Chicken Breast 101
Chicken breasts are as versatile as they are delicious and nutritious. Their mild flavour works as the perfect canvas for a variety of flavours, and if you know how to prepare them, chicken breasts can be as tender and moist as any chicken thigh or drumstick. Chicken breasts can be prepared a multitude of ways: baked, poached, pan-fried, grilled – you name it. They can be the main event at dinner, or added to salads, stir-fries, soups or pasta dishes.
Chicken breasts are a popular cut because they are lean and high in protein. But their goodness doesn’t end there. White meat contains zinc, potassium, vitamin B-6, niacin, and magnesium, all of which contribute to a healthy diet. For more information, check out this Nutrition Cheat Sheet.
Here’s what you need to know before you begin cooking with chicken breasts.
First, you want to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Use a meat thermometer for an accurate reading. Second, always note whether your recipe calls for bone-in or boneless chicken breasts, and whether it calls for the skin on or off. These things affect the cooking time of the cut. Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts generally take longer to cook, so adjust your cooking time depending on the cut you use.
Many worry that white meat is inherently dry, but here are a few simple tricks you can use to prepare chicken breasts that are moist and flavourful.
Cook with the bone in and the skin on. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a popular choice because they are lean and have a shorter cooking time. However, cooking with the bone in and the skin on yields juicy, flavourful chicken. And if calories are your concern, simply remove the skin before serving.
Marinades: Leaving the chicken to soak up a flavourful marinade several hours before cooking provides it with extra moisture and ensures that the flavours reach deep within the cut.
Brine: Letting the chicken soak in brine before cooking is another sure way to lock in moisture and keep the meat tender. Brining is especially crucial if you plan on frying your chicken, as it helps keep the inside tender and juicy while the outside gets crisp. For more information on how to brine chicken, watch this video.
Even sizing: Cooking chicken breasts of different sizes can mean that one comes out overcooked and the other undercooked. To ensure even cooking, cut the breasts in half lengthways, and pound the halves until they are even in thickness.
There are many techniques you can use to prepare chicken breasts, ranging from complex to unbelievably easy, all of which yield delicious results.
One of the biggest reasons to poach your chicken is that this method requires no fat or oil for cooking, making it a health conscious choice. Chicken is submerged in liquid and boiled over a low temperature until it is cooked through. The low heat and moist environment means the chicken won’t overcook quickly, and the end result is chicken that is tender and moist through and through. For a step-by-step guide on how to poach chicken, watch this video.
Poached chicken is a great for sandwiches and salads. It shreds nicely, making it perfect for chicken salad and pulled chicken tacos.
Baking chicken in the oven is an easy set-it-and-forget-it method that yields moist, flavourful chicken with golden, crispy skin. Chicken breasts are generally baked at a temperature of 350-375°F to allow for even, thorough cooking. Baked chicken breasts can be as simple or fancy as you like. For a quick weeknight dinner, try these Chicken Breasts in Parchment. Ready in 30 minutes, they’re low in fat, quick to clean up, and come out perfect every time. Or if you’re looking for something more adventurous, why not try these Roast Chicken Breasts with Olives and Honey Jus?
Here are a few of our other favourite baked chicken breast recipes:
Pan frying chicken breasts allows you to build deep flavour gradually. Braising, sautéing aromatics, and deglazing your pan as you cook are just a few of the ways in which this method can help you create flavour layering to intensify your dish. Whether you’re cooking to impress or preparing a quick dinner, pan-frying gives you a lot of options.
Why not try one of these delicious recipes?
What says summer more than chicken on the barbecue? Grilling has a magical way of creating a crisp and flavourful exterior while keeping the interior moist and juicy. Whatever you put on the barbecue, the results are always golden. And don’t forget to be creative with marinades. There are endless ways to flavour your chicken and create a meal specific to your tastes.
Next time you’re at the grocery store, why not pick up a pack of chicken breasts and try one (or many) of these recipes? You won’t regret it!