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How to Keep Chicken Moist

How do you make very "moist," flavorful chicken or turkey? Take a few chicken breasts and either bake, steam, broil, put them in a Crock-Pot, or...? Kentucky Fried Chicken makes a nice moist chicken breast, but it is surrounded with fat and heavy crust, which tastes good, but carries too many grams of fat.

You have mentioned about 106 methods of cooking chicken, and any of them, or almost any of them are capable of turning out a moist piece of chicken. It's not rocket science — just don't overcook it.

The best, sure-fire way to help ensure that chicken turns out moist, whatever cooking method you use, is to brine it first. As it sits in the brine, the chicken absorbs extra moisture, so it can stand more overcooking before it dries out. And if you don't overcook it at all, it's terrifically moist and tender.

We have already mentioned a couple of our favorite methods — cooking in a microwave and poaching — in another article on cooking chicken breasts when you need shredded chicken, and you can certainly stop before you get to the shredding step.

If you're roasting a chicken, the US Department of Agriculture wants you to cook it until the temperature of the breast registers 170F (77C) with an instant-read thermometer, and 180F (82C) in the thigh. The USDA is concerned more with your safety from any hint of contamination than with the moistness of your chicken. Some cooks whose priorities are flipped, however, are willing to shave about 10F (5C) from those figures.

Also, you must remember that the bird continues to cook when you take it out of the oven, so you should remove it when it is still 5F to 15F or so (depending on the size) short of the goal. You also let a roast chicken (or turkey or pork roast — any large roast) rest for 5 minutes to a half an hour (again, depending on the weight of the roast) after you take if from the oven to allow it to finish its cooking, and, importantly, so that the juices in the meat that were pushed this way and that by the heat of cooking have a chance to be redistributed throughout the meat. This has a major impact on its juiciness. Madeleine Kamman, author of The New Making of a Cook, says if you have more than a tablespoon or two of juice on the cutting board when you cut into the roast, you didn't allow enough resting time.

Of course, chicken can also be broiled or grilled, two methods that seem to lend themselves to producing dry, dry chicken (generally caused by the application of too-high heat, in which the outside gets way overcooked by the time the inside is done).

Your friends at KFC pressure-fry their chicken in a method akin to broasting. If you're counting grams of fat, you might want to stay away from those methods until you lose count and have to start over.

We suggest you experiment with brining or start with the microwave method mentioned earlier. And once you have gained the confidence that a moist piece of chicken is within your grasp, you can successfully move on to the many other methods of not overcooking chicken.


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