Either I go, or this chicken breast goes!

I’m back to dieting (aren’t we all?) and since I don’t eat fish (let’s not get into that) my diet consists of a heapin’ helpin’ of boneless, skinless chicken breast. Something like a pound a week.

One thing I have come to realize - I. Hate. Chicken. Breasts.

I have never enjoyed them. Not even from KFC. Not baked with Shake 'n Bake. Not grilled, not boiled, not fried. Not in a plane or on a train.

“Obviously,” says my friend, “you have never had a properly prepared chicken breast.”

I’ve tried cooking them on my Foreman grill. I’ve tried baking them in foil in the oven. I’ve tried cooking it in in a sautée pan. Cut into cubes, cut into strips, left whole. With olive oil and without. With seasoning and without. With parmesan cheese. Slathered in Italian dressing.

I try cooking it to 180 (according to my meat thermometer’s recommendation). Tried cooking it to 170 then letting it sit in foil for a few to come to temp. Nada.

They always, always, always taste bland, stringy, chewy, dry. Disgusting. Adding injury to insult (in that order), I have a bad jaw so this “food” also leaves me in pain.

On today’s weekly shopping trip I decided the only way I can stand this crap on my twice-daily salads is by using the pre-cooked, pre-prepared Tyson “nuke it or eat it from the bag” Chicken Strips. Which is TEN DOLLARS A POUND.

Obviously, that ain’t gonna work.

My last hope, other than switching to only eating thighs (which I can tolerate better, it seems) is going to be marinating, I think. Proper marinating - not just putting on some Italian dressing before grilling.

But I’ve never properly marinated before. And I don’t really think my mom has either (she’s actually a good cook but honest-to-god, dad PREFERS his meat un-edibly tough). So I come to you for help.

Here’s the rules:

  1. Marinade must be essentially sugar-free. No sugar, brown sugar or honey. I’m not diabetic but let’s say I am - that’s the way I roll. Minimal sugar from fruits (berries, lemon juice, peach, plum, etc.) should be ok.
  2. Marinade must not be spicy. I can probably handle the TINIEST pinch of chili powder or something but honestly my face turns red and my lips burn up when I get too much KETCHUP in me so “hot” and I don’t mix. I do dig garlic, maybe a hint of red onion or the slightest taste of green pepper. Anything else is too hot.
  3. I’m not really huge on tomato-based sauces but I am willing to give anything a try.
  4. I’ve yet to be bowled over by anything made with wine, but wine is a great alternative to sugar I assume. Chicken marsala - ech. But I’m willing to give it a shot as well.
  5. Give me full directions - from mixing the ingredients, to how long to store the marinade/chicken mixture and where/how, to what to cook it on/in, for how long and at what heat. Like I said I’ve got a Foreman, some pans, a stove and an oven. And a meat thermometer.

I realize that the above restrictions - lack of sugar, spicy-spice and tomato - might be a huge block in being able to create the correct enzematic effects of the perfect marinade. But if I quit eating chicken all I am left with is red meat and pork and that’s not always so good for the ol’ ticker.

Thanks in advance!

Chicken breasts do just inherently suck, give me thighs any day. Try a tandoori marinade with yogurt, saffron, and other spices. Or, just make a quick non-traditional curry by mincing an onion and an apple, cooking til transparent. Add a cubed chicken breast and cook til its not pink. Add 1 Tbsp curry powder, and 1 Tbsp flour and cook still it starts to stick. Add water (or fat-free chicken broth) and cook til done.

I just saw you don’t like spicy food. You are on your own then.

Why do you bother with chicken? I pretty much don’t eat meat; I get my protein from dairy, eggs, beans, nuts, etc. I got tired of how bland and boring most meats are these days and just can’t be bothered eating them.

If you feel you must have meat, why not opt for ground chicken and make it into meatballs, burgers, chili, etc?

Or cut it into strips and make stir-fries? If you like garlic and onion, cook it with them and it will take on some of those flavours.

Also, lean red meats aren’t that bad for you, in moderation. You can use extra-lean ground beef once in a while without having to worry too much about it.

Here’s three recipes for different marinades. The trick with marinade is to leave the chicken in it for a long time. It doesn’t do much for the bird bits if they just sit in it for an hour or two.

Recipe 1

2 1/2 pounds chicken
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions, sliced thinly

Place chicken in a resealable plastic bag or container. In a medium bowl combine vinegar, oil, Greek seasoning, garlic, and green onions. Pour mixture over. Seal bag and toss lightly to coat. Place in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours

Recipe 2

Enough for a whole chicken
2/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp. olive oil
3 tbsp. crushed black peppercorns or coarsely ground pepper
4 tbsp. fresh, chopped rosemary or 2 tbsp. dried

Combine all ingredients for the marinade. Pour over the chicken and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours, or overnight.

Recipe 3

1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. sweet basil
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper

Combine all ingredients; pour over chicken pieces in non-metal dish. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.

Would you eat them in a box?
Would you eat them with a fox?

180 degrees? Even the paranoid fussbudget USDA doesn’t recommend that. They say 165 degrees, and I’ve seen many recipes that suggest 160 degrees.

And you’re right to go with thighs instead. That’s where the taste is, at a slight cost of some additional fat.

One of my favorite chicken-breat marinades is also one of the easiest: pineapple juice and soy sauce. Don’t marinate it too long or it will ruin the texture (but then again, you might like the new texture considering you hate the standard . . . )

Even 170 F is overcooked. Try cooking chicken breasts to 155 or 160. Salmonella and other bacteria are killed at 139 degrees, so it’s safe.

On the other hand, if you really don’t like chicken breasts, don’t eat them. There’s plenty of other good food around.

Oh come now - fox meat is even stringier than chicken. (S)He’d never go for that.

Why not try the split breasts instead of the boneless breasts? I think they have a little more flavor. Or buy a small turkey or a large chicken and roast it? You’ll have enough chicken for a few days and it has a little more flavor.

Have you tried pounding them?

Place them on your counter between sheets of plastic wrap/wax paper and pound them with a heavy pot.

Then marinate them – makes all the difference.

Also, have you tried grilling them on a proper outdoor grill?

Oooh, I’ve got a great one:

Try it on a thin crust pizza with 1/2 the cheese and pineapple, red bell peppers, and whatever veggies you prefer.

Screw it. Eat the dark meat.

Thanks, all. Great advice so far.

I think this week I will try pounding (although I don’t have a proper tenderizer - I can use a can maybe?) and using Quiddity’s recipes. I have all of that stuff on-hand - yay!

If that doesn’t fix it for me I’ll try the bone-in and/or skin-on (w/o eating the skin) varieties and then I will know whether it is time to wash my hands of chicken breast or not and switch to thighs.

As for a proper outdoor grill - not really an option for me (no grill, no money). But come to think of it I’m sure I’ve enjoyed them previously when grilled on a proper outdoor grill. Perhaps this spring I will need to go to my folks’ once a week and grill some up.

My favorite use for chicken is in soups. I am a soup fiend.

My personal favorite is chicken and vegetable soup thickened with some fat free cream cheese. White chili with chicken is also good.

In a soup, the chicken is more of an ingredient than the feature. It seems to change my attitude.

Many people swear by brining before cooking. I have never tried it, in part because I don’t cook chicken very often, but some skilled cooks are militant about the need to brine.

Yep, this will keep the chicken breast from drying out. I also am not a fan of chicken breasts, being a dark meat kinda guy, but brining breast for a couple of hours to overnight before grilling will keep them moist. I just use a simple saltwater brine. I don’t normally thighs or any other part of the chicken, just the breast.

Seriously, Zipper, give the brining a shot. It will make a huge difference, I promise you.

Add me to the list of people recommending brining. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are about the driest, most soulless cut of meat I can imagine. Brining is bound to improve them

All rightie. I already have my marinade ready to go for this week, but next week, we brine!

I love that brine page - it’s so nerdishly delicious!

I’ll second what others have said. Put your boneless skinless chicken breast between pieces of saran wrap and pound it, not gently, until it’s uniformly thin (I use a cast iron skillet).

Then I like to bread it with egg/flour and fry it in a hot pan. Then make a pan sauce with wine, or lemon juice, with garlic or herbs or, you know, whatever. Pour the sauce on the thin crispy chicken cutlet and eat.

Now the problem with this is that it’s probably not exactly lo-fat. If you want something that tastes good, is low fat, and is chicken, you should go with the thighs. They do inherently have more fat, but they’re edible without having to be fried.

I recently posted in another thread what I had learned from 2 chefs who had a few drinks with me.

Chicken breasts are boring so marinate them in something. If you don’t have a sauce that you want to marinate them in just put them in lightly salted water. This just ensures that they stay moist and don’t dry out.

Always even them out. Don’t flatten them like for cafe schnitzel because that guarantees that they will be dry and stringy. Just flatten the fat bit so that they are fairly even. If you cook them as they are by the time the thick bit is cooked, all the surrounds are wrecked.