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Preparing Perfectly Cooked Chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a staple ingredient in most households. This cut of chicken fits in effortlessly with busy lifestyles and can be used in so many ways. It's convenient, easy to prepare and low in fat, making it a go-to protein choice for entrées. However, the same characteristics that make chicken lean and easy to make can also cause it to cook too quickly, often resulting in a tough, dry piece of meat.

With just a few techniques, you can prepare your favorite chicken recipe featuring boneless, skinless cuts with the confidence of a professional chef.

Keep Things Uniform

In a perfect hen house, chicken cuts would come in the same size and shape, eliminating the guesswork out of cooking times. But, let's face it–that egg has never hatched. Chicken breasts can range from 4 ounces to a thick 1-pound piece, throwing off your cooking times in a big way. Having portions equal in weight and size allows for uniform cooking so they'll all be done at the same time.

Remember SCS: Select, Cut & Slice

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  • Select portions that weigh 4 to 5 ounces. Avoid extreme differences in weight or excessively large cuts.
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  • Cut and Slice your meat into equal-sized cubes, pieces or strips. This ensures every piece of chicken will cook quickly and be done at the same time.

Pound It Out!

Recipes like Creamy Chicken Piccata or Pollo Parmigiana feature boneless, skinless chicken breasts that have been pounded thin. This age-old technique is fantastic! Not only does it allow the chicken to cook evenly, but it speeds up your cooking time too. Pounding also tenderizes the meat, making it even tastier! It's as easy as 1-2-3:
  • Place each chicken breast between two sheets of thick plastic such as wax paper or a re-sealable storage bag.
  • Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer or a heavy rolling pin, gently pound the chicken breast starting from center and working your way out, until the breast is about a ½-inch thick.
  • Season and prepare as the recipe directs and you're good to go!
Pounded chicken breasts work best for sautéing or pan frying. Placed in a pre-heated pan over medium-high heat, they'll cook in about 3-4 minutes per side as opposed to an un-pounded breast, which will take about 5-7 minutes per side. Remember: Always use an instant-read thermometer to ensure the chicken breasts are cooked to 165º.*

Marinate for Moisture & Flavor

Marinades are typically prepared dressings or some combination of wine, juices and seasonings. They not only lend flavor to chicken but also add moisture and tenderize the flesh, preventing it from drying out as it cooks so you can enjoy every tasty bite!

Marinades are often associated with grilling recipes such as Rosemary Marinated Grilled Chicken. However, marinated chicken can be used for any recipe — whether grilled, baked, pan-fried or sautéed. Plus, it's effortless — the marinade does the work for you.

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  • Place the boneless, skinless chicken breasts and the marinade in a large, re-sealable plastic bag.
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  • Seal the bag and refrigerate for a minimum of 20 minutes, but no longer than 3 hours. Turn the bag occasionally so the marinade coats the chicken evenly.
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  • When ready to cook, remove the chicken and discard the marinade. Prepare according to the recipe directions.

With these techniques on hand, you'll find that the bird sizzling in your pan is so much more delicious than any two in the bush!

* Food Safety Tips! All chicken pieces with or without the bone or skin must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165ºF. Whole chickens must be cooked to an internal temperature of 185ºF.

Elderly people, pregnant women, children and people with compromised immune systems should not eat any undercooked animal protein.

** Always marinate food in the refrigerator and keep it covered to prevent bacteria growth. Do not use marinades as a basting sauce because there may be a build-up of harmful bacteria.