How to Cook Chicken without Drying it Out

perfectly cooked whole chicken with tomatoes and onion cut up on the side

If there’s one meat that everyone in your family can agree on for dinner, it’s chicken. Along with being affordable, healthy, and delicious, chicken is an incredibly versatile ingredient that can be prepared in countless ways, making it perfect for virtually any dish requiring protein. While chicken is relatively easy to handle and cook, it’s also very easy to overcook. Let’s face it; we’ve all had chicken that was dry and chewy rather than juicy and flavorful. The good news is that cooking mouth-watering chicken that you’d find in a restaurant is easier than you may think. Check out these simple tips from International Fresh Market to prevent your next chicken dinner from drying out.

Consider the Type 

First things first, it’s important to pick the right chicken for your particular needs. Not every piece or cut of chicken will have the same cooking requirements. For instance, pieces of chicken without bones or skin will cook much faster than bone-in or skin-on pieces will. Likewise, boneless, skinless chicken will be more likely to dry out quicker. Dark meat (legs and thighs) is naturally juicier than white meat (breasts and wings), which means they’re harder to overcook. If you’re concerned about drying your chicken out, it may be a good idea to stick with pieces that are bone-in, skin-on or dark meat. 

Size Matters

One of the most effective steps you can take to ensure that every bite of your chicken is cooked evenly is to prepare pieces that are the same size. Cooking pieces of chicken that are different sizes or thicknesses will result in some parts being underdone and others being overdone.  Taking the time to make sure your chicken is the same size and even is especially important when grilling or baking chicken breasts. While chicken breasts aren’t naturally flat (one side is thicker than the other), it’s easy to even them out by pounding them with a mallet, rolling pin, or even a small skillet. Similarly, for recipes that call for cutting your chicken into bites, be sure that pieces are uniform in size. The result will be chicken that is tender and moist every time.

Brine, Baby, Brine

You’ve probably heard of brining the turkey at Thanksgiving to give it extra flavor and moisture. Brining your chicken can have the same effect! Salting your chicken generously is a great way to seal in its juices, but it’s often not enough to prevent it from becoming as moist as it could be. Brines are a salty (and sometimes mildly sweet) liquid solution that meats are soaked in before they’re cooked. The protein in the meat works together with the salt and sugar in the brine to lock in moisture. Even better, brines can be altered to incorporate different flavors, allowing you to infuse flavor into the whole chicken rather than just its exterior.

Prep Accordingly

Cooking chicken doesn’t have to be a complicated or overwhelming process. The steps you take beforehand can make all the difference in creating dishes that you’ll be proud to serve your family and friends. Here are some tips to help you prepare the perfect chicken time and time again:

  • Let your chicken thaw out completely. Trying to cook cold or frozen chicken is a surefire way to end up with a finished product that is unevenly cooked or dry.
  • If you’re grilling, make sure the grill is clean and well-oiled. A clean, oily surface will prevent your chicken from sticking.
  • Lower the temperature. If your oven, stove, or grill is too high, the outside of the chicken will burn before the inside is cooked through.
close up shot of roasted piece of chicken being pierced by fork

Use a Thermometer

Whether you’re a seasoned home chef or it’s your first time putting on an apron, there are some steps that are worth taking every time to make sure your chicken is cooked to perfection. Using a thermometer is one of those steps. Even if you’ve prepared chicken the same way a hundred times, a thermometer can prevent the unfortunate surprise of your chicken drying out unexpectedly. It’s true that some visible signs can indicate that your meat is done and safe to eat, such as seeing juices that run clear when you cut it or meat that is no longer pink. However, the best way to check for doneness without overcooking your chicken is to bring the thickest part of the bird to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If the chicken continues to cook past this point, it will likely be dry and stringy. With this in mind, don’t hesitate to break out the meat thermometer when you step into the kitchen.

Let Your Bird Rest

When it comes to preparing the most delicious chicken possible, the things that you don’t do are just as important as the things you do. Regardless of whether you bake a whole chicken in the oven, grill boneless chicken thighs on the grill, or pan fry chicken strips on the stove, letting your bird rest after taking it off the heat is a must. While most people are eager to cut right into their chicken to see if it’s thoroughly cooked or to taste it, doing so could cause your chicken to become dry. Why? Along with allowing the chicken to cook for a few minutes, resting meat as it cools down encourages the juices to redistribute and lock in. Cutting the chicken too soon could prevent this and let the juices flow out. 

Take Your Chicken to the Next Level with International Fresh Market

At International Fresh Market, we believe that cooking delicious meals is within everyone’s reach with the right ingredients. That’s why we’re proud to offer quality products from around the world to ensure that any dish you prepare is the best it can be. For more tips on cooking juicy, tender chicken, shop meats from around the world, or find the ingredients for your family’s next meal, contact us today. We can’t wait to show you how simple and enjoyable preparing meals at home can be.

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