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What's wrong with my chicken?

I tried to cook chicken milanese last night. However, the end result was very dry. I took the internal temperature multiple times, but when it reached the desired 165 degrees, it ended up tasting too dry. What did I do wrong? What can I do next time so that the chicken doesn't turn out too dry?

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  1. How did you prepare it? If you walk us through each step of the preparation, we may be able to better help you trouble-shoot it. (I know it's sacrilege on this Board, but I don't use a thermometer to test doneness -- just time and a general sense of how the food should look & feel.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: masha

      I used Gwyneth Paltrow's chicken milanese recipe because it seemed fairly straightforward. Here's what I did:

      1) I put the chicken breasts in between two sheets of wax paper and pounded them with a mallet, until they were thin.

      **this is where there may have been a problem. I'd never pounded chicken breasts before, and I think they still might have been too thick.***

      2) I dipped each chicken breast in milk

      3) Then, I dredged each chicken breast in panko bread crumbs.

      4) I heated 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.

      5) Then I cooked the chicken until it was done

    2. I'm guessing the carry over raised it to a higher temp while resting.

      1. I agree with Masha, I don't check temperature (unless it's something like a whole chicken or roast beef, etc). You mention taking the internal temperature multiple times. When you poke a thermometer into meat (especially multiple times), the juices run out, leaving you with tough, dry meat.

        With thinner pieces of meat, I find it's easier to get used to how it springs back when you poke it with your index finger. It takes practice, but it's a much more accurate (and less damaging) way of testing when the meat is done.

        Also, keep in mind that chicken will continue to cook when it rests out of the pan, so if it read 165 in the skillet, it probably jumped up another 5-7 degrees while resting.

        For next time, I'd try dialing back your cooking time about 5 minutes, and then letting it rest a good 5 minutes or so out of the pan. If you cut into it and it's underdone, you can always throw it back in. But give it a few pokes along the way to familiarize yourself with how chicken feels as it gets to the point of doneness.

        5 Replies
        1. re: EggyEggoo

          I pulled the chicken out when it was 155 degrees because I read it would continue cooking after I took it out of the pan.

          1. re: EggyEggoo

            For sauteed breaded chicken breasts, I would typically let them cook about 8 minutes total (4 minutes per side) on a medium-to-medium high setting. So long as your heat is not too high, basically, once each side is a deep golden color, they are done. This is especially so if the chicken will rest for a few minutes while you make a sauce.

            Also, instead of pounding boneless breasts, I typically use a sharp knife to cut them in two horizontally -- i.e., moving the knife parallel to the cutting surface, so that I end up with 2 thinner cutlets from each 1 breast.

            1. re: EggyEggoo

              So, if the chicken's done will it spring back when you poke it?

              How do I tell it's underdone? Is it by cutting into it and making sure it's not pink?

              1. re: EggyEggoo

                Any details on what you're looking for with the poke method? I know it's probably hard to describe as you mention.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  The chicken firms up as it cooks. You'll learn from experience, as you practice. And, as I mentioned up-thread, the appearance of the chicken + the clock help you determine done-ness. Provided that the chicken breast is sufficiently thin, it should be done when cooked for about 4 minutes per side on medium high heat, with a deep golden brown color.

              2. could be your thermometer is off, but yes, please walk us through the steps of prep and cooking.

                also: i find the usda temp recs simply too high and i rarely use a thermometer

                1. I honestly think 165 is too high for chicken. I know that's what "they" say you should cook it to, but for me, that always results in dry chicken. I pull it off at around 140.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: juliejulez

                    It did seem done at 140, but since it was my 1st time cooking chicken like this, I was so worried about undercooking and giving everyone salmonella.

                    1. re: juliejulez

                      This is the best advice here.

                      Overcooking poultry breast meat (cooking to 165 degrees F) yields dry meat every time.

                      Instead, shoot for a final temperature of 150 degrees F. This will give you perfectly safe and very juicy breast meat.

                      And as for the belief that poking whole cuts of meat, such as chicken breast, with a thermometer probe or other piercing object will cause the juices to run out and leave you with dry meat . . . humbug. It's a myth. It's not true. Any juices lost will be localized to the area of the puncture. The rest of the meat will stay plenty juicy. So, fear not. Check your temps early and often. Or, even better (if the method allows), simply use a probe thermometer: set the desired temperature, walk away, then pull it when it beeps.

