6 Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Chicken Breast
If you keep getting overcooked chicken breast or are constantly wondering ‘why is my chicken chewy’ then you’re probably making some common mistakes in the cooking process.
In order to avoid chewy and dry chicken breast, familiarize yourself with these 6 mistakes, and see how big of an impact these changes will have on the quality of your meal.
Air Chilled vs Water Chilled
The first mistake you can avoid is choosing the wrong chicken at the grocery store.
When chicken meat is being prepared for sale it needs to be stored at a certain temperature to ensure food safety – the chicken’s temperature is controlled through chilling.
Chilling is the process used to bring a chicken’s temperature down to 4 degrees Celsius (or lower) after it has been slaughtered. There are two ways to chill chicken: air chilling and water chilling.
The air-chilling method is done by placing the chicken in temperature-controlled chambers where purified air cools the meat. This process allows the meat to hold onto its natural moisture, resulting in a juicer and more flavourful chicken when cooked. This process also ensures you get crispier chicken skin when you cook it. However, this method could be more expensive.
Water chilling is when cold baths of chlorinated water are used to chill chicken meat. During this process, the meat is absorbing quite a bit of excess water – and the absorption of water makes the chicken look fuller. However, when this chicken is being cooked, all the water it absorbed will get released along with the chicken’s natural moisture. This will result in a drier and less flavourful chicken.
So when you’re choosing which chicken to get at the store, make sure you are choosing the chicken with an air-chilled seal on the packaging.
We don’t always eat all of the chicken we buy right away, so it typically ends up getting stored in the freezer. However, when the time comes to defrost our chicken, there is definitely a right and a wrong way to do it.
Never defrost chicken at room temperature. Room temperature is around 20°C, which is within the danger zone for poultry storage. Leaving your chicken to defrost on the countertop for extended periods of time means you are raising the risk of foodborne illnesses from harmful bacterial growth.
Another common mistake is defrosting chicken in the microwave. Although the microwave method is quick, convenient, and not as dangerous as leaving meat out at room temperature, it is still a poor method for defrosting. When you put your meat to defrost in the microwave you end up cooking random parts of it. So when you place the chicken in the oven after defrosting in the microwave, it will cook unevenly and will come out with a chewy texture. The microwave method will also dry out your chicken, and the last thing you want for dinner is dry chicken.
If you need your chicken to defrost quickly, leave it sitting in a cold water bath. Ensure the chicken remains wrapped in an air-tight seal (like plastic wrap or a Ziplock) and change the water every 30 min to keep it cold.
The best way to defrost chicken is in the fridge. Take the chicken out of the freezer at least 24 hours before you plan on cooking it, and place it in the fridge (keeping it in an airtight container or wrap). Your chicken should be safe to cook after one or two days. Although defrosting this way takes the most time, it will give you the best results in terms of quality.
Rinsing in the Sink
When you take chicken out of the packaging it has a residue on it that you need to get rid of, and a commonly made mistake is washing this residue off in the sink. However, when chicken is washed this way, you can end up contaminating the sink, countertop, and other surfaces with harmful bacteria. Basically, rinsing your chicken in the sink only spreads germs that can make you and your dinner guests sick.
Avoid washing your chicken in the sink, and instead, dab it with a paper towel to get rid of the residue.
Always tenderize your chicken breast before cooking it. People tend to skip this step to save time, but this will not give you a favorable result. Chicken breast that has not been tenderized will come out tougher and chewier.
How to tenderize chicken breast
- Put your chicken on a cutting board and cover it in plastic wrap or a paper towel
- Take a meat mallet and with a medium level of pressure, beat the chicken breast evenly. If you don’t have a meat mallet you can use a different tool that will give you the same result.
By tenderizing your chicken you will ensure a softer, juicer consistency.
To avoid overcooked chicken breast and ensure the juiciest meat every time, start by marinating your chicken in the sauces and spices of your choosing. After you let it marinate for a while, roast your chicken in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 18 minutes (until it is fully cooked).
However, sometimes we want a little extra crust on our chicken breast, and although roasting your chicken in the oven gives you the juicy meat you want, it does not give you crust. A mistake people make when trying to get a crust is cooking their chicken on the stovetop. The stovetop method will definitely give you a nice golden brown crust, but it will also leave your chicken meat quite dry.
Instead of fully cooking your chicken on the stovetop, do the stovetop to oven method. While your oven is preheating, sear your chicken breast on a cast iron pan – searing each side for 5 minutes. After this, you can place the breast in the oven for another 10 min to finish cooking through. This will give you a nice golden brown outer layer while ensuring that the inside stays juicy.
How to Cut Chicken Breast
If you want slices of chicken breast to put in tacos, salad, or pasta, you might be wondering what the best way is to cut it. There are a few factors to consider when choosing how to cut chicken breast.
A best practice is to only cut your chicken breast right before you eat it. This is because when you reheat leftovers of sliced chicken breast they end up losing their juiciness. So if you are planning on having slices of chicken breast with a salad for dinner, and you know there will not be any leftovers, you can slice up your breast right away.
However, if you anticipate having leftovers after dinner, then don’t cut your chicken all at once. Only cut the portion of meat you know you will eat and wait to cut the leftovers until right before you plan on reheating and eating them. This way you will ensure that your leftovers stay juicer for longer.
Speaking of juicy, the Mary Brown’s blog has a bunch of juicy information on how to bring life back to your dinner table, as well as satiating any of your franchising queries.