How to Cook Chicken Breast, Plus 20 Ways You Don’t Realize You’re Cooking Chicken Wrong
Everything you *shouldn’t* do, whether you’re learning how to cook chicken breast, roasting a whole bird, or frying up some wings.
Mistake #11: Boiling it in a sauce
“It’s a mistake to boil chicken in a sauce when a gentle poach will keep the chicken tender,” says Waldy Malouf, food & beverage operations senior director for The Culinary Institute of America‘s campus restaurants. Though it may be tempting to boil your chicken in a sauce, a little patience for poaching will result in a tastier finished product.
Mistake #12: Slicing chicken breast along the grain of the meat
“You have to cut the chicken breast against the grain so it remains tender,” Koeppe says. “Look at the grain direction of a chicken breast. Everyone, when they slice a breast, starts at the pointy end and cuts right along the muscle fibers. Don’t do that. Instead, cut slices against the grain (through the middle) and help put an end to dry, stringy chicken.” These are the 7 other cooking mistakes people make when cooking chicken.
Mistake #13: Slicing chicken as soon as it’s done cooking
“After your chicken has finished cooking, give it a chance to rest before cutting,” Moyer says. “This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, helping to retain the flavor instead of releasing all of it onto your cutting board.” This goes for other meats, too.
Mistake #14: Reusing marinade
“Continuing to put the marinade on the bird once it’s done can lead to Salmonella or cross-contamination,” Koeppe points out. “Have fresh sauce ready for your done bird.” That way, you won’t have to worry about whether the marinade is carrying bacteria or not.
Mistake #15: Not letting the oil heat up enough before frying
“People don’t let the oil get hot enough when deep frying and/or shallow frying chicken, which is key in keeping things crispy,” Sidoti says.”Throwing a few breadcrumbs in is an old cook’s trick. If they sizzle, then the oil should be hot enough. For shallow frying, another good visual is to look for shimmering oil in the pan. This is another sign that the oil is hot enough.”
Mistake #16: Only grilling it on direct heat
“If the grill is too hot, the outside is going to burn before the inside is fully cooked,” Sidoti says. She recommends starting the chicken on indirect heat, then transferring to the direct heat side towards the end. “This is helpful if you have a spice rub or barbecue sauce containing sugar because the sugar is what tends to burn the fastest. It’s also good for bone-in, skin-on chicken parts which tend to need more time to cook through. While you want to get the skin really nice and crisp, going from indirect to direct heat gives you more control and will help to prevent burning and grill flare-ups.” And FYI, here are 7 tips for healthier grilling.
Mistake #17: Not minding your cooking tools
You should never use a wooden cutting board with chicken, as the bacteria could seep into the cutting board and cause sickness later on, Nelson says. “Home cooks also need to remember that the utensils they use on raw chicken, such as knives, tongs or forks, should not be used on anything else in the kitchen during that time unless thoroughly washed between each use.” Make sure you’re avoiding these 11 other cooking mistakes that can make your food toxic.
Mistake #18: Thinking you have to use oil or butter
Most people use oil or butter to cook their chicken, but cooking without it actually yields great results, according to Karp. “This might seem at odds with conventional wisdom, but since chicken skin has a lot of fat already you don’t really need to add more to get crispy skin. You begin by putting the chicken skin side down in a cold, dry pan and cooking it on the stove top. You’ll know it is ready to flip when the chicken doesn’t stick to the pan. This usually takes a lot longer than people expect, but once you’re able to lift it off the pan easily, you’ll see some of the best, crispiest skin on your chicken!”
Mistake #19: Serving hot chicken on a cold plate
Nothing cools down perfectly warm chicken like a cold plate. “When you place hot food on a cold plate, the food cools quickly as the plate absorbs heat from the food,” Voskuil explains. “Using a warmed plate slows this process significantly and helps keep hot food hot.” Home cooks can heat plates using one of three methods: place in a warm oven for one or two minutes; place them in the dishwasher and run a dry cycle, or place in a microwave with a damp towel over and heat for 30 seconds. Don’t miss these 17 common cooking disasters all home cooks make.
Mistake #20: Choosing the wrong chicken
Even super talented chefs can’t make poor quality chicken taste good. “When buying chicken, try to look for recognizable name brands or choose chicken that’s advertised with no hormones or steroids,” says Vincent Quinzio, corporate executive chef of the Hofbrauhaus. “When it comes to poultry of any kind, it’s worth it to spend a bit more money for a superior product and a trusted name brand.” Lastly, always check the expiration date of the chicken. Read on for 50 more kitchen mistakes you’re probably making—and how to fix them.