Pollo or Gallina?

To many 21st-century English-speaking Americans, chicken is just chicken. We're not used to talking about the difference between hens and roosters, or age in reference to birds we might eat. It's just—chicken. Not so in Central and South American cuisine, in which chicken is not just chicken, but may be "pollo," "gallina," or even something else. What's a pollo and what's a gallina?

In some Latin American countries the difference between pollo and gallina meat is marked, says mirilara, "as is the case in Peru with aji de gallina and pollo chifa. Pollo meaning a younger, whiter meat, and gallina a yellower, fattier, and older meat."

A "gallina vieja" is an old hen, says inwooddan. "This is the chicken that is used in the Caribbean for homey soup stock, though not gelatinous stock. The older the bird, the darker the dark meat, and the harder the bones, hence the stock not being thick. The only way to break down this bird without violence is to cook it in a pressure cooker—for 45 minutes after you turn down the heat."

"While doing in a chicken and a gallina for Christmas tamales, I found out the difference," says rworange. "It didn't have to do with age. They were both about the same age. In Guatemala, it seems it is a special breed of chicken which has a bald spot on its neck."

"An interesting side," adds rworange, "I read in El Salvador that the dish 'gallo in chicha' ... rooster in fermented pineapple juice ... is a dish traditionally served on Mondays. The losers of the weekend cock fights are lunch the next day."

"In 'Mexican,'" says Eat_Nopal, the different words for chicken mostly refer to the age of the bird. A pollito is a fryer, a pollo a roaster, a gallina is a soup hen, and a gallo is "rarely good eats."

Discuss: Pollo & gallina?