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Apr 12, 2005 12:56 AM

Brown chicken on all sides...

  • c

All chicken stew recipes start this way but I've never managed to do it. Even when I try to move the chicken pieces around almost continously, the skin always sticks to the bottom of the pot. It browns down there just fine, making a nice basis for the stew, but chicken looks ugly and browning the meat directly makes it dry and stringy.

Does anyone have suggestions that don't involve using a non-stick pan? (I'd have to buy a big one and I hate em'.)

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  1. Tips that should help your sticky situation:

    1. The best cookware is probably a sturdy Le Creuset (or something along those lines), although I don't own any myself and just use a heavy bottom Dutch oven or my All Clad saute pan.

    2. Def. sear w/ SKIN ON. It will look and taste better.

    3. Use a decent amount of oil, so that there's a thin layer evenly coating the bottom. I usually use canola oil for something like this.

    4. Sear on high heat. If it's too hot or smoky, then turn down to med-high. Splatter screens can come in handy here.

    5. DO NOT move the meat around too much! Your current method of moving it around doesn't help. It's normal for the skin to stick at first, but when the skin starts to caramelize, it will naturally release itself from the pan. This is the chicken's way of telling you it's ready to be flipped.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Carb Lover

      All good tips, Carb. Also make sure the pot is hot before adding the oil and that the oil is hot before browning the chicken.

      1. re: DK

        I usually wait to add my oil to a hot wok, but for something like browning meat in a Dutch oven, I slowly heat up my oil w/ the pan.

        How does adding oil after the pot is hot make a difference? Thanks for enlightening me...

        1. re: Carb Lover

          "How does adding oil after the pot is hot make a difference?"

          According to Martin Yan: Hot pan, cold oil, food won't stick.

          I am a med-hot pan person.

          I think I can determine how warm/hot the pan is when I add oil, vs. a cold pan, one would have to watch for the oil to shimmer ?

          1. re: Alan408

            No, not medium hot. Scalding hot. The type of heat that warps cheap cookware hot. Then you put in the oil. It's been a while since the chemisty lesson but best recollection has to do with the water attracting and water repelling properties found in fats (oil). The proper heating of the pan, which facilitates the proper heating of the oil, creates the best molecular buffer between the pan and food. Enjoy.

            1. re: Alan408

              "Hot pan, cold oil, foods won't stick."

              I know his name is mud in certain circles now (deservedly so) but Jeff Smith, the Frugal Gourmet, does still get to keep the credit for that non-rhyming saying. The only thing I ever learned from Martin Yan is to turn the channel quickly whenever he was hamming it up with that no-look chopping cleaver trick of his.

              The way I judge a really hot pan before adding oil is to fling a few drops of water into the pan. If it sizzles away immediately or, even better, rolls around as if it were beads of oil, the pan is hot enough for oil.

              Once you add the oil, you can tell it has gotten hot enough if the viscosity of the oil changes to more water-like than oil-like when you shake the pan. Cook's Illustrated recommends waiting for the oil to smoke but those fumes are pretty nasty if you wait that long.

              1. re: jennyantepenultimate

                To test the heat of the oil, dip the tip of a wooden chopstick in. It's hot enough when the bubbles form and rise very fast.

        2. re: Carb Lover

          Read suggestion 5 over and over. Leaving browning meat alone is a very hard thing to teach yourself to do, but it will let go when it is ready to move. Also, don't crowd the pan, leave sapce around the pieces, if the pan is crowded the meat will steam and not brown nicely.

        3. Never add oil to a super hot pan or it will burn.
          Heat your pan over low heat for 3 minutes or until a drop of water will dance across the surface of the pan. Add oil and turn heat to medium-high for thick pieces of meat (chicken parts). Add only enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan when swirled around lightly. Here is the key: Wait until the oil just begins to smoke and then add the chicken in small batches. Leave the food alone until it gets a deep brown and then turn it to even out the color. The darker brown it gets the more flavor it will have.

          Thoroughly dry the chicken pieces with paper towels before adding to the pan
          If it sticks the pan is not hot enough
          Don't use more oil than just enough to coat the bottom of the pan or the excess will be drawn into the food
          Use an oil with a high smoke point for superior browning: peanut or avocado oil work well
          Don't forget about the brown bits in the bottom of the pan, these are called fond and have tremendous flavor; pour off the oil when you are done and deglaze the pan as appropriate for the recipe and add the mixture to your stew