OK, time to get the Meat Madness tournament under way. Instead of going round by round I am going meat group by meat group. We will play each group out until we get to four finalists for the showdown. So let’s get started with the Chicken/Seafood bracket.
Here are how the matchups went down:
Chicken Breast vs. Fried Chicken – Chicken breasts are one of the most versatile cuts of meat out there. They can be used so many different ways that they should be in everyone’s freezer. You can cook them whole, cut them up for stir frys, throw them in a crock pot with some BBQ sauce or Franks Red Hot and butter for some pulled chicken sandwiches, grill them, and the list goes on and on. But fried chicken??? It doesn’t get much better than a nice, hot, crispy piece of fried chicken. Even fried chicken from Popeyes or KFC or Chick-Fil-A is a thing of beauty. So Fried Chicken takes this matchup.
Turkey vs. Tuna – In tuna’s defense you have the iconic tuna sandwich that has filled lunch boxes everywhere for years along with tuna sushi so there is a decent argument to be made but with turkey you have Thanksgiving (and the leftover turkey sandwiches which blow away the tuna sandwich) so this one is a pretty easy choice. Turkey moves on.
Clams vs. Chicken Thighs – I love some good fried clams or clam chowder. When I go out for fried seafood I almost always choose clams but I have some pretty wicked recipes that use chicken thighs. They are some of my favorite meals of all time so I am going to go with chicken thighs on this one.
Scallops vs. Shrimp – I have never been a huge fan of scallops but my wife loves them so I included them on this list. If you watch any cooking show on TV everyone seems to have a love affair with scallops too. Fried shrimp are excellent, grilled shrimp are awesome, and shrimp are generally less expensive than scallops so they move on to the next round. Well done Shrimp!!!
Duck vs. Chicken Wings – I will be honest with you, I have never cooked duck at home. It is usually hard to come by at the grocery store and it can be tricky to cook. I have eaten some awesome duck at a hole in the wall place in Seattle’s Chinatown and that was a very memorable meal. But there is nothing that goes better with a big sporting event on the TV than chicken wings. Fry them (or steam and bake), toss them with a mixture of Franks Red Hot and butter, and you have a great plate of wings. And don’t worry, I will be doing some comparisons in the future with different methods of cooking chicken wings. Chicken Wings live to fight in the next round.
Cod vs. Crab – I love crab but it can be a pain picking the meat out of crabs or getting the meat out of the legs. Always messy. With cod you have the iconic fish and chips too. This was a very tough choice but I think I will move cod on to the next round mainly because it is a bit more accessible to the home cook than crab.
Halibut vs. Lobster – Being from the Pacific Northwest I have eaten my fair share of halibut. It is a nice meaty fish and has a great flavor but lobster is a hard one to overcome. Unless you are from New England a lobster dinner is the type of thing most people might have once or twice a year at most. A nice lobster tail with a steak is a great pairing and you can’t forget about the lobster roll. Lobster crawls into the next round.
Salmon vs. Drumsticks – As a kid whenever it was chicken night didn’t you always want the drumstick? Meat with a handle is awesome and it has some great flavor. It is very, very difficult to find anything more delicious than a nice piece of wild salmon. If it is that nasty farmed stuff I would advance drumsticks but wild salmon (particularly from the Northwest or Alaska) is one of the most flavorful pieces of fish you can eat. Salmon will fight on in the next round.
We are now down to 8 quarter finalists in this bracket. There were some great matchups and tough choices in the first round. Who will make it to the semi-finals? Let’s see…
Fried Chicken vs. Turkey – Both of these meats only have a couple popular cooking methods. With turkey you pretty much just have roast or deep fried. With fried chicken there is deep fried or pan fried. I love all of those methods but beyond that you are just reaching. Me personally I have always had better luck cooking turkeys than fried chicken. I have some ideas I want to test out with fried chicken that might help. Overall though I just like fried chicken more than turkey. Turkey is a once or twice a year thing for most people but fried chicken can be something you eat once a month or more. Fried Chicken makes it to the group semis.
Chicken Thighs vs. Shrimp – I love the flavor of chicken thighs (especially compared to chicken breasts) and think they should be used more often in cooking. Yeah they have a bit more fat than breasts but they also have a ton more flavor. Shrimp are very versatile and with all the different sizes of shrimp you have a ton of cooking options. A nice skewer of shrimp on a steak is a thing of beauty and a nice basket of fried shrimp will always be welcome on my table. Gotta go with shrimp here.
Chicken Wings vs. Cod – Fried wings vs fish and chips. Iconic American food vs iconic British food. Personally I prefer breaded fish and chips as opposed to battered but both are awesome. But I have a long history with chicken wings. They are simple to make and are awesome food for parties and for watching the big game so I am advancing chicken wings.
Lobster vs. Salmon – Lobsters scare most home cooks but they shouldn’t. Throw them in a big pot of water, serve with a bit of lemon butter and you are good to go. Not a lot too it. Salmon is simple as well. Just salt and pepper it, throw it under the broiler or on the grill and that is about it. There are few seafoods I love more than a good piece of salmon. Salmon swims on to the next round.
We are now down to 4. These matchups are getting very tough to pick but we have to have a winner so on we go…
Fried Chicken vs. Shrimp – Let’s look at price here. Shrimp will usually run about $12-20 per pound depending on what size you go with. Occasionally you can find shrimp down around the $10 range but that is pretty rare. Chicken on the other hand will run you about $3 per pound. With fried chicken you can go so many different ways too. You can buy a whole bird and cut it yourself, you can go with leg and thigh quarters, or even go with just thighs, drumsticks, wings, or breasts. My suggestion would be to go with whatever cut is cheapest at the moment. I am going to move fried chicken on to the finals in this bracket.
Chicken Wings vs. Salmon – If you go cost here wings will win every time. Depending on what type of salmon you go with you will be hard pressed to find it under $12-15 per pound. Some of the really good stuff can be up to $30 per pound too. You can buy big packs of chicken wings for under $2 per pound when on sale. For a snack I would go with wings but if I wanted a meal I would pick salmon. It is hard to compare these two but all things being equal if I had a choice between the two I would pick salmon so we will see what it can do in the finals.
We have two finalists in the chicken/seafood bracket! We have had 14 tough matchups so far to get to this point and this final showdown will be a tough one:
Fried Chicken vs. Salmon – At this point it comes down to this: If I was on death row and had a choice between fried chicken and salmon what would I pick? Well, I would guess a prison wouldn’t be able to cook either of these well but let’s assume someone who knows what they are doing would be preparing my final meal. In that scenario I think I would have to go with salmon.
King, coho, and sockeye are three of my favorite varieties and again, it has to be wild and not farm raised. The flavor and texture just isn’t comparable.
We have our first of 4 finalists in the Meat Madness bracket: Salmon will move on to face the winners of our other 3 brackets. Come back over the next few days to see how the other brackets shake out.