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7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking Chicken

Hate it when chicken breasts are dry and tough? Tweak your technique to make sure your chicken stays juicy and delicious.

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Taste of Home

Perfecting a family favorite

Cooking the perfect chicken breast is a skill many home cooks aspire to have in their culinary toolbox. Chicken is versatile and affordable—and healthy, too. But chicken that’s dried out and tough? No, thank you! To help make sure you get a moist and always-delicious chicken breast, avoid these kitchen mistakes.

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Raw chicken breast fillets on wooden backgroundBon Appetit/Shutterstock

Starting with skinless chicken breast

A lot of us go straight for the boneless, skinless fillets at the meat counter. It makes sense—they’re easy to work with, and we’ve all heard that the skin is unhealthy. But keeping the skin on while it’s cooking helps keep the chicken moist. (You can always take it off before you dig in.)

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Chicken breastFredograf/Shutterstock

Not marinating or brining the meat

Chicken breasts can be dry. After all, they’re not as fatty as other parts of the bird. But a marinade, brine, or rub goes a long way in adding flavor to the meat and keeping it moist. If you’re going for simple, that’s OK—a basic salt and pepper rub is just fine. Want to get a little creative? Try a grilled basil chicken or this not-so-basic paprika dry rub recipe—or buy one pre-made. Check out all 100 of our chicken breast recipes.

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Tenderizing the chicken meat with a mallet - Preparing homemade chicken kiev in a kitchennapocska/Shutterstock

Not pounding out the meat

Pounding chicken breasts helps tenderize the meat. With your strength (and the force of a trusty meat tenderizer), you start to break down the proteins in the meat. Plus, with thinner breasts, you reduce the amount of time it takes to cook the breasts all the way through. This is helpful because we often end up overcooking it! Here’s our best advice for flattening chicken breasts.

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Food preparing, cooking concept. Male hands chef beating steak chicken breast with meat tenderizer on wooden board close upAnetlanda/Shutterstock

Not pounding the breasts out to an even thickness

If you’re cooking more than one chicken breast, you’ll benefit from making sure the breasts are all the same thickness. If they’re not, you’ll likely have a hard time getting them all to the proper internal temperature (165°F) without drying out a few. Learn how to avoid these other mistakes you’re probably making with raw chicken.

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Checking the temperature with thermometer of fry chicken at homeKit Leong/Shutterstock

Cooking chicken for too long

Nobody likes a medium-rare chicken breast—or salmonella. But an overcooked chicken breast is tough and unpleasant to eat. Recipes offer good guidelines for cooking, but until you’ve practiced enough, it can be hard to know when you’ve cooked the chicken through. Let a meat thermometer help. Lots of cooks advise cooking chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F, assured that it will rise to 165°F while it rests.

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grilled chicken fillets on wooden cutting boardMaraZe/Shutterstock

Not letting the meat rest

If you’ve ever pulled a piece of meat out of the oven or off the grill and cut into it right away, you’ve probably noticed the juices running onto your plate. That is juicy goodness that you’d probably rather savor in the meat! So tent some foil over your chicken after it cooks and let it rest on the countertop for ten minutes before serving. Make sure you know these 21 other ways you’re cooking chicken all wrong.

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Taste of Home

Not adding a sauce

Nothing beats a perfectly cooked piece of chicken. But if it’s not quite perfect, you can help disguise some of that dryness with a delicious sauce. A yummy sauce is a great way to add flavor, too, of course. Steal an idea from one of our favorite chicken dinners, or try one of our 30-minute chicken recipes. Next, check out these 20 secrets your butcher won’t tell you.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

Stephanie R. Conner
Stephanie Conner has a track record of award-winning work that has appeared in newsstand and branded publications across the country. With more than 15 years of professional journalism and content marketing experience, she frequently writes about health/wellness, technology, food, motherhood, travel and more. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, where she has also worked as an associate faculty member teaching news and magazine writing classes. In 2016, Stephanie launched a blog,, a passion project inspired by her love of her son and their journey with cooking and food allergies.