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iso base recipe - boneless skinless chicken breast

Hi. Spring/Summer is upon us and I anticipate making lots of main course salads that include some protein. I am looking for a base/foundation recipe to cook those often bland and flavorless boneless skinless chicken breasts.

I'm suspect of roasting without the skin since I think it'd make the top layer of the skinless breast tough and stringy. Cooks Illustrated has a method where you saute for a few minutes and then add water, cover & cook until done but this seems like it would produce a rather bland product (thought admittedly I haven't tried it). Has anyone tried this method using chicken stock?

Does anyone have any other method/recipe that produces a moist, flavorful, tender product?

I anticipate using the chicken in structured salads (like a cobb or nicoise). Rather than chop the breasts, I'll probably use a fork to pull apart the tender fibers that would more readily adhere to a dressing.

Thanks!

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  1. I've had better luck roasting them closely packed in a small baking pan. I use skinless but on the bone breasts most of the time. What seems to help is coating the breast with turmeric, which acts almost like flour and helps keep some of the moisture in. Temp is usually around 325 and I just check them for doneness by poking. (If you were new at this I'd use a thermometer).

    1. i've never been a fan of boneless skinless breast meat, since it's nearly flavorless. you seem to agree, so what's the point? i use bone-in thighs, marinate, stuff garlic and herbs under the skin and roast. then when cool, pull off the skin and shred. it freezes nicely, so i can roast off huge batches at a time.

      if you insist on the boneless breasts a gentle poach in very flavorful stock would be your best bet. without skin and so little fat, this meat is a terrible candidate for sautee or roasting. be careful not to overcook it.

      1. Boiled chicken is boiled chicken. The water generally leaches out the flavor. The one way to avoid that is to first make a plain stock of chicken backs and necks. Then use that to poach your breasts. Then reserve that for yet another use, expecially if you think you're going to be poaching chicken a lot. Just make sure you bring the reused stock to a boil before adding the next batch of chicken and it will be fine.

        If you want to make Asian-style salads, look up a Chinese recipe for poaching chicken. These usually involve soy sauce, star anise and ginger and can be incredibly flavorful.

        I prefer to marinate and grill boneless chicken breasts for use in salads, whether shredded or sliced. It's easy to do this ahead and in quantity, but also can be done at the last minute since the breasts don't take that long to cook. The marinade I usually use is olive oil, garlic, chives, rosemary, parsley, sea salt, lemon juice and pepper. First I'l pound them to an even thickness so they cook quicker and more evenly. If you don't overcook them they remain moist and are great warm or cold on salads.

        1. I'm a big fan of poaching in chicken broth, to retain great moisture and flavor. My most common approach is to take chicken breasts, cut several slits in them, and stuff each with a garlic clove or half of one if they're large. Then I poach stove-top or on the microwave in chicken broth combined with onions and other herbs of my choosing, generally including a bay leaf. This is just a good method for getting them cooked, so you can use them however you like... atop salads, with a low fat dipping aioli, etc.

          1. Knowing the end point you've got in mind, bone-in (and, really, skin-on) chicken would be far more preferable. Boneless skinless chicken breasts are difficult to cook and hold or cook and use later without having them dry out. If you are definitely only going to use boneless/skinless, poaching is definitely the way I would go. Using chicken stock will help a lot, cooking them on a very low simmer will help a lot as well. I don't like the CI method on this one, I prefer to do the whole thing in simmering broth.

            Bone-in, skin-on breasts would give you the option to roast them, after which you can remove the skin (and the fat that goes with it). The bone will also help keep the chicken far moister and it'll keep better on the bone in the fridge.

            2 Replies
            1. re: ccbweb

              The other thing you can do when roasting skinless breasts is to cook them bone up for at least part of the time.

              I find that poaching tends to result in the breasts losing too much water.

              1. re: ccbweb

                I poach on the bone and skin on in chicken stock often with some chicken base added to the stock and some dry (Noilly Pratt) vermouth. I often enhance the stock further with slices of garlic, black pepper corns, bay leaf, parsley, celery and fresh thyme and let that steep a bit before poaching. If you are doing something Asian I'd change the vermouth to dry sherry and add some star anise and lemon grass and maybe a bit of cilantro.

              2. I'm NOT an experienced cook like most here, but isn't this the place to use brining? I don't think anyone has mentioned it yet.

                1. I don't know if you have a George Foreman Grill, but pretty much the only thing I use it for is boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I typically use tenders -- if using whole breasts, I either pound them to a consistent thickness or simply slice them in half the long way).

                  Make a marinade with salt (to taste, around a 1/2 tsp or so), lemon juice (about the juice of one lemon), chopped garlic, herbs of choice (I like fresh oregano, but also good with herbs de provence, etc.), and olive oil to taste. Marinade for 30 minutes or so. Grill on the George Foreman until just barely cooked through (I check with a knife in the thickest part, and take them off when it's just the *slightest* bit still pink). Put the cooked ones in a bowl and cover with foil while you "grill" the rest of them (the foil covering over the bowl will allow them to finish cooking). These are good both hot, chilled or even reheated (if you are careful with the cooking the first time around, they won't get over-done if you reheat briefly in the microwave).

                  1. Wrap them with strips of bacon...roast. Then use the bacon as an ingredient in salad, if that is the final product....

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: nyfoodjoe

                      poached bacon? um, that sounds awful.

                    2. To keep boneless skinless chicken breasts moist while you are baking them, put a couple of half-slices of bacon on each one. A nice addition is a few squirts of Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce on top of the bacon for the last 15 minutes. But if you just want to use the chicken in salads etc. just poach them in a little salted water or any liquid you like.