cooking freedom, as it were. From the perspective of someone who's just starting out, or hasn't done much with chicken, or enjoys learning new recipes, this would probably be more like an 8 1/2 or a 9. She is a very good teacher, very polished but accessible, and the recipes do all sound quite tasty to me, even if I'm unlikely to use them as-is myself.

The Basics

  • 9 lessons. The first lesson is about a minute and a half of introduction. Lessons 2 through 9 range from 4 minutes to about 12 1/2 minutes.
  • The lessons cover boneless breasts, bone-in breasts, wings, thighs, drumsticks, spatchcocking, the whole bird, and how to cut up a bird--and that last lesson ends with best practices for hand-washing.
  • Each lesson is built around a particular recipe for that part, so there's a lemon butter sauce, a stuffing recipe, a sauce for wings, and so forth. 
  • The class materials include 7 recipes--all of which are covered in the class, if I recall, though there may be a throw-in that's not in a lesson. 

Cooking Essentials: All about Chicken with Marge Perry: again, somewhere between a 7-8 for me, but likely an 8-9 for others who are looking for more specific direction. In either case, definitely worth checking out!

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