                    2. Although it was probably overcooked, I would also ask if it were good quality chicken. Makes a big difference. IMO, a bag of frozen Sam's chix breast will never be anything but tough and dry (with apologies to my Mother who thinks i'm just a snob)

                      I'm not sure how you would even get a temperature reading on a pounded-thin filet. I only use a thermometer on roasts and whole chickens. I'm sure it was hard to see with the coating of panko, but for pan sautes , when the bottom half of the chix isn't pink/translucent anymore , I flip it...then take it off 3-4 minutes later.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: danna

                        It was Kirkland Free Range. I think it was all-natural with no added antibiotics/hormones.

                        1. re: kdlalib

                          oh well, then it's all your fault!

                          Just kidding...better luck next time ;-)

                      2. Thermometers dont work very well on chicken cutlets.

                        Follow eggyeggoo's advice.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: C. Hamster

                          I have noticed this as well. I gave up on the thermometer for my chicken cordon bleu. Same temperature read --> overdone, just right, or still quite raw. The raw experience was wonderful. They looked underdone but the thermometer read a lovely 160F so I took them out and let them rest I think it was even 10 minutes. I started eating and the texture seemed off but I kept going as I guess I was hungry. It was just me and I happened to be on the couch eating in dim light while watching a movie and finally decided to give it a look see and the inside of the chicken (chicken roll ups) was literally raw. I just stuck it in the microwave but realized that the thermometer is not so helpful when the chicken breast is thin. I felt a bit defeated as I've finally learned to master the moist chicken breast 99% of the time. I find I get better results at higher temperature, shorter time and always be sure to rest.

                        2. If I have pounded a chicken breast, I never use a thermometer, as the meat is really too thin. I go by look/feel.
                          When breading cutlets, I fry to color, then put on a rack on a rimmed baking sheet and put them in the oven to finish. By the time everything else is ready to go, the breaded cutlets are finished cooking.
                          Never dry.
                          I also use at least a 3 step breading process, flour, moisture (milk, eggs), breading (either crumbs or another dip in the flour).

                          1. I recommend brining. It acts as insurance against over-cooking and I often find that chicken the next day takes on a fishy taste (anyone else?) but not when brined.
                            Dont be alarmed by the large amount of salt, only a small amount is absorbed by the chicken.
                            Here's one solution, but I have no doubt there are a million variations.

                            1.5 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
                            3 tablespoons table salt or 6 tablespoons Kosher
                            3 tablespoons sugar
                            1 1/2 quarts cold water
                            Dissolve salt and sugar in water and put chicken in for 30 minutes.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: blackpippi

                              What kind of container do you use? A roasting pan?

                              1. re: kdlalib

                                I don't brine very often but when I do, I just do it in a ziploc bag.. just like marinating :) If you're doing a whole chicken or something larger, you'd need a large plastic container with a lid I think.

                                1. re: juliejulez

                                  Or you could use one of those Ziploc Big Bags. They hold 10 gallons. http://www.amazon.com/Ziploc-Double-Z...

                                  I use them to brine turkeys, pork butts, whole briskets, and more.

                                2. re: kdlalib

                                  For chicken breasts I just use a mixing bowl. I do not cook chicken breasts without bring anymore. It's just too fast and easy.
                                  Cooks illustrated says to put in a zip lock bag and get out as much air as possible, but I just don't find this to be necessary.
                                  Again I do find that I leftover chicken tastes oddly fishy so if I don't brine I have to throw away the leftovers.
                                  Obviously for larger items, like a whole chicken or turkey, you have to get creative.

                              2. In this case, I do think you have been overcooking the breasts. 165 is too high. 150 is enough to kill all the pathogens and will make it less dry.

                                To be honest though, I don't like using boneless breasts for anything. If possible, I try to substitute boneless thighs, or cook the breasts bone-in. Either way will make a much juicier and flavorful meal, to my mind.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mwk

                                  Assuming 5% fat in the breast, if you cook the chicken (everywhere and uniformly) to 150 degrees you would need to hold the meat at that temperature for at least 2.8 minutes to eliminate Salmonella risk. That would probably happen naturally, but Salmonella doesn't immediately die at 150 degrees.

                                2. For future reference, when pounding chicken - unless the recipe specifies a particular measurement - your goal is to get the thickest part pounded until it's the same thickness as the thinnest part. The thinner areas require little or no pounding. For ease and neatness, put the meat inside a plastic bag or between sheets of plastic wrap before pounding.

                                  A pounded breast (also called a paillard) takes less than 4 minutes a side, IME. While you are learning, the best thing is to cut into it and take a look. A blush of pink at the center is okay when you pull it from the heat, since that will finish cooking through if you rest it for a few minutes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Thank you! I didn't know that about pounding. I'll definitely do it that way next time.