8 Tips for Cooking a Juicy and Flavorful Chicken Breast
What's for dinner tonight? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is probably chicken. For the first time in more than 100 years, chicken is more popular than beef, with the average person eating about 60 pounds per year. For many of us, the poultry we'll be serving for supper is chicken breast. While chicken breast is a great source of lean protein and a cinch to cook, it's also easy to prepare this cut in a way that leaves it tough, dry, and flavorless.
Chicken breast has a tendency to dry out during the cooking process: it’s leaner than other parts of the bird, and commonly prepared and sold without the skin. When the chicken breast is cooked, the small amount of fat that it does contain begins to melt; without the skin, this fat, which is both a source of moisture and flavor, quickly seeps out of the meat. When fattier skin-on cuts of chicken are cooked, the fat melts and bastes the meat, keeping it moist and juicy.
Chicken breast can also be difficult to cook if you don't own a meat thermometer. Any meat — poultry included — dries out if it is cooked to too high a temperature. Even if you're cooking chicken in a slow cooker or using lots of liquid, if the internal temperature of the chicken climbs too high, the bird will dry out. Without a way to measure the internal temperature, it can be difficult to know when chicken should be removed from the heat.
But don’t despair. It is possible (and easy) to cook a juicy and flavorful chicken breast: you just need to know a few simple tricks.
Brine the Chicken
Brining your chicken is well worth the extra time and effort. Letting the chicken soak overnight in a salty brine helps break down the poultry’s protein structure, making it more tender, and allows more moisture to be absorbed back into the bird, which helps it stay juicy. If you add spices or sugar to your brine, you’ll get extra flavor in your finished chicken breast.
Bread the Chicken
Much like the skin on a piece of chicken, an egg and breadcrumb coating traps moisture in chicken breast as it cooks. For easy breaded chicken, simply dredge the poultry into seasoned flour (flour with some added salt and pepper), then into a whisked egg, and finally into breadcrumbs.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal's Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.