End the madness…
How many gym goers do we see trying to ingest a sad excuse of a meal with some plain bland and dry chicken breasts? I’ve even witnessed some people who tried blending their boiled chicken breasts into a protein shake just to try and make it easier to swallow. Suffer no more and let’s get down to the root of the problem!
Chicken breasts have long been attributed to a healthy diet because of its high lean protein content and low calories. Many people who have been trying to either lose weight or just gain some muscle mass by adding their protein intake have relied on this meat. The catch is that it must be boneless and skinless to prevent “unhealthy” fats and this is where the problem starts.
Skin and bones contain a lot of fat and collagen which means more flavor. The muscles that get the most movement actually contains the most amount of collagen but this also makes it tougher. The breast of the chicken doesn’t actually get a lot of movement since it’s a flightless bird so if you remove the skin and bones, you have nothing left but pure meat. All hope is not lost as here are some tips to properly cook juicy chicken breasts.
1. Know Your Source
Unfortunately, the Philippines isn’t that strict when it comes to regulations so depending on where you get your meat, some sellers inject their chickens with some unknown liquids to add some weight into their products. This not only drastically shrinks the chicken when the liquid evaporates as you cook it but also affects the quality of your meat. How do we know if your supplier is trust worthy? Aside from government permits and loose regulations, there really is no sure fire way in knowing aside from just trial and error.
2. Temperature Control
Another factor is if the meat was not frozen or thawed out properly, this could also change the protein structure. Generally raw chicken meat should be kept chilled for only one or two days while frozen for 9 months before quality goes down. Properly thawing out your meat would mean transferring it from the freezer to the chiller overnight and then bringing it out to room temperature before cooking. Make sure to pat it dry with a paper towel before cooking as the excess liquid causes steam and gets in the way of creating a good golden brown color.
A lot of people seem to forget seasoning their chickens. If you are grilling or searing your chicken breasts, it’s best to season generously and evenly on all sides. Make sure to add a little bit of oil as you season to make sure your seasoning sticks.
4. Hot Pan
I know we are all hungry from all that running and working out but patience is a virtue. Starting off with a hot pan is an important reminder and a common mistake beginner cooks seem to make. How do you know if your pan and oil is hot enough? Either hover your hand over the pan or try putting a really small test piece. Use your senses and see if the piece instantly has a reaction to the oil or does it just sit there? Listen if the piece creates that wonderful sizzling sound.
5. The Right Timing
Another culprit to dry chicken breasts is overcooking it. A few minutes on each side should be enough and if your chicken breast is too thick, slice it in half horizontally. Also don’t move it around too much once you’ve placed it in the pan as this prevents it from getting that nice color.
Chef’s Tip: How do you know if the inside is cooked all the way through? Make a small incision with a thin knife and take a peak. If you can’t see then stick the knife half way through, let it stay for a few seconds and as you pull it out, quickly touch the tip with the back of your palm or chin. If the knife is warm to touch then it should be cooked.
6. Letting It Rest
Just like how you need to rest in between sets in the gym, cooking meat requires for you to let it rest before slicing it. Slicing too soon would make all of its juices escape. Let it rest for a few minutes and take a few photos for Instagram.
Caramelized Onions and Malunggay stuffed Chicken Breast
Serves 4-5 people
1 liter of water
1/4 cup sugar of your choice
1/4 cup salt
1 stalk of lemongrass
5 cloves of garlic
1 piece of bay leaf
1kg of whole boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 bundle of malunggay
1 head of white onion
2 tbsp of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
6 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp spanish paprika
3 tbsp salt
3 tbsp black pepper
– Mince the garlic and slice the stalks of the lemongrass.
– Dissolve the salt and sugar in the water and add the garlic, bay leaf and lemongrass
– Add the chicken breast and marinate overnight in the chiller
– Thinly slice the onions and caramelize them with butter. Add malunggay leaves once fully cooked. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside
Remove chicken from the brine and pat dry. Make a small incision at the top and thickest part of the chicken breast and stuff it with your caramelized onions and malunggay filling. If your chicken is too thin like about less than half an inch, then sandwich two pieces together and tie it with your butcher’s twine or leftover lemongrass leaves. Mix your dry rub in a separate bowl and evenly season the outside of your chicken breasts. Have your hot pan ready with cooking oil and sear until golden brown on both sides. If you have achieved the color that you want but the inside isn’t fully cooked yet, you can lower the heat of your stove and put a lid on it to insulate the heat or if you have an oven, you can finish it for 5 minutes at 180C.