4 Easy Ways to Upgrade Your Chicken Breast Repertoire
Chicken breasts are one of the most versatile ingredients out there, but it's easy to fall into a rut. Master these four recipes for stuffed chicken, chicken burgers, fried chicken, and grown-up chicken nuggets and let your chicken dinner dreams take flight.
For the best chicken breast, buy bone-in, says food stylist and cookbook author Susan Spungen.
"You know what you'll never find at the market? Skin-on, boneless chicken breast. I like to buy bone-in and then debone the breast myself. To debone a chicken breast, use a small knife to separate the meat from the bone at the narrow part where the ribs are, scrap- ing the knife against the bone to waste as little meat as possible. While bones keep chicken moist, two other factors are more impor- tant for juicy chicken: keeping the skin on and not overcooking. Skin also provides a handy vehicle for stuffing, which adds fat and flavor—in this case, from salty olives, serrano ham, garlic, and herbs. To ensure that the stuffed breasts stay juicy, pull them out of the oven when an instant-read thermometer reaches 155°F; it will carry over to 160°F as the chicken rests."
Cookbook author Leah Koenig shares her secret for the juiciest chicken burgers.
"Unlike a fried chicken sandwich, with its indulgent crunch, a chicken burger too often lands with a dull thud on the palate. The problem with lackluster chicken burgers is the pink squiggle of pre-ground meat used to make them, which results in a dry patty without much oomph. Instead, I like to cut whole chicken breasts into chunks and pulse them in the food processor; this method yields the smooth consistency needed for the burgers to hold together. I also take a tip from Russian-style kotleti, or fried meat patties, and stir a bit of mayonnaise into the mixture; this yields burgers that are juicy, tender, and light. Flavored with scallions, parsley, basil, and lemon zest, these chicken burgers are delicious enough to stand alone, but for a fuller meal, I serve them with coconut rice and a green salad, or on brioche with harissa-honey mayo."
2019 F&W Best New Chef Caroline Glover turns to butterflying chicken breast for a quick and easy cook.
"In the dead of winter, I always feel a panic. There's never enough time to get everything done, and the last thing I want to do is think about dinner. I typically want to make something quick, easy, and, most importantly, not boring. Enter: the butterflied chicken breast. Butterflying a chicken breast helps ensure a nice, even cook all the way through, and once you're done with the filleting itself, the possibilities are endless. Fry the breast and pair it with a punchy salad, or smash it into a sandwich alongside your favorite garlicky condiments, and you'll transform this humble cut into something that's crushable all winter long. To ensure a good, clean cut, I recommend patting the meