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Chicken Tips 'N Tricks!

Updated: May 20, 2021

Julia Child told us to rinse our chicken in the sink. If Julia Child jumped off the Pont des Arts (in Paris), would you too? Don't rinse your chicken! If it has salmonella it'll be all over your kitchen. I still love you Julia, God knows. Then, I've put some things to remember about cooking chicken together below, from various sources.

Meryl, in Julie and Julia, 2009

Shopping Tips:

  • The "sell-by" date is 7 to 10 days after the chicken was slaughtered and if properly refrigerated it should remain fresh 2 to 3 days after that date. If it is a "used-by" date, the chicken should be cooked or frozen by that date.

  • Choose plump, moist chicken with skin that is not patchy or transparent in appearance.

Freezing Tips:

  • Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing chicken. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used because it would not hold the moisture in the meat.

  • Be sure all packages are marked with the content and the date the chicken was frozen.

  • Wrapping individual chicken parts in foil or with freezer wrap and then placing in a freezer bag will allow you to take out only the number of pieces you will need.

  • Freeze fresh chicken as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.

  • Thaw frozen chicken using one of three methods: in the refrigerator; in a cold water bath, changing the water every 30 minutes; or in the microwave. NEVER thaw chicken at room temperature.

Tips for Checking Doneness:

  • To ensure doneness, check the temperature of the chicken with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh or breast should produce a temperature of 170°F.

  • When a slit is cut into the thickest part of the chicken, it should show meat that is opaque in appearance.

Tips for Frying Chicken:

  • It is best to leave the skin on while cooking. If desired, remove before eating.

  • When pan-frying, cover for the first 5 minutes of cooking and then uncover for the remainder of the cooking time. Covering for a short period of time will help cook the chicken thoroughly.

  • Use tongs or a spatula instead of a fork when placing chicken pieces in the pan or when turning the pieces. Piercing the chicken with a fork allows the juices to escape.

  • Be sure all utensils and equipment are dry before they come in contact with the oil. Water will make the oil splatter when heated.

  • Using canola oil provides a milder taste, and it contains healthier amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.

  • Remove pieces of chicken from the oil as soon as they finish cooking. To keep the chicken warm while other pieces are cooking, set the pieces that are done on a baking pan covered with paper towels and place it in the oven at a low temperature.

  • Do not cover the chicken once it has finished cooking, because covering will cause the coating to loose its crispness.

Grilling and Broiling Tips:

  • To prevent dryness, leave the skin on the chicken during cooking, which helps preserve the chicken's natural moisture.

  • Be sure racks are clean and coat them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray to help prevent sticking.

Steaming Tips:

  • Marinate the chicken before steaming to give the chicken a distinctive flavor.

  • Impart flavor into the chicken by adding ingredients to the steaming water, such as onions, carrots, celery, and fresh gingerroot.

  • Making a few cuts through the top and bottom surface of the chicken will allow the heat to penetrate more evenly throughout the cooking process.

  • Other ingredients, such as vegetables, can be steamed with the chicken, but do not overcrowd.

  • Avoid removing the cover to the pot during the cooking process. This will allow heat and steam to escape, resulting in extended cooking times.

Tenderness Tips:

  • Avoid freezing whenever possible to eliminate additional moisture loss during thawing, which results in less tender meat.

  • Keep chicken from drying out in the refrigerator by keeping it tightly wrapped. If the chicken dries out, it will become tough.

  • Let roasted chicken rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving to allow juices to be distributed throughout the meat. Standing the chicken up with bottom end up allows more juices to run into the drier breast area.

  • Cutting meat across the grain will produce slices with shorter fibers, resulting in more tender pieces.

  • When adding cooked chicken to dishes that have a long cooking time, it is best to use dark meat because it will stay moist longer than white meat.

1. The absolute best way to cook chicken breasts comes from Joy of Cooking.

This method requires trust. Though if you ask me, that seems like a small price to pay when the reward is flawlessly easy, tender, and juicy chicken breasts.

2. A roast chicken is for weeknights, not just weekends.

You can save this comforting dinner for Sunday night, but you don’t have to. A small bird only takes about an hour to roast, so it’s totally doable on a weeknight.

3. Chicken thighs are a smarter buy than breasts.

Most people flock to chicken breast, and the wonderfully flavorful, budget-friendly thigh gets overlooked. Thigh meat does have a higher fat content, but that’s what makes it so rich and flavorful. It’s cheaper and almost impossible to mess up, unlike chicken breasts. Read more → How To Bake Chicken: The Easiest, Simplest Method

4. Yes, you can get five meals out of a rotisserie chicken.

If you’re cooking for one, a single rotisserie chicken is the answer to your weeknight dinner prayers. If you’re feeling ambitious, roast your own!

5. Parchment is the secret to perfectly baked chicken.

Chicken breast is such a lean cut that it can be tricky to cook without it turning out dry and tasteless. But a single piece of parchment paper placed over the chicken before going into the oven acts almost like the chicken’s missing skin, protecting it and preventing it from drying out.

6. Shred your chicken before freezing.

Gone are the days of eating leftovers as fast as you can. Instead, shred then freeze your leftover cooked chicken. Shredding makes it easier and quicker to defrost later to just toss into a salad.

7. Do you pound your chicken? Try it for faster cooking.

Chicken breasts are always thicker at one end, and this unevenness means that the thicker end will just take longer to cook. By pounding it out or butterflying it, you’ll have a piece of meat that cooks quicker and more evenly.

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