Jacques Pépin's Tips For Buying And Cooking Chicken - Exclusive

You could say that Jacques Pépin was born to have a chicken obsession. As he details in his new book, "Art of the Chicken," he grew up in the French region of Bresse, which is famous for its special breed of chicken (via CNN). These fabulous chickens, which are incredibly expensive, are renowned for their flavorful, juicy flesh.

Of course, when Pépin began pursuing a culinary career, that led him to start cooking chickens in innumerable different ways. He shares some of his favorite chicken recipes in the book along with chicken-centric stories from his life, but the book's main event is the illustrations. It's filled with dozens of paintings and drawings of chickens, all done by the master chef himself. Chicken painting, and painting in general, is a hobby that Pépin has pursued for decades. He started by illustrating the menus of dinner parties he held at his home, often with little pictures of chickens.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Jacques Pépin shared what he looks for when he's purchasing chickens in a supermarket, as well as some tips for what to do with the birds when you come home with them.

What to do when purchasing and preparing a bird

When cooking anything, it helps to start with the highest quality ingredients you can lay your hands on. We can't all buy France's poulet de Bresse, but even the average American grocery store should have some decent birds. In Jacques Pépin's view, you should opt for organic hens if you can. However, he's flexible, and he's cognizant of the fact that organic meat tends to be expensive. "It's also what you can afford. I will go for organic chicken usually, but if I go to my market and they're selling conventional chicken, and today you get two for one, I'll get those and put them in the freezer," he told us.

Even the most expensive free-range chicken can be turned disgusting in the hands of an inexperienced cook, and conversely, a master like Pépin can transform mediocre supermarket poultry into something special. When asked about common mistakes people make when cooking chicken at home, Pépin's response was, "Drying it out too much, cooking it too much. Especially, the breast can get dry and overcook pretty fast."

Of course, you can use a meat thermometer to help gauge when a chicken is done, but Pépin also offered some specific tips to banish dry chicken breast from your life: "One way to cook it to avoid this is to use a very high temperature and let the bird rest or the pieces rest for a while after cooking so that the juice equalizes." If you rest your chicken before cutting into it, its precious juices won't run all over your cutting board. Try it the next time chicken is on your menu!

Jacques Pépin's "Art of the Chicken" is in bookstores now. You can buy the book here.