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Rubbery Chicken

I'm bummed. It's been a long time since I've cooked chicken breasts. I purchased Foster Farm's bone-in, skin on chicken breasts, brined then marinated for 5 hours in a lemon, olive oil and herb marinade, after which they were grilled.

One thing I observed was that the breasts were much, much larger than what I cooked years ago. Could this be why they came out rubbery, or was it because I grilled them (used to oven bake them).

I'm thinking of purchasing boneless skinless breasts from Costco next time. Perhaps I will get better results...?

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  1. FWF- you have lean meat.. but you bought it on the bone and WITH the protective skin on the outside (good idea) you brined it (smart move).. you marinated it on top of that with acid and oil.. you're trying hard for the juicy! And you get rubbery.. are you SURE it was rubbery ?? :-) j/k

    1) The obvious question.. cooking method.. did you cook this at high heat for a short time and then tear into it immediately? if so.. slow it down and let it rest before eating so the juices can return to the interior of the meat (if you are an experienced cook you just said "no duh dorklock").

    2) You are probably close to solution on you comment - baking vs grilling - much because of what I asked above. Even cooking method and heat versus high heat / short cook time of a hot grill. When cooking anything lean on the grill- try to sear the meat and then move to a cooler part of the grill to cook "quietly" for a while until done.

    3) Don't overcook chicken breasts! It's a very unforgiving cut of protein.

    1 Reply
    1. re: e_bone

      Thanks e_bone.

      I seared it on high heat then moved it over to the side of the grill with no heat. What should the max temp of the meat be before taking it off the grill, maybe this is where I made my error.

    2. My experience marinating with lemon is 5 hours is way too long. Lemon will cook anything within an hour. Don't brine and then marinate. You cooked the chicken with lemon and then cooked it on the grill.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Janet

        Well I'm glad I didn't marinate any longer!

        Don't brine then marinate...ever?

        1. re: Funwithfood

          Brine or marinate, never both.
          Lemon (citric acid) is very strong and will chemically "cook" your chicken (or other meats) in a relatively short time. Lemon should be added to the finished chicken, not the marinade.

          1. re: todao

            You are correct, sir! A late father-in-law of mine, an Armenian, gave me his recipe for lamb leg kebabs, which calls for marinating the cubed meat overnight in olive oil, lemon juice and herbs. For lamb this works well, because the meat is essentially cooked when it goes onto the skewers, and so all you have to cook is the vegetables! Which solves the major inherent problem of kebabs …

            c oliver's suggestion below is another good one, and somewhat related to the foregoing, since it uses the grill only for finishing and flavor. Poached is really the only way I love chicken breast anyway, cooked just until there's the faintest blush to the interior, and giving it a quick grill with something like herb butter or a good tasty sauce smeared on first strikes me as a really good idea.

            And to FWF, no, baking would not be better, since the chicken is NOT boiled, but poached off the heat in water that is cooling down. Holds in juices and flavor much better.

        2. re: Janet

          I've marinated with lemon in the marinade overnight with excellent results. Doesn't cook lamb or chicken, in my experience. Ceviche is a whole 'nuther thing, though.

          1. re: mcf

            The "cooking" that takes place in a ceviche is really just a change (lowering) of the PH balance in the protein that affectively cooks the fish by causing coagulation in the molecules. If the lemon juice in your marinade is sufficiently diluted with other ingredients (EVOO for instance) then the citric acid will act as a tenderizer but may not be strong enough to drop the PH and "cook" the protein.

        3. I haven't done bone-in breasts on the grill in ages but when I did I did a kinda/sorta Frugal Gourmet technique. I put the breasts in a pot of water, bring to a boil, cover, remove from heat and let sit 20 minutes (I think it was 20). At that point the chicken is done and you can then put it on the grill with whatever brushons you want. Just brown/crisp on both sides. One thing I loved about it is that I could do it somewhat ahead of time and then toss on the grill when everything else was ready. It was always a success.

          8 Replies
          1. re: c oliver

            That's an interesting idea. Would they be more flavorful though if baked rather than boiled? (Like with ribs). By doing this, you could brush on any number of flavors before finishing on the grill.

            1. re: Funwithfood

              I grill chicken all the time, including my least favorite thing, boneless, skinless breasts on occasion, for use atop a salad. They always come out perfectly browned outside and moist inside as long as I time them right.

              I don't brine them, sometimes I marinate them. The key is to put them on a grill set to low heat and to keep it there, no higher, and to turn them several times during cooking.

              I always grill chicken on low the whole way, and get the best balance between crispy skin and very moist meat that way.

              1. re: mcf

                Is there a temp at which chicken breasts are considered cooked correctly? I ask because I'm much more comfortable with temps (like when cooking beef). It's nice to have an objective measurement to shoot for, especially when doing a gazillion things at one time.

                1. re: Funwithfood

                  Yes, but the speed has a lot to do with your subject, rubberiness, not just temp. I cook chicken to 170, and using low heat (I'm using a Weber gas grill, other grill results will vary), I haven't had any dried out or rubbery ones yet.

                  1. re: Funwithfood

                    Pull at 150 then let rest loosely covered with foil. Carry over heat will take it to 160. Don't let the tip of your thermometer touch the bone though.

                    1. re: letsindulge

                      My husband won't touch chicken at 160 final temp; too much pink, rawish meat and blood, and I kind of agree, so grudgingly inched up toward 170.

                      1. re: mcf

                        I agree. I feel 160 is too low. I would pull around 160 carryover heat brings it to 165. I'd rather be a bit on the safer side when it comes to chicken. (this is coming from a guy who will order his steaks blue at a nice steakhouse! lol). I guess it's just paranoia on my end.

                2. re: Funwithfood

                  When using the oven, I'm roasting rather than baking so I really don't have an opinion about this. But you brush the things on after it's done. I don't feel like the flavor is absorbed into the meat but rather on the surface.

              2. This brings up something I've been thinking about for a while... I don't eat chicken often and it seems that when I do, I never like it. I've come to the conclusion that it isn't because of how I'm cooking it, as I've noticed the phenomenon I'm about to describe after having cooked it using a variety of methods.

                It seems to me that supermarket chicken nowadays always has a consistency that I find unpleasant. I don't really know how to describe it. "Rubbery" might be it. It seems sort of uniformly solid, as opposed to coming away in "strings" like the chicken of my youth. I attribute this to the evil way that chickens are raised nowadays, with what they are fed, inability to move, stacked on top of each other, etc.

                Has anyone else noticed this?

                8 Replies
                1. re: woodleyparkhound

                  You may be buying chickens that have been treated to a broth or sodium bath. Over brining produces a rubbery result. I don't buy factory farmed chickens, so I'm sure that affects texture and other qualities a lot, but as long as I get fresh, naturally raised and fed chicken, cook it using either low heat on the grill, or extremely high heat in the oven, I get a lot of moisture and the strings you speak of from the white meat, especially, every time.

                  1. re: woodleyparkhound

                    The chicken breasts I cooked years and years ago were more flavorful and pulled apart as you describe. It's hard to find bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts readily, when I did finally find them (Foster Farm's) they were *twice* the size they were back then.

                    1. re: Funwithfood

                      I experienced one of these rubbery chickens once. I boiled it to get meat for chicken a la king. I usually boil about 45 min. This one was so tough that I could hardly get my knife through the skin. I cooked it another 45 min. It was still so rubbery that it could have bounced off the floor. I have never experienced this before.
                      Now that I hear that someone else has experienced it I am becoming afraid, very afraid. These are obviously either mutants or the opening salvos of an alien invasion.

                      1. re: dratlover

                        I think it's simply that smaller is likely to be more tender. Unfortunately the small ones I saw at Bristol Farms yesterday were $4/pound.

                        1. re: dratlover

                          That was what a stewing hen was like, the one time I used it to make stock but have never had it happen with a chicken.

                        2. re: Funwithfood

                          I buy naturally raised chickens so they're not bionic and huge, and find that parts on the bone are easy to find, but mostly, I use a pair of shears to butterfly whole chicken or cut into parts. Takes a couple of minutes at most, and cooking on the bone yields a much moister meal... CI did this with breasts and found a huge diff, too. I cook breasts on the bone even if using for chicken salad, for instance.

                          1. re: mcf

                            I'd cut up a whole chicken, but unfortunately no one here eats dark meat.

                            1. re: Funwithfood

                              What, no pets? ;-) Sometimes you can buy whole or halved breasts with skin and bone, like hotel style turkey breast.