Young, plump, well-fed, but not over-fatted poultry is the best. The skin of fowls and turkeys should be clear, white, and finely grained, the breasts broad and full-fleshed, the legs smooth, the toes pliable and easily broken when bent back; the birds should also be heavy in proportion to their size. This applies equally to geese and ducks, of which the breasts likewise should be very plump, and the feet yellow and flexible: when these are red and hard, the bills of the same colour, and the skin full of hairs, and extremely coarse, the birds are old.
White-legged fowls and chickens should be chosen for boiling, because their appearance is the most delicate when dressed; but the dark-legged ones often prove more juicy and of better flavour when roasted, and their colour then is immaterial.
Every precaution should be taken to prevent poultry from becoming ever so slightly tainted before it is cooked, but unless the weather be exceedingly sultry, it should not be quite freshly killed:* pigeons only are the better for being so, and are thought to lose their flavour by hanging even a day or two. Turkeys, as we have stated in our receipts for them, are very tough and poor eating if not sufficiently long kept. A goose, also, in winter, should hang some days before it is dressed, and fowls, likewise, will be improved by it.
* If from accidental circumstances it should become apparently unfit for table, it may be restored to an eatable state by the same means as fish; it should not, however, be, purchased, at any time, when it exhibits a greenish tint on any part of the skin, as this indicates its being already stale.
All kinds of poultry should be thoroughly cooked, though without being over-done, for nothing in general can more effectually destroy the appetite than the taste and appearance of their flesh when brought to table half roasted or boiled.