Boneless chicken is amazing. For one thing, it cooks quickly and is really easy to eat. For another, it is a lean, low-fat source of protein – making it healthy, too. While bone-in chicken is known to be more tender, it’s not the most convenient way to eat meat in salads, fast food, stir fries, and the like.
Here, we’ve put together a few tips so you can enjoy tender and moist boneless chicken every time you cook it.
When you’re cooking boneless meat, keep an eye on the size of the piece(s) of meat. If you’re pan-frying a whole chicken breast for instance, it should be uniformly thick throughout. If it is thicker on one end than the other, the thinner end will cook faster and end up being overcooked and dry by the time the thicker end is cooked just right. Just pound the thicker end lightly before you cook it. If you’re cooking pieces of boneless chicken, see to it that all the pieces are of somewhat the same size so they all cook in the same amount of time.
Give it a good soak in salt water
This process is called brining, and chefs all over the world swear by it. Brine is a solution of 1 tablespoon of salt per cup of water. When you soak chicken in this brine solution, it absorbs and retains the salt and water, so even if you end up overcooking it a little bit, you’ll be left with tender meat. When you’re brining boneless pieces of chicken, soak them for an hour or two in the brine solution in your refrigerator, and you’ll have moist, tender chicken, every time you cook.
Coat it in flour or flavour
Another great way to ensure the chicken retains its juices while it’s cooking is to give it a coating. The simplest way is to dredge it in flour. This also prevents the meat from sticking to the pan and gives it a lovely crunchy exterior. If you’d like to take this a little further, coat it in seasoned flour, breadcrumbs, a marinade… all these help the meat retain moisture and taste better.
Cook only at room temperature
When you cook chicken straight from the fridge, the heat of the pan ends up drying the outside before the inside is cooked. So you end up with meat that’s dry and overcooked. Room temperature meat cooks through more uniformly, and fewer juices are lost in cooking. So we’d suggest leaving the chicken out for 15-20 minutes and start cooking only when it gets to room temperature.
Basting is great way to keep boneless chicken moist while it’s cooking. Especially when you’re cooking larger pieces of chicken like a whole breast or thigh, on high heat. To baste, pick up the cooking juices or oil/butter from the pan and pour/spread them over the pieces of chicken. This adds flavour and prevents the meat from drying out as it is cooking.
Let it rest
One big mistake we’ve all made while cooking meat is rushing to eat it, and losing all the juices in the process. Yes, it looks delicious and you really want to gorge on it right away, but resting allows the juices to redistribute themselves so when you cut into it, you don’t waste them on your plate. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wait for ages, though. Just leave the cooked chicken in its serving dish for about 5 minutes before eating.