Chicken breast, especially the skinless variety, is an excellent lean protein choice for healthy lifestyles. Its low fat and calorie content make it an ideal choice for lighter meals, though one big bummer is that it’s so easy to dry it out, no matter if you cook it in the oven or on the stove. Here are some tips to help retain moisture and juiciness in your chicken breast so you can enjoy healthier meals without sacrificing texture or flavor.
Wrap It In Parchment
The parchment paper will behave like the skin of a chicken breast and will help retain moisture as it bakes, a method known as dry-poaching. After seasoning, wrap each breast individually in parchment paper before placing it into the oven.
Don’t Overcook – Use A Thermometer
This is a no-brainer, but it can’t be stated enough. Overcooking a skinless chicken breast is one of the worst things you can do if you’re trying to end up with a juicy result. The FDA recommends an internal temperature of 165 degrees, but I recommend taking it out 5-7 degrees lower than that and letting it rest (see next tip) to gain those last few degrees. A high quality meat thermometer is a staple for any kitchen, and I personally use and love this digital one. The probe folds up so it takes up less space in your drawer, and it’ll give a reading in just a few seconds, so if you’re using the oven you won’t be leaving the oven door open for too long!
Give It A Rest
When you finish cooking the chicken (stopping a few degrees shy of 165, as described above) wrap the breasts or the dish tightly in foil and allow it to rest for a solid 5 minutes. By doing this, the juices inside will have a chance to finish spreading throughout the meat instead of all leaking out at once when you first cut into it.
Steam Is Your Friend
Using a method known as “Cockaigne” from The Joy of Cooking, this method claims a foolproof way to never overcook or dry out chicken breasts. Here’s how to do it: Heat 1/2 TBS of butter and 1/2 TBS of oil per breast in a pan over medium heat until the butter melts and things start to bubble a little bit. Meanwhile, pat the chicken breasts dry, season however you like, and lightly dust the outside with flour (or almond flour if you’re watching the carbs). Place the chicken in the pan, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes, moving and turning the chicken 2-3 times (quickly so as not to release too much steam). At the end of the 15 minutes, move the pan off of the heat, leave the cover on and allow them to sit for an additional 10-12 minutes.
This is a great method if you need some juicy cooked chicken to use in other recipes, such as casseroles or salads.
Slow Cookers Rule
I’m no stranger to sad, dried out skinless chicken breast, but I’ve noticed that cooking chicken breast meals in the Crock Pot, as long as they contain plenty of liquid or sauce, results in a much juicier chicken than simply baking it. The steam and condensation that builds up in the crock pot for a longer amount of time helps the meat to retain moisture, and the best part is that you can toss the ingredients in there in the morning and come home to a delicious-smelling house that afternoon. But I don’t need to tell you how awesome slow cooker meals are – I’m sure you already know.
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