With the buzz of Gwyneth Paltrow’s 1 bird 3 meals, I thought I’d simplify it down a bit assuming like most of us you are using those lovely packets of individual boneless, skinless breasts you buy at Costco or TJoes. And I’ll also confess that I had one experience I will never forget, making the dreaded Wooden Chicken. This was a very long time ago, and over time I’ve figured out what method of cooking chicken works best for me. I hope this is helpful to you.
The first thing I do usually to infuse flavor before the refreeze of the packets I’ve bought, is to treat the chicken in easy or complex ways. I take each breast out, nicely stab it with a fork, put it into individual ziploc baggies and then add whatever flavor I want. At minimum (if not in creative spirit) olive oil, sea salt and pepper. This one step alone saves you oodles of time when you are ready for your chicken. I’ve done this bbq sauce, lemon pepper seasoning, balsamic vinegar, italian seasonings, honey, lemon, caribbean herbs, herb de provence, citrus, etc. Anything you want to do, do it before you freeze it and the flavor will set in as it freezes.
Ok so say you missed this step and you have to wait now hours to dethaw (I am not a fan of microwave dethawing so that means in the fridge which equals hours), then once almost dethawed you can do the same. You’ll get similar results, but again, you’ve lost time you had to start with and cooking on the fly with chicken if not properly dethawed throughout can be an issue. Not taking my own advice recently my chicken made it to the freezer untreated. So Sunday I took my chicken out of the freezer to fridge and then yesterday treated and used it. Not ideal but I did get fabulous results, because I know how to cook the chicken. In this example, treating the chicken and tossing it around a bit in the ziploc bag and letting it sit in the fridge for a half hour was good enough, since it was also going into chicken noodle soup yesterday. The flavoring I used was one of my favs- TJoes lemon pepper seasoning.
Here is the major caveat for cooking chicken, you really have to know your oven, but once you figure it out, it will be easy to replicate. For instance in previous ovens, I’ve cooked the chicken for 15 minutes on each side at 350F (modern oven), in another kitchen 375F for 20-25 min (high end oven) flipping over for 5-8 min, and in my current oven which is probably an average modern oven 425F for 20 min flipping over for 5 min. It also depends if you flip over the chicken or not. I usually flip it (check and flip at 15), as I find the backside to not be all the way cooked and sometimes if won’t need a full 15 minutes but maybe 5-8min in my current oven. The key is to watch it and see how your oven works, but never overcook it. If you use the 15 initial checkpoint, you will learn what makes sense for your oven. The other thing I do when I cook the chicken is I line the cooking pan with foil, and sometimes pinch the tops of the foil to form a cover. I do this when I have a smaller piece of chicken. Lol. Breast size will vary, so again, you have to gauge what is right for your oven and size of breast. Another trick is during the flipping stage, I usually drizzle a little more olive oil in and maybe seasoning. The key is you want that juicyness- do not overcook or over heat. Once you overcook it, you will never get the juicyness back even with copious amounts of olive oil added. I can look at the chicken at the 15 minute mark point and tell how long it needs to go, but if you are unsure, cut the chicken and see. This is another way to make sure your chicken is cooked properly.
Some other easy tricks to infuse flavor while cooking the chicken are to place fresh herbs underneath the chicken and cover it or add some vegetables uncooked in the pan and that will add more flavor as well.. I tend to eat a lot of chicken, so I really try to get creative with it, and pretty plates up with lots of color and flavor. Whether you are cooking for one or many, the key is to experiment and see what works best for you for a simply delightful flavor and juicy taste for your chicken. It all starts with knowing your oven.