I was raised vegetarian but started eating meat about a year ago. I love grilled chicken breast. Up until now I’ve only eaten it while out in restaurants but I would like to start making it at home.
I’ve never bought or prepared meat before! How do I know when it’s done? How do I season it?
I’ve planned to designate a cutting board, pan, and knife as “meat-only.” Is that too much/enough in terms of utensils?
Also, does anyone have any advice on which brands to buy? Are y’all concerned about the quality of conventional chicken? If so, does anyone shell out for organics, or is there conventionally-raised chicken which avoids the pitfalls of hormones, antibiotics, improper feed that plagues conventional chicken?
Easiest way is to make sure it’s done is with a meat thermometer. They sell them at any supermarket or department store for a few dollars. You can also buy disposable thermometers that change colors or pop-up when it’s done.
I can’t remember the temp for chicken (around 170 IIRC) but it should be on the thermometer package. Generally speaking you can tell by cutting it open- if it’s all white it’s probably done; never eat chicken breast that has even the slightest pink inside.
If it’s all white, it’s overdone. Slightly pink is fine - not rare (obviously!) but chicken breasts go from “done” to “dried out hockey puck” in a very short time. 170 is far too hot, go for 146-147 or so.
Get one of these. Eventually, you’ll learn how to tell if meat is done without one, but until then, a thermometer is your friend.
Seasonings: Salt & Pepper is the basic seasoning for all meat, but feel free to experiment. Lemon and garlic are nice with chicken, as is curry. Heck, almost anything goes with chicken breast.
You don’t really need a “meat-only” set of stuff, just make sure to wash it well before going from meat to uncooked food (veggies, etc). Hot water, soap, and if you’re really worried, a spray of bleach will fix everything.
A nice seasoning to put on top of chick cooked in the oven is your basic oil/vinegar italian salad dressing with lots of chunks of spices/garlic/onion/whatever in it. Marinating the chicken overnight in the same before cooking the chicken with the used marinade drizzled on top works pretty good too.
Second the meat thermometer, though I usually shoot for 160 or so. I have also found that I like to brine my breasts for a bit, it gives them a little more flavor from the salt and helps keep them nice and juicy.
Season it with any flavors you like, as mentioned above it will take almost any seasoning or marinade nicely.
Chicken breast cooks really quickly. I’ve tried it on the George Foreman grill and it always turns to sawdust, and still pink inside. So I, too, am always looking for nice grilled chicken instructions… For adding chunks of cooked chicken meat to dishes, I usually poach it covered, in some water, for 5 minutes, then cut in half to check for doneness. If pink in the center, give it another 2-3 minutes. Then it needs to be rinsedrinsedrinsed real well to get rid of the white scummy stuff.
If I were cooking assorted chicken pieces with bone-in, I’d use the oven. Sprinkle on salt & pepper–or select from a ton of other flavorings. Consider making a “crust” with nuts or cereal, etc. Plop in the oven & cook until done.
But I’d cook chicken breast on the stove, since it cooks quickly & dries out easily. Consider poaching for flavor & moistness.
In terms on healthier, they are the same, it depends how you cook it. (For example, between an oven-cooked chicken breast drowned in a creamy sauce, a chicken breast cooked on the stove in a spritz of olive oil is healthier.)
I think it’s easier to overcook chicken breast in the oven, unless there is a wet sauce over it. JMHO
Here’s my never fail Chicken parmesan recipe for beginners (this is literally the first food I was taught to cook.)
You will need:
-Some chicken breasts, as many as you want to cook or one per dinner guest
-1 large jar pasta sauce of your choice, or 1 qt homemade.
-some shredded Mozzarella
-A frying pan that can also go in the oven
As preparation, beat the egg in a bowl, and pour out a cup or so of the breadcrumbs onto a plate. take each chicken breast and pound it to half its original thickness, by laying down a piece of saran wrap over the chicken, and using the jar of pasta sauce as a hammer (handy that).
First, dip each breast in beaten egg, and then in the breadcrumbs so the whole thing is covered or as near as you can get it.
Heat some olive oil in the pan at medium heat, and cook the chicken breasts until each side is browned, turning occasionally (it is not important whether the chicken is cooked through at this point ).
Preheat the oven to 325F
Turn off the flame under the frying pan, and pour the jar of sauce over the chicken breasts. Take your shredded mozz and sprinkle some over each lump where a breast is. Cover (with ovenproof lid or tinfoil) and cook in the oven 25 minutes. Voila!
Important to remember, especially about chicken cooked in the oven: it will continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it out, so don’t wait until it’s too done to take it out. Like most meats it’s best to take it away from the heat just before it’s done to ensure it isn’t too dry. How to tell when that it is something that will come with experience.
I googled the proper temp for chicken and it varies by about 20 degrees from site to site, but most agree 160 is good enough for healthy.
Cooking advice may belong in IMHO or even the Pit. Here’s mine:
Stick to buying on-sale supermarket chicken until your cooking skills are established.
If you overcook the chicken (too dry!), you can use it in a sauced dish.
Chickens do not lead very hygienic lives. A dedicated cutting board for raw chicken is a good idea.
Knife blades are not absorbent, so use the same for all. A serious cook should have high-carbon steel knives (the kind that need a sharpening steel). Sharp knives slip less, so are safer than duller knives.
Meats of all kinds should be sliced across the grain (that is, crosswise of the way the muscle fibers run).
Take cookbooks out of the library for a test drive.
I buy organic chickens with an American Humane logo, as a sop to my care about how the animals are treated. IME, these chickens also taste better, as in, they have an actual flavor to the breast, unlike most breast meat I’m used to. A whole chicken makes a fine meal, and then you can boil the carcass with a few carrots and stalks of celery to make a killer broth.
Here’s my super-easy way to cook chicken breast (it’s very boring, but it makes tasty simple chicken, and then you can put something on the top of it when you’re done (I use chicken and mushroom soup and canned mushrooms (I told you it was simple and boring!) but there are plenty of other things you can use too.
Take a skillet (I use one of those teflon non-stick ones), and empty a can of chicken broth into it. Let the broth warm up for a short time. Rinse off the chicken breasts and lay them flat in the skillet. Set the heat to medium-ish and the timer to 7 minutes. Cover. When the time’s up, turn them over, set the timer for 7 minutes again, and re-cover.
When the timer goes off again, cut into the thickest part of each piece of chicken to make sure it’s done all the way through (I don’t even let them be pink). If they’re not quite done, turn them over and cook them for another minute or two. By then they should be done.
That’s it! The broth makes the chicken juicy so even if you overcook a bit they’re not too hockey-pucky.
Caveat: I don’t cook, so I’m always looking for very simple ways to make food. But if that’s what you’re looking for, then there you go.
There’s no rule that the pieces have to stay together in the pan for the entire journey. You can remove the thinner ones as they finish cooking.
Overcooking does worse than merely drying out meat; it also toughens it. Stews make meat more tender by softening connective tissue, but even there, overcooking can toughen muscle tissue (which meat is).
Delish-improver: avoid prepared ingredients such as garlic powder. Use fresh, especially for premium meats. Dried herbs are OK. I occasionally use dried fruit, tropical trail mix being a favorite.
When they go on sale, I buy, chop, and freeze things like onions, sweet peppers, mushrooms, and celery. Economical, and I always have them on hand to add to whatever I’m cooking.