One of the most frequent questions I field here at our healthy weight loss program is, "Why is your chicken so moist and delicious and when I cook chicken, it, well, isn't?"
It is a loaded question, really. There are several factors that might contribute to this issue.
- If you start with a quality ingredient, your end result will be of greater quality too. At GMFR, we only use free-range poultry, which I feel tastes better than conventional, factory-farmed poultry. At home, I only cook poultry from a local farmer, whose birds eat the scraps from our kitchen at Green Mountain. I know those birds are fed well and are happily running around in beautiful fields, and, therefore, are likely to taste better than others.
- In this case, size matters. We trim our chicken breasts from the approximate size double D which is typical of modern American chicken down to a more reasonable B or so, around 5 ounces raw. (See picture above.) Gigantic chicken breasts will often become dry and overcooked on the edges before the interior is cooked all the way through. Use the scraps from trimming for stir fry, salad, soup, etc.
- Avoid overcooking. Yes, salmonella is no fun, but that doesn't mean you need to cook poultry until it's no fun to eat, either. The generally accepted temperature to which poultry should be cooked is 165 degrees Fahrenheit (keeping in mind that the interior temperature will rise slightly after the meat is removed from the cooking source). I recommend cooking a five ounce breast in an (accurate) 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for 14 minutes. And, importantly, poke the cooked meat with your finger to get used to what chicken breasts feel like when they are cooked all the way through. This way you don't necessarily have to cut it open or check it with a thermometer every time you cook, which, if done when the chicken is hot, releases juices that otherwise would remain in the breast and keep it moist until you choose to eat it.
- Sear it the restaurant way. Preheat your oven to 375. Leave the chicken on your counter for 15 minutes or so to allow it to warm up just a little bit so it will not cool the pan down too much. Season the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and other delicious dried herbs and spices. Place an oven-safe stainless steel or cast iron pan over high heat on the stovetop and, very importantly, let it get hot. Add a little oil and immediately place the chicken breast in the oil, "pretty" side down, being careful to lay it in away from you to avoid burns from splashing oil. It should sizzle right away; otherwise your pan was not hot enough. When the visible edges of the chicken breast become white, turn the breast over and place the pan into your oven. Cook about 10-12 minutes or until done. By searing the chicken well, you are simultaneously sealing in delicious juices and creating a nice texture on the outside.
Here at A Weight Lifted, we have shared many ideas for chicken over the years. Add to your recipe arsenal with Lemongrass Chicken, Barbequed Orange Chicken, Oven-Fried Chicken Nuggets, Creamy Chicken Enchiladas, Jamaican Curried Chicken, South Pacific Chicken, and Chicken, Fruit, and Celery Salad. What's your favorite chicken recipe?