I find myself eating a decent amount of chicken breasts. I decided to try and find a few decent recipes for baking it. Something I can put together quickly, come back 30-60 minutes later and have a delicious meat.
So after reading a few recipes, I found that everyone has a different way of baking it. Sometimes in a pan with foil over it, sometimes open to the oven. Each time a different heat, in turn, changing the length of time.
So I was curious about the fundamental process of baking chicken.
What is the ideal way? Does this way vary depending on the other ingredients?
My goal is cook some skinless chicken breasts, and keep them very moist. So which is the best way to cook these?
Any ideas? Recommendations?
Just don't overcook it. There's a real narrow window between undercooked and dried out. As you get close, take test slices off of a "tester" breast every 2-3 minutes until you learn where that threshold is.
You can get a literal feel for doneness by pressing the breast with your finger. When the meat is still underdone, the meat will still feel squishy. When it's cooked enough it'll feel different. Firmed up, but not dense like the instep of a work boot. Easy to show this in person. Difficult to explain in writing.
Also: chicken breasts will cook more evenly if you pound it to the same thickness prior to cooking. Lay meat between saran wrap, and use a meat mallet or the side of an empty wine bottle to pound it out. Use a "smearing" motion until the meat's the same thickness throughout.
Baking, frying, grilling, poaching, really the cooking method doesn't matter. All of them will dry out chicken breast if you're careless. All of them will yield moist juicy meat as long as you're paying attention and pull the meat when it's just cooked through.
Since the skin has been removed, you need to protect the meat from the dry heat of the oven. Possibilities are: 1) Cut slices of bacon in half. Lay a couple of pieces of bacon on each boneless skinless chicken breasts so that the meat is tucked inside the bacon. Bake. This will keep the meat moist and impart a nice flavor to the chicken. 2) I know how gross and unchowhoundish this sounds but it is actually edible and if you are in a hurry and are on a budget, it's an option: lay the b sk chicken breasts on a baking dish and dump a can of Campbell's Cream of (Mushroom, Chicken, or Celery) soup over them. Don't dilute the soup and for goodness' sake don't add any more salt as the soup is super-salty. As the chicken bakes it will exude chicken juice which will combine with the soup and make a not-bad gravy. It's a good idea to put a potato or sweet potato in the oven to bake at the same time. 3) Sprinkle the b sk chicken breasts generously with soy sauce and garlic powder. Cover with foil or a lid. Bake for half an hour then remove the cover, add a small can of crushed pineapple, and finish baking for another half-hour; serve with rice. You can always bake b sk chicken breasts successfully if you cover them with something to keep them moist (canned gravy, spaghetti sauce, any of Trader Joe's "Simmer Sauces", salsa, etc). You can also wrap them in foil (with or without additions). Or you can brown them first, add mushrooms and wine or cream or whatever, and bake them covered ("smothered chicken").
Prof. Salt is spot on with the mechanics of cooking chicken breasts. But, this much-maligned portion of poultry also has a culinary savior for moistness and flavor...brining.
Chicken breasts are the perfect medium for a quick, (1-2 hours) immersion in your favorite brine solution. Moistness, tenderness, and most importantly flavor will enhance the quality of the meat. And, brining will give you a bit of a grace period between wonderfully moist and Sahara dry.
Totally agree with the idea of brining, but I'd also recommend that the OP should seriously consider bone-in breasts.
Also, a nice soak in buttermilk is a good way to improve the flavor of any chicken parts. Last night we marinated skinless boneless breasts (husband bought them, I normally buy thighs or bone-in breasts) for 2 hours, then breaded them in panko and sauteed. Very tasty.
This is how my Mom solves the dry problem. I usually cut this down for my small family, although the leftovers make great sandwiches (sliced).
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb.)
2 T. butter
1/2 c. (2 oz.) grated Parmesan Cheese
1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
1 t. dried oregano
1 T. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 t. paprika
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
Melt the butter in a 15 inch pyrex pan(while the oven is pre-heating). Mix parmesan, crumbs, and seasoning. Dip chicken in butter, coat with crumb mixture. Spread out on pan. Bake at 400°F for 20 -25 minutes until lightly browned and chicken is done.