Struggling to find quick and easy recipes for dinner? Chicken is a comforting meal that can be cooked in a variety of ways. Whether you choose lean cuts like chicken breasts or prefer flavour packed chicken thighs chicken is a meal that will leave your entire family feeling satisfied.
There are numerous ways to cook chicken. From braising to frying, to grilling the ways to cook chicken are endless. The versatility of chicken is unmatched by any other meat and it couples well with other flavours.
What makes the chicken so unique?
Chicken is so unique because of its nutritional value. Chicken is composed of digestible proteins. In fact, chicken is a complete protein and contains 9 essential amino acids. Chicken contains a low amount of saturated fats making it the perfect protein.
Chicken is rich in vitamin B12, choline, zinc, iron, and copper. Vitamin B12 helps with bodily functions, while choline maintains your cells and nerves. Iron is a vital part of hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout your body.
Chicken is an affordable meal that tastes great and its ability to pair well with other flavours. Chicken can be made with a variety of seasonings and spices. Can be dressed up or down and made into an appetizer, salad, snack, sandwich, or entree. It can be served hot or cold at any time of day.
Where did the chicken come from?
Chicken can be traced back to the jungles of Southeast Asia. The chickens we know and love today descended from the red jungle fowl tamed in India about 2000 B.C.
Most of today's domesticated fowls Cornish a British breed or White rock which originated in New England. Capons, broiler, fryer, Rock Cornish hens, and stewing and baking hens are all members of the chicken family.
Poultry is defined as the "edible flesh with adhering bones of any bird that is commonly used as food." Turkey, chicken, quail, duck pheasant, and geese are all members of the poultry family. The whole chicken can be cut into 8 segments:
- Chicken breast: Lean cut of white meat sliced from the pectoral tissue on at the base of the chicken. Whole chickens have one breast that is sliced in half and sold as two breasts. Chicken breasts are the popular cut of chicken. They have minuscule amounts of fat and are perfect for stir-fries, grilling, or roasting.
- Chicken wings: Chicken wings are cut from the whole bird. Wings come in three parts: the drumette, the flat, and the wingtip.
- Chicken Legs: Leg quarters are the uncut thigh and drumstick. The whole leg is generally cut from the hip joint.
- Chicken Drumsticks: Cut from the bottom portion of the leg, between the knee joint and hock. Drumsticks are popular finger foods usually baked or barbecued and smothered in a sticky delicious sauce.
- Chicken thighs: Cut from the upper portion of the leg above the knee joint between the thigh and drumstick. This dark meat is one of the cheapest cuts of chicken. Chicken thighs cook quickly. Bone-in chicken thighs hold onto moisture and flavour better than their counterparts.
- Whole chicken: The whole bird without the head. Includes chicken breast, wings, legs and thighs. Liver, heart and gizzard are removed. Makes the perfect roasted chicken. Ideal for feeding a family of 5-6 people
- Ground Chicken: Ground muscle meat, skin and fat in natural proportions. Perfect for burgers, meatballs, and meatloaf.
- Chicken tenders: Tender pieces of meat found under the chicken breast Tenders are about 1 ½ inches and succulent when fried. Chicken tenders make the perfect finger food. They can be served as chicken strips, chicken fillets, chicken tenders or chicken goujons.
10 Tips for a Perfectly Cooked Chicken
Cooking the perfect chicken is simple. Considering factors like the size of your pan or adding extra layers of moisture and flavour will help you produce a great product. Follow these tips if you learn how to master the art of cooking chicken.
Use a Brine
Brining is a technique that involves immersing meat in a salt, sugar, and water solution before cooking. You can add whole spices for an extra layer of flavour. Let the chicken brine for as long as you want to. The salt solution will provide additional moisture as it breaks down the muscle tissue and proteins trapping more liquid into the chicken.
Marinate your Chicken
Marinating chicken before it is cooked will help to retain moisture. It is best to marinate the chicken in a sealed bag or container and let flavours develop for 3-4 hours or preferably overnight. Marinades seep into the chicken during the cooking process. Marinades prevent the chicken from losing moisture giving you a tender and juicy piece of chicken.
Match your Cut of Chicken to the recipe
Matching the cut of meat to a recipe will help you to have a pleasant experience cooking chicken. Chicken breast should not be braised. This will result in a dry and tough product. Chicken thighs or legs are best for braising. They retain moisture better than chicken breasts.
Tenderize the Chicken
Tenderizing is the process of breaking down strands of muscle fibres and weakening collagen until it is converted into gelatin. This gelatin seeps into the meat providing a tender and juicy piece of chicken. Tenderizing can be done via marinade or meat mallet. Tenderizing chicken is excellent if you are frying, grilling, or roasting chicken.
High-Fat Content Equals More Flavour
Higher-fat content improves the flavour while increasing the moisture level and tenderness of the chicken. When the fat begins to dissolve it will stick to the surface of the chicken sealing in layers of flavour and moisture.
Choose your Pot Wisely
The shape of the pan affects the way the chicken cooks. Deep pots trap moisture inside steaming the chicken. A shallow pan will turn liquid into vapour and expose the chicken to air resulting in drier textures. Foods placed in the center of large pans hold a consistent temperature which aids in keeping the chicken moist.
Cook Room Temperature Chicken
This is one of the golden rules of cooking chicken. Do not cook frozen chicken. This will leave you with dry, bland, and flavourless chicken. Set the chicken on the countertop for 30 minutes minimum until it comes down to room temperature.
Cook the Chicken in a Hot Pan
Do not place the chicken into a cold pan. This will cause the chicken to lose moisture and the juices will evaporate while the pan is coming up to temperature. Placing chicken into a hot pan will minimize the likelihood of the chicken losing additional moisture.
Use a Thermometer
I'm sure you have been told your chicken is cooked when the liquid is translucent and the meat is no longer pink. The only way to tell if the chicken is fully cooked is by utilizing a thermometer. When the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees your chicken is done.
Cover Your Chicken With Foil
Near the end of the cooking stage, cover your chicken with foil to stop it from drying out. The foil will preserve the moisture while creating a tender and melt in your mouth chicken.
Understanding poultry cuts, as well as pairing cuts of chicken with the right recipes, will improve your end result. Follow these tips to create a tender, juicy chicken that will melt in your mouth.