Why are all my oven-baked meats overly moist?
I'm a novice cooker, and I've been trying to cook healthier foods, so lots of baked chicken and salmon (I use little or no oil). I know meat should be moist on the inside, but it's to the point where it's like I am dipping the meat in water before eating it. The meat is thoroughly cooked (no pink). I pat the meat dry with paper towels beforehand as well.
My usual times:
Chicken drumsticks baked at 425F for 30 minutes.
Salmon at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.
The only time I've had anything dry is when I cooked chicken breasts at 425 for 25 minutes (which completely baffles me since the pieces were way bigger than drumsticks).
two things come to mind:
1) maybe you are cooking the meet at a temperature that is too low so the moisture doesn't evaporate quickly enough. get an oven thermometer and confirm that the oven is really as hot as the setting says it is.
2) it is not uncommon for meat and poultry to be sold these days AFTER they have injected it or soaked in in water so that it will weigh more when you go to check out. sometimes this water is briney and has salt or seasonings in it which will make it "legal" for the store to sell the stuff as meat with "seasonings added."
That's very strange. I can understand the chicken breasts being dry because they are very lean. I've never had that problem with salmon or drumsticks. Do you bake them covered or uncovered? If they are sealed in foil or have a tight-fitting lid the moisture would be sealed in. Even if you do bake this way, try uncovering them toward the end of the baking time - maybe the last 10 mins for the drumsticks and 5 mins for the salmon. Hopefully that will help.
Try cooking ontop of a wire rack- so take something like a wire rack used for cooling cookies and put it inside of a baking sheet with a lip or other larger dish for baking. This way when cooking the meat's moisture will drain away and the hot oven air can circulate around it.
You need both an oven thermometer and a meat thermometer to know when your meats are at the correct temperature. Pull from the heat when the meat thermometet inserted into the center but not touching bone reads 10 less than the target temp, because residual heat will continue to increase the temp of the meat as it rests outside the oven.
How cold is the meat before you cook it? Supermarkets hold chicken, for example, at temps close to freezing. Meat should sit out on the counter for 20-30 minutes before cooking, unless it is a very thin cut. If you have frozen meat, you need to be sure it is thoroughly defrosted before cooking.
Another thought is that you are cutting/slicing without resting the meat first. As the center of the meat heats up, it drives the moisture toward the outside. Resting the meat allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. When you cut into rested meat, far less juice will run out and the meat will taste moister.
I think you got it right about not letting the meat rest. I tend to try it right after it comes out the oven, to make sure I haven't botched it up. The rest of my family doesn't seem to notice the moistness issue. What a ridiculous thing not to notice lol. Derp on my part :D
Thanks for everyone's replies, very helpful! I'll look into getting a food thermometer as well :D