I think we can all agree, chicken breast can be dry and a bit bland. While nobody likes dry chicken breast, I am sure we are all guilty of overcooking chicken breast or at one time or another. Luckily there are a few tricks to help you prevent your chicken breast from drying out.
Marinade and Brines
Using a marinade or brine before cooking is of the utmost importance especially in the case of chicken breasts as it adds an extra level of protection to prevent the breast from drying out. Marinating is intended to tenderize tougher pieces of meat as well as deliver flavour and moisture to the meat, which persists throughout cooking. In contrast, brining involves submerging chicken breast in a saltwater solution to add flavour from the inside out, and it alters the chicken's molecular structure enabling the cells to hold more moisture. Both of these techniques work to trap moisture inside the chicken so it doesn't evaporate while the meat is cooking yielding a succulent, juicy, and tender chicken breast.
Dry-poach Chicken Breast
Dry poaching is a hybrid cooking method combining roasting and braising, and it works wonders for baked chicken breast. All you have to do is cut a piece of parchment paper that is larger than your baking dish and smear butter on one side of the paper. Butter your baking dish, season your chicken as desired, and lay it in the pan about an inch apart. Cover your chicken breast with the buttered parchment paper and roast it at 400 ℉.
This method locks in moisture by allowing the chicken to steam in butter and its own juices. With this technique, your chicken breast will always be tender, juicy, and richly flavoured with your seasoning of choice.
Sear The Skin Before Baking
Rather than placing the chicken breast straight into the oven, sear it on the stove before roasting. Not only will the skin be crispy and crunchy but it will preserve juices more than just baking it. Furthermore, the skin acts like a dam keeping the juices in the chicken instead of letting them escape.
Don't Underestimate the Power Of The Thermometer
Apart from letting you know when your meat is finished cooking, thermometers can prevent overcooking which results in a dry, tough chicken, and keep you from developing bacterial diseases like salmonella. Inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast, the thermometer should read 165℉ degrees, this is the temperature of a fully cooked chicken. This prevents the chicken breast moisture reserves from depleting. Additionally, if you finish preparing your chicken breasts and the temperature registers as 160℉, it will increase to 165℉ as it rests due to a process called carry-over cooking.
Let The Chicken Breast Rest
No matter which chicken breast recipe you've decided to make, once the cooking process is complete, let the chicken breast rest in aluminum foil for a minimum of 5-10 minutes before carving and serving. This allows the juices to be redistributed back into the meat making the chicken moist since the juices won't run out of the meat and onto the cutting board once it is carved.
When preparing chicken, it is best to think of it as a blank canvas. You are the artist who is blending different techniques and flavours to build a tender, juicy, and delicious masterpiece. Lastly, always remember what you put on the chicken is what you will get out of it!