Versatile, healthy, and affordable, chicken breasts are a classic addition in any kitchen. However, due to their low fat content, they can be a little tricky to cook well. Home cooks who want to avoid dry, tasteless chicken breasts need to follow these cooking tips.
The biggest mistake people make when cooking chicken breasts is simply overcooking them. With the meat’s low fat and collagen content, long cooking times cause them to turn dry and rubbery. A general rule of thumb is cooking them no more than 20 minutes, but there is little room for error. It may be a good idea to buy a meat thermometer so one can tell exactly when the interior of the breasts reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the minimum safe temperature for poultry.
Lock In Flavor and Moisture With a Marinade
Only seasoning chicken breasts after they cook means that only the outermost layer of the chicken gets flavored. Soaking it in a marinade before cooking helps that flavor penetrate deeper inside the meat. The simplest marinade option is a dry brine. Simply sprinkle the chicken with salt and wait an hour. The salt works its way inside the meat, locking in moisture and savoriness as the meat cooks. Marinade additions like oil, garlic, onions, herbs, and acid all help to further enhance flavor.
Take the Time to Brown the Exterior
One of the biggest ways to end up with bland chicken is only simmering or steaming it. This common mistake is a problem because it does not get the heat high enough to brown the outside of the chicken. Throwing it in a saute pan or an oven at high heat changes the proteins in a process known as the Maillard reaction. This browns the exterior and results in a distinctive rich, meaty flavor.
Know How to Cover Up Mistakes
Even the best cooks end up overcooking chicken breasts every now and then. When this happens, throwing the plain breast on a plate and serving it is a bad idea. Instead, a wise cook will add back moisture with a sauce. A simple pan sauce made by deglazing the pan with wine or a basic gravy made with a little chicken broth can go a long way towards hiding any mistakes.