Tips for cooking an old hen include ensuring the health of the bird, letting it rest for a few days, brining the meat and ultimately stewing it. Other tips include using the meat in different recipes. If the old hen is coming from an independent source instead of the store, it's important to ensure the chicken is old, not sick. It's unwise to eat an unhealthy chicken.
Once the chicken carcass is ready, it should rest in the refrigerator for three to four days. This is necessary to dissipate the effects of rigor mortis and generally soften tough, old muscles. The carcass should be completely clean, covered and stored in the refrigerator, This allows natural enzymes to break up the muscle fibers, resulting in tender meat.
Brining also yields tender meat. The brining process involves mixing roughly 1 cup salt in 1 gallon of water and letting the bird sit in the solution for 12 to 24 hours. The meat pulls in water during the process.
Low, moist heat is the best method for cooking old hens. Stewing an old chicken involves placing the carcass in a stock pot and covering it with water. For the traditional Coq au Vin, red wine replaces some of the water. Typical flavorings include onion, herbs, salt and pepper. The meat needs to stew for six to 12 hours typically.
It's also possible to remove the meat from the bones after the aging process and grind it up. The ground meat is good in potsticker and sausage recipes.