Cook Chicken Properly by Avoiding These 7 Mistakes
Chicken is healthy, versatile, and probably the most well-known food in the fitness industry. Chicken is packed with protein, it cooks quickly, and it can take on a host of flavors.
Since there are so many cuts and sizes with chicken, you could have it for every meal and it wouldn't feel like the same dish.
Related - How Many Calories in a Chicken Breast?
Unfortunately, it can be easy to overcook your chicken -- making it dry and tasteless. If this sounds like you, these seven tips should help you create some tasty dishes.
So here are seven things you should avoid next time you cook up some chicken.
Better Chicken Today
1.) You're Using Chicken Breasts Only
While boneless, skinless chicken breasts will remain a popular choice, chicken thighs offer some great benefits.
Chicken thighs have more fat than a chicken breast does -- meaning you'll have a juicy and tasty piece of chicken. Since they have more fat, they are harder to overcook and they retain a lot of flavor from the bone.
You can also get boneless, skinless chicken thighs that cook up very fast and with a lot of flavor.
Chicken breasts are a great value, but thighs are usually much cheaper when you compare it to the white meat. Chicken thighs also contain more iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
2.) You're Not Taking Your Meat Out of the Fridge
Chicken seems to be a touchy subject when it comes to food safety. With the way everyone talks, you're supposed to keep it in the fridge until you put your chicken to heat.
This is wrong.
If you put the super-cold chicken into a pan or an oven, the outside will cook much faster than the inside. This is why your chicken ends up dry and unevenly cooked.
Next time, take your meat out 20 to 30 minutes before you plan on cooking them. This allows them to come to temperature -- giving you a much better result.
3.) You Don't Pat it Dry
Something I used to be guilty of is not patting my chicken breasts dry before I seasoned or marinated it.
This excess moister creates steam when cooking, and it dries out the meat.
If you aren't getting a nice sear in your pan or crispy skin if you have skin-on breast, this is going to change the game for you.
This may have been the most helpful cooking tip I've implemented.
4.) You're Not Trying a Marinade or Brine
Before I fell in love with using a brine or marinade to cook my chicken, I'd season with some salt and pepper, cook in a pan, and choke it down with a smile.
Using a marinade or brine forces your chicken to have flavor both inside and out. This also helps your meat maintain moisture as it cooks.
A short 15-minute soak can make a huge difference in how your chicken will turn out. I suggest finding a simple brine recipe and trying it out.
You'll never go back to non-marinated chicken again.
5.) You Are Cooking it Unevenly
If you look at a chicken breast, it's thicker in the middle and the outsides get thinner. This leads to uneven cooking, and a less-than-desired texture.
In order to prevent this, place your chicken breasts between some sheets of parchment paper, or put into a plastic bag. Release some stress and pound them even with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer (hammer).
6.) You're Taking a Guess on When it's Done
When it comes to steaks, I'm pretty good with guessing when it's done. Chicken is another story.
Buy yourself a decent meat thermometer -- a digital thermometer is easiest.
When you cook your chicken, you want it to get to an internal temperature of 165ºF and you want to probe it in the thickest part.
Your chicken rises in temperature slightly even when you pull it off of the heat, so pulling it around 160 to 166ºF is perfect.
7.) You Aren't Letting Your Meat Rest
Treat your chicken like a steak and let it rest after you cook it.
This allows time for the heat to evenly distribute throughout the breast and your juices are soaked back up and also redistributed through the meat.
Wrapping it Up
None of these tips are hard to implement -- you just have to do them.
If all of these tips at once seem overwhelming, start by picking one and seeing how it changes your dishes. I would invite you to try a brine or marinade first.