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Sauteed chicken pieces?

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My husband and I--decent, self-taught cooks--have been trying to move beyond whole roast chicken to some more interesting variations. In recent weeks we've made coq au vin, pan roasted chicken and jambalaya. Neither of us has been able to brown the chicken pieces (always bone-in, skin-on) without some serious sticking. We have good equipment (Le Crueset, All-Clad, Sitram) and try to follow the recipes (mostly from Cooks' Illustrated and the like) to a T, to no avail. We use chickens from our local farmers' market that we cut up ourselves; a lot of times these don't have a lot of skin to begin with around the upper breast/neck area so we try to be very careful. We don't have this problem with other meats.

It is interesting to me that despite the apparent impending disaster, the end result is generally at least OK. We expected the pan-roasted chicken, made on Saturday, to be a total loss, but it was actually really good despite a few dry bits (we brined it beforehand, and the pan sauce was very tasty after we fished out the big pieces of chicken skin that had stuck to the pan).

Do any of you have some tips to help us refine our technique? I am keen to work on my fish searing but feel I have to master birds first...

Many thanks in advance!

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  1. In my experience (I presume you're not using non-stick cookware), I keep the following things in mind:

    a) Hot pan
    b) Lubricate when pan is hot
    c) Do not flip too quickly, wait a few minutes, be patient or you may end up ripping up the pieces of chicken (This is the hardest habit for me to break)
    d) There will be inevitable "sticking", in the form of brown bits on the bottom of the cooking surface (but not torn up shreds of chicken).

    Hope that's of help.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Curtis

      You can't brine chicken and expect it to be crispy.
      The biggest secret is the drier the chicken the better.
      I leave my chicken on paper towels, for a couple of hours, even though I use only organic chicken.
      Two options:
      Shake lightly in flour
      Squeeze lightly with lemon to bring out more flavour.
      Both optional, not necessary.
      Of course, as the others have said Hot Oil, and hot pan.
      Never crowd chicken, as this reduces the heat level to simmer, rather than fry.
      You will have perfect golden chicken every time

    2. Here's the best thing I learned in cooking school. It applies to all things that you want to brown. Works great for chicken, beef, mushrooms etc.

      Get the pan HOT. Put oil in it. Put the chicken in skin side down. Put your hands in your pockets. DO NOT TOUCH THE CHICKEN. Seriously. Leave it alone for at least 8 minutes. Don't poke it, don't try and see if it's brown, don't do anything. Just let it go. The temptation kills me, but it does work. 8 minutes. No, it won't burn :-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: Cyndy

        I didn't learn this in cooking school but I did learn it by watching Alton Brown and yes, it works! I've noticed my chicken is juicier now that I only turn it once, as well. By leaving it alone I always get well-browned, juicy, cooked-through chicken.

        1. re: Krissywats

          Yup.

          It's not the only thing I learned in cooking school, but it was the first lesson and I still think it was the best one. Or perhaps it's just that I have gotten older and forgotten everything else!