Chicken breast has become the bane of my weeknight dinners. It’s the perfect lean protein to pair with veggies — but so difficult to get right. The middle doesn’t cook, the outside gets burned, and by the end, I’m left with a thick, dry piece of chicken that needs to be drowned in sauce to reinstate any moisture. So, what’s the fix? Here’s what I’ve found: Chicken breast doesn’t have a quick solution. Unlike chicken thighs, which cook beautifully without much work, they need a little extra care. There are, however, two ways to keep chicken breast moist. Neither is difficult (in my opinion), and they both work with baking and pan frying.
Don’t have time to read? Here are the two methods: Either coat the breast in a mix of corn starch and baking soda, or brine it in water and salt for 20 minutes. To go the extra mile, butterfly chicken breasts to reduce cooking time while keeping the middle nice and tender. Get all the details below.
How To Keep Chicken Breast Moist With a Dry Coating
Have you ever wondered why breaded chicken always stays moist? It’s because the outer coating prevents moisture from evaporating as the meat cooks. However, breaded chicken packs on calories thanks to crumbs, oil, and egg. A healthier (and quicker) solution is to coat your chicken in a mixture of half corn starch and half baking soda. Together, these ingredients dry the outer layer while locking moisture inside. As a bonus, that dry outer layer makes the chicken extra crispy when you fry it in a pan. It’s a win-win.
How To Keep Chicken Breast Moist With a Wet Coating
If you’d prefer chicken that has a juicier outer layer, a quick brine is your best bet; and you don’t need to pull out fancy spices to create it. Simply mix one tablespoon of salt for every cup of water you use — whether that’s one, two, or three cups will depend on how much meat you have. Then, soak the chicken for at least 30 minutes in the fridge, but preferably for two to three hours. (Soaking in the fridge is important, because it prevents microbes from multiplying on the raw meat.) Why does this work? The salt and water slowly diffuse into the meat, adding flavor and moisture.
If you don’t have the time required for this one, marinate your chicken breast in a simple mix of oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper for about 20 minutes instead. It might not seem like it, but that 20 minutes makes a big difference in terms of moisture and texture.
Bonus: How To Butterfly Cut Chicken Breast
If you have a little bit of extra time, butterfly-slicing your chicken breasts is a great way to keep the meat moist, because it reduces the cooking time. To do: First, press on the top of the breast; this helps keep the meat straight and in place as you slice, making it safer and easier to cut. Next, cut the breast starting at the thick side, keeping your knife as flat and level as possible. Check out this video tutorial from a chef for a demonstration of this technique.
Have any secret tips for keeping chicken breast moist? Let us know in the comments.
Also, check out our story on how to properly cook ground beef as it’s another meat that needs a little extra work to become tender and flavorful.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First for Women.
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