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Today I bought a chicken that was slaughtered less than an hour before, so it was still warm. The shopkeeper said it needs to stay in the freezer for a couple of hours to cool off before I proceeded with cooking. Why is that?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

The consensus from sites I have seen that appear fairly credible is that you need a resting period to avoid toughness in the final product. I speculate this is to allow rigor mortis to come and go.

According to Girl's Guide to Butter's article Chicken Butchering 101:

And now the final step in the butchering process – put them in a larger tub filled with cold water (ours comes straight from the ground and is very cold), and let them sit and relax till the evening (if you’ve butchered in the morning) or overnight ...

Note that it is important to let your chickens rest and relax in this fashion before cooking them, because, if you cook them right away (not that most of you, unlike me, would want to), they are likely to be tough.

Similarly, The Self Sufficient Home Acre's How to Butcher a Chicken article says:

[P]ut it in the refrigerator for 24 hours before cooking. If the meat is not allowed to relax, it will be tough. If you plan to freeze the chicken, you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight or you can freeze it right away. Just be sure to pull the frozen bird out and let it thaw completely before cooking it. I have had good luck with this method.

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