Chicken is a staple food in most diets. It’s known as one of the best sources of protein, which is essential for muscle repair and growth.
The great thing about chicken is that it’s incredibly versatile and can be used in many different healthy meals. The worst thing about chicken is that it can be hard to cook perfectly, especially when it comes to the most popular piece of chicken, breast meat. A lot of people are paranoid about raw chicken so overcook theirs and dry it out.
Dry chicken can ruin a meal, but it’s very easy to fall into the overcooking trap. So, here are my tips for cooking juicy chicken every time:
For large pieces of chicken or the whole bird, brining it before cooking is a excellent way to impart moisture and flavor. Use a sealable plastic bag (or large container with a lid) and add about a quarter cup of kosher salt and whole spices, such as black peppercorns, coriander seeds, a bay leaf and some garlic cloves. Feel free to experiment with different spices. Add the chicken to the plastic bag or bowl and marinate for at least four hours, preferably overnight. Just before cooking, remove from the brine mixture and discard it. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry.
Sear It First
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A lot of people will cook their chicken completely on the grill or in a griddle pan. Others decide to only cook it in the oven. For the best results, use a combination of the two. Start by getting yourself the best indoor grill you can find. Preferably, you want one with a ‘sear’ feature. This is a setting you can switch on to sear your food. Why do this? Because it gives you those lovely charred grill marks that provide flavor as well as aesthetics.
Sear for a minute or so on each side until the marks are clear. You don’t want to full on cook your chicken at this stage, you’re purely adding to the flavor by searing.
Finish Cooking In The Oven
Oven cooking is a great way to make your chicken nice and juicy. The reason is that an oven is essentially a little sauna for your meat. It’s heated from all around, and there’s a lot of steam adding moisture.
After your chicken is nicely seared, you can pop it in the oven to cook it properly and evenly. Timing depends on your oven and the size of your chicken breast. Generally speaking, you’re looking at anywhere between 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Use A Meat Thermometer
It’s hard to tell if the chicken isn’t raw unless you cut into it and look inside. As such, many people leave their chicken in for longer to be extra careful. My advice is to get a meat thermometer and stick it in your chicken breast. It needs to reach a temperature of 170 degrees F for it to be completely cooked. This thermometer helps you avoid overcooking and turning your chicken dry.
That’s all there really is to it, just four simple steps to juicier and tastier chicken. By combining two cooking methods, you get the best of both worlds. There’s the flavor from searing and the juiciness from oven baking.
Now, you’ve got some lovely chicken breast to add to all sorts of healthy meals. Perhaps a chicken salad is on the menu tonight, or maybe even a juicy chicken burger? Your options are wide open for some nutritious meals that contribute to a healthy diet. Your weekly menu is definitely improved when you have more confidence cooking chicken.