Look at this sky! I don’t know what it’s looking like over by you, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen this shade of blue before today. There’s something awfully autumn-y in the air this morning and I can’t say I mind too much. This week I watched Warm Bodies which was a really heart-warming zombie romcom. I don’t know if you’re into that sort of thing (most people aren’t) but I thought it was a hoot. Also it stars Nicholas Hoult who I have a total crush on so, the plot was secondary, really.
I was having a conversation recently with someone about struggling with cooking chicken properly at home. It seems like such an easy, simple thing…and in many ways it is. But in many more ways, it’s not. I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of people don’t really know what chicken is supposed to look and taste like when it is cooked “to perfection”. Knowing exactly what you want to achieve helps in the process, always, for everything.
Chicken should be:
- Golden brown on both sides – This is only attainable if the excess moisture on surface of the chicken is dried before cooking. The best way to do this is to pat the chicken dry with a paper towel, lightly salt it, and leave it on a plate in your fridge loosely covered with cling wrap overnight. If you forget this step, it’s not a big deal. Just make sure you really pat it dry and season it well and you will still be able to attain good color. Also, don’t crowd your chicken in the pan. Give them some room for good heat distribution and easy handling.
- Well-seasoned – Before cooking your chicken, season it with good salt and fresh cracked pepper. More is more in this situation- be generous, be brave…be excessive even. A lot of this will end up in the fond. (Browned bits and drippings left in the pan…the origin of gravy.)
- Final Internal temperature of 160-165F (72-73C) – This one is only attainable with a meat thermometer. You should totally own a good kitchen thermometer. As improvisational as I can be in the kitchen, I am really hardcore about accuracy in protein cookery and so should you if you like to eat delicious things that aren’t tough or dry. You should remove your chicken from the heat when it is at 158-159F/70C because the heat will carry-over and finish cooking it on the plate. I promise.
- Juicier than perezhilton.com – Do NOT cut, puncture, slice, poke, prod the meat while it is cooking. In fact, don’t do anything even remotely aggressive to it until it has been sitting off the heat for at least 3 minutes. While cooking, use tongs to flip the chicken and do so with tender loving care. Slice your cooked, rested meat with an uber-sharp slicer knife or chef’s knife on a bias and serve immediately to get it at its prime.
Not Lame Chicken
1 chicken breast (skin-on preferably)
Salt and Pepper
1 Tb All-purpose flour (optional)
1 Tb Grapeseed Oil
1) Preheat oven to 375F/190C. As mentioned above, dry and season your chicken with salt and leave it in the fridge overnight. If you didn’t have a chance to, pat it dry as much as possible.
2) Get an oven-safe frying pan going on medium-high heat with your oil. Season chicken generously with salt and pepper. If chicken has skin, flour the skin side and shake off excess flour. (If you do not own an oven-safe pan, keep a small metal pan ready next to your stove, greased with a little oil.)
3) Your pan is ready when it is HOT. If you don’t hear anything while dipping a corner of the chicken into the pan: WAIT. Your chicken should sound like applause while it’s cooking. Once you get it in the pan, skin-side-down,…leave it alone for at least 3 minutes. I know it will be hard to resist moving it but you can do it. Go drink some wine and wash a few dishes.
4) After 3 minutes, using your tongs, check to see if the side down is golden brown. If so, now you can flip and sear the other side for 3 more minutes.
5) Pop the pan in the oven (or, move to your metal pan and pop that in the oven) and wait 5 minutes before checking the internal temperature. Pierce your chicken with the thermometer from the side, allowing the tip of the thermometer to reach the core. Re-use this hole everytime to avoid making a bunch of punctures in the chicken. When it has reached 158-159F/70C, remove from oven and transfer to a plate immediately. Allow chicken to rest 3-5 minutes before slicing.
I know that seems like a lot of words for something so simple. And maybe it is. But I didn’t want to miss anything because I feel like really simple delicious things are only attained when extra care is taken. And now, my favorite part, debunking myths about chicken…and eggs while we’re at it:
- Relax, hormones are not used in poultry production. A lot of brands will include “Hormone-Free” or something similar on their packaging. This is a marketing ploy that works on the general public’s fear of hormones used in meat production. Not only is hormone use in poultry feed illegal, but it is also ineffective and expensive.
- Stop washing your chicken. Not only are you wasting your time (the heat required to cook your chicken will totally annihilate all germs you may be worrying about) but you are also splashing chicken-water all over your sink and probably counter and maybe your clothes too. Have a plate ready, open the chicken package in your sink, and throw away the packaging immediately. Transfer immediately to a plate for seasoning and wash your sink thoroughly with dish soap. Done.
- Chicken skin isn’t that bad for you. Cooking skinless chicken is definitely missing a world of flavor. Keep it on, and if you’re not into it just remove it before eating. A lot of the fat rendered off the skin and into the meat and in your pan fond, so, relax and enjoy it. Just don’t eat 3.
- Brown eggs are not better than white eggs. Different species lay different colors, and the color is not at all indicative of flavor or quality. Also, we have to stop this rumor going around that white eggs are bleached. That is just silly.
- Free-range / Cage-free is better. Ethically, yes. Flavor-wise, probably. Plus, you’re sticking it to the man by buying local, small-farm poultry and eggs so I mean, why wouldn’t you?
Well that was a whole lot about chicken.
I am off to enjoy a few hours of this beautiful weather before work!