I’ve found that there are quintessential steps to take in order to have the most tender chicken you can imagine.
Preparing the chicken
- #1 > If you are going to cut the chicken breast before cooking, then do so when the meat is COLD.
- #2> Cut the COLD chicken breast by cutting against the grain (see image, illustrating the knife cuts going against the fibers of the meat), and then if need be, cut those slices into bite-size pieces. This will keep the meat fibers short so that the cooked protein strands will be short. Slicing across the fibers –making them short– will also lessen the workload on your teeth. See below for tips on slicing the chicken after it’s cooked.
- #3> Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before cooking (remove from the fridge about 2 hours before cooking). Adding chilled chicken to a hot pan will reduce the temperature of the pan and its contents significantly and therefore delay the cooking time while the pan comes back up to the heated temperature. The chicken will cook a bit during that time, which you don’t want b/c this could overcook the outside and make it tough and chewy. Generally, cooking cold meat creates a chewy texture. Room temp meat will give the meat fibers a chance to relax, which allows heat to penetrate easily throughout the meat when being cooked.
Cooking the chicken, on the stove top
- #4> Be attentive, eliminate distractions, be ready to flip the pieces every 2 minutes. In the beginning, you’ll know it’s time to flip when the underside turns from pink to white. When the meat turns white the fibers are beginning to bind to each other. Flip now to avoid over tightening of the protein bonds. When the second side turns white, flip again. Let cook for 2 minutes, then flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Repeat until cooked through. Check done-ness by using a meat thermometer (160 degrees) or cut open a cupla pieces to check for pinkish tones, be sure all has turned white.
- #5> Cook small batches in a small pan. I’ve found that an 8-inch saute pan is best.
- #6> Let the cooked chicken sit a bit (5 to 10 minutes) before slicing. This gives the heated meat fibers a chance to relax allowing time for the meat juices -that were forced to the inner-most part of the chicken- an opportunity to spread throughout the entire piece.
Cooking the chicken, in the oven
- #7> more info to come another time
Click here to see my “Chicken Picatta” recipe.
Click here to see “How to cook chicken breasts, the fast way.”