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How to Cook a Chicken to Taste Awesome
How to Prepare Chicken to Taste Great
Cooking chicken to taste great is not that hard to accomplish. That said though, chicken cooked the wrong way can be a disaster.
Ever had chicken that was tough as shoe leather? That means it was overcooked. On the other side of the coin, have you ever had chicken that was still bleeding when it hit your plate? That's definitely not the way to cook chicken and can lead to food poisoning.
For all those healthy folks out there who like to eat skinless chicken, it makes it even more important to know how to cook chicken just right so that you don't end up with tasteless meals all in the name of saving some fat and calories.
To cook chicken the best way or the way to make your taste buds sit up and say "delish" involves 4 things:
- are you cooking the whole chicken? and if not
- what part of the chicken are you cooking?
- what temperature will you cook the chicken at?
- what method will you use to cook the chicken?
Pretty simple really. Like everything involving cooking, it's all a matter of knowing the techniques that are fairly straight forward and most importantly, end in a tasty meal.
Cooking a chicken or parts of a chicken to taste great isn't rocket science but there are certain techniques that work better than others.
The above picture shows a deliciously brined whole chicken. See below for the easy method.
Easy Brining Recipe for Chicken
- chicken (parts or whole)
- 1/2 cup kosher salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 gallon water
- Combine brine ingredients
- Cover and immerse washed chicken in the brine solution (weigh down chicken to keep under the brine solution
- Store in the fridge for 3-12 hours
- Before preparing, rinse off brine and dry with paper towels
- Works great for turkey and other poultry as well--just increase ingredients according to pounds of poultry you're brining
Ways to Cook Juicy and Tender Chicken
Keep in the moisture. When preparing chicken any way, the key is to not overcook it (and of course not to undercook it).
There are many ways to keep in the moisture, whether it's a whole chicken or chicken parts. Use a large container or large plastic bags for whole chickens.
Here are just a few favorite ways to lock in chicken's flavor:
- marinate the chicken -- any number are available over the counter or make your own from broth, spices and juices like lemon juice, kiwi or mango
- soak the chicken in buttermilk -- some recipes will suggest overnight while some just a few minutes for dipping
- dip the chicken in egg white or buttermilk and coat -- use breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs--or use something like panko or a panko/flour mixture--this seals in the juices and works well for oven frying recipes or even roasting on the grill or in the oven
- rub or inject olive oil, butter or margarine under the skin -- this works particularly well with whole chickens
- place flavor enhancers inside the cavity of whole chickens -- such as onions, shallots, garlic, vegetables or fruits like lemons either under the skin or inside the cavity
- poach the chicken -- use wine, liquor such as vermouth or Italian wines such as marsala or even sherry--or use broth or water with spices added for flavor
- brine the chicken -- this adds moisture to the chicken and shortens the time needed tor cooking while also adding flavor
- add chicken (whole or pieces) to soups, stews and chowders -- add either uncooked or cooked depending upon the recipe and let the soup flavor the chicken further
- use spices as a rub on chicken-- either whole or parts--use dried for rubs and fresh for inserting in the cavity or on top of the chicken along with a sprinkling of kosher salt (fresh sage is a wonderful addition to roasting a whole chicken in the crockpot)
- brush soy sauce or BBQ sauce on chicken -- great simple flavor enhances you can brush on while roasting on the grill or in the oven
- try unique recipes like beer can chicken -- great conversation starter for any get-together (for a unique vegetable at a BBQ, serve with cooler corn on the cob)
- cook whole chickens in a crockpot or slow cooker -- they stay moist and juicy and spices or herbs add to their flavor using this cooking method
How to Give Chicken More Flavor
- Leave chicken with skin on to retain moisture and add flavor
- Use seasonings to bring out the flavor of chicken
Try sage fresh or dried but don't be afraid to use rosemary, thyme, tarragon and oregano
Depending on whether you're going Italian or Asian, use basil and different kinds of oregano or go with lemon, ginger and coconut milk
Spices like cumin and cilantro are excellent to enhance the flavor of chicken while chili powder, chili peppers or cumin add Mexican flavor to any way to prepare chicken
- Use fresh herbs to turn up the dial on flavor
- Make your own chicken rub of brown sugar and salt (combine 1/3 cup kosher salt and 1/3 cup brown sugar; add spices or seasonings to taste)
Rub the ingredients over all parts of chicken, put into a zip-lock bag and refrigerate for 4-8 hours.
Rinse chicken thoroughly to rinse off rub, dry and cook as usual
- Use chicken chunked or in strips for stir fry recipes (use different oils like peanut or sesame oil to stir fry chicken and give additional flavor)
- Spray skinless chicken with olive oil or brush with oil to keep moist
- Use nonstick skillets and cook pans to retain moisture in chicken
A great way to make delicious tasting chicken is to cook it on the grill. Be careful not to overcook it or char it too much. Always check it with a thermometer to be sure it's cooked through.
Check out the video below for a great demonstration recipe for Beer Can Chicken.
Pan searing is another great way to lock in chicken's flavor. Even with a whole chicken, you can put it into a large pan sprayed liberally with olive oil cooking spray and turn to brown on all sides before cooking another way. Searing locks in flavor.
Easy Recipe for Poaching Chicken
Poaching is a great way to keep foods close to their original texture and shape but cook them thoroughly. As in all methods for cooking chicken, temp it out to make sure you've cooked it just enough but not too much (see chart below).
- Use a pan so that all of the chicken is able to sit in a single layer (if poaching a whole chicken, liquid needs to completely cover it)
- For poaching liquid, use any combination from water to water with lemon and spices, wine, broth or liquor (or a combination of any of the above)
- Use enough liquid just to cover chicken
- Bring to rolling boil on top of stove then reduce heat until an occasional bubble appears around the edges
- Cover partway with a pan lid and cook this way for 10-20 minutes depending upon the size of the chicken or if parts, the number of chicken pieces and their thickness (always temp with an oven thermometer to be sure)
Part of Chicken
Parts such as legs and thighs
Tender and Juicy Boiled Chicken with Vegetables
Much like a pot roast recipe, a whole chicken can be roasted either in the oven or on top of the stove in a big stockpot.
- Wash and dry whole chicken (add spices or olive oil under skin if desired)
- Place 1 whole onion, bit of garlic in bottom of pan
- Add large chunked celery pieces and carrots to pan
- Add chunks of Yukon gold potato or red potatoes if desired
- Add several quarts of broth, water or combination
- Bring to a boil and then cover and let simmer until done (legs should easily pull apart from the chicken)
Put the chicken in a roaster and cook in the oven at 350 degrees or as noted above, cook in a stockpot on the stove. The trick is bring the pot to a boil but do not boil the chicken continuously; simmer it to retain flavor and the texture of the vegetables.
Don't forget to use the leftovers for chicken salad, chicken potpie, chicken tacos, stir frys or chicken soup.
For leftover chicken, try some of these great ways to use up your chicken.
Using chicken parts in dishes like chicken cacciatore or chicken and dumplings. The sauce that you cook it in tenderizes the chicken and adds flavor to it naturally.