Since the pandemic began, we all have taken a renewed interest in home cooking – even if it is some basic cooking just to save ourselves from never-ending takeouts. If all those survival cooking days during lockdown have got you interested in exploring more about the culinary world, now might be the perfect time to polish up your newfound skills. And what better way to further develop your culinary skills than trying to cook something scrumptious yet straightforward, like chicken.
For one, chicken is the most available source of lean protein, and its versatile cooking method makes it easy for beginners. Besides, unlike red meat, chicken poses little to no health risks. And if you are bored from eating just chicken breast or chicken thighs, or the whole bird, you can always try out less popular yet flavorful parts of a chicken- like the hearts, gizzards, or even spleen; there are a myriad of ways that you can cook these and get adventurous with your cooking.
However, the chicken itself is bland tasting; you need a certain cooking method and spices to flavor it. Although chicken recipes might seem easy to cook, you still need to be careful with every little detail. One little slip can ruin the entire dish. To help you in your culinary discovery, we are sharing some secrets for cooking the perfect chicken every time. Give these a try!
Get Some Good Quality Chicken to Cook
If your chicken tastes consistently bland even after adding flavors and seasoning, maybe it’s the meat quality that’s making the taste terrible. Buying Better quality chicken will give you a good start at making that perfectly moist, juicy chicken dish.
For instance, broiler chicken tastes more tough and chewy than organic ones. Organic, local, and free-range birds indeed provide the best quality meat and flavors. While frozen chicken might save you some bucks over fresh chicken, it can leach out some much-needed moisture during the thawing process. Follow these tips when you are buying chicken-
· Avoid buying chicken with dry translucent skin
· If you are buying fresh chicken, make sure it doesn’t show any sign of freezing
· If you are buying frozen chicken, check for freezer burn
· Check the sell-by date and used by date
Pound the Chicken Breasts for Even Cooking
Chicken breasts are not uniform in thickness, and sometimes that prevents their even cooking. Pounding is a great way to ensure the fibers are tender and loose enough to cook evenly. Pounding can also ensure greater flavoring by infusing the seasoning with the meat fibers.
Besides, once the fibers loosen, the chicken will not require much time to cook; the reduced cooking time reduces the risk of losing moisture. And it’s also true for chicken tenderloin. While the difference between chicken breast and tenderloin is their size, they still require the same cooking process.
Focus on the Temperature, Not the Time
That’s a common misconception among novices -the doneness depends on the timing, not the temperature. If you too fall in this category, you might have had many chicken dishes rendered undercooked or overcooked.
However, with just a simple trick, you can avoid being ended up with a “little too pink” chicken or a burnt one. Wondering how? Just use a meat thermometer to check the inside temperature; if the temperature displays 165 degrees Fahrenheit while stuck into the meatiest part of the chicken, your chicken is ready to be taken out of the oven or off the stove.
Make sure you don’t wait till the very end of the cooking to check the temperature; the heat rises real fast during the last stage of cooking, and if you wait till then, you might end up with a dry chicken.
Avoid Cooking Frozen Chicken
Can you remember how many times you put frozen chicken pieces right into the cooking pan? Though we all know raw food items should be thawed and be at room temperature before putting them on the pan for even cooking, sometimes we just ignore that to speed up the cooking process.
And while you might save time by not thawing the frozen chicken properly, you also miss out on the flavor part. If you cook them directly, your chicken will be dry and bland.
So be a little cautious next time you are cooking chicken, and remember to take them out from the freezer at least one hour before cooking. Even if you are cooking marinated chicken, let it rest for a while, so it gets a chance to reach room temperature.
Don’t Skip the Marinade.
The sole purpose of marinating chicken is to keep the moisture content intact. Once chicken without marination hits the heat and starts to lose moisture, the result is a dry bland-tasting chicken. Therefore, you should not skip marinade before cooking chicken, especially if you are grilling or cooking in extreme heat.
You can use seasoning or acidic elements to marinade your chicken. Buttermilk, yogurt, vinegar, lime juice, or fruit enzymes are some popular marinating agents. You can also use dry marinating like dry rub spices, Cajun, herbs. But make sure the seasoning gets enough time to fuse, and the flavor can seep inside the chicken.
Don’t Overcrowd the Pan.
If you have ever ended up cooking some soggy chicken breasts for dinner that failed to get a crispy outer layer, you might have put too much into a small skillet or pan. Whenever you overcrowd the cooking pan- be it vegetables or meat -the vapor doesn’t get enough room to evaporate; it gets trapped between the food contents and eventually makes them soggy.
To avoid these, make sure you are cooking only the amount that the pan can cook properly. Take into account the size and depth of the pan so the meat can hold its moisture.
Try Not to Flip Too Often.
If you tend to flip too often while cooking chicken, you might not get a proper sear. If you fear the chicken will get overcooked and try flipping too much, it might not even get cooked. Flipping once or twice is enough unless you have the flame going in full rage.
The Bottom Line
While most people might consider cooking as a form of art, there is no denying it is also a science. You can experiment and come up with whimsical flavor ideas, but you can’t skip what’s fundamental in the cooking process. Well, you can, but the result might not be edible! So better stick to the basics while building up your culinary skills. To get perfect chicken every time, remember these tricks and wow everyone with your new prowess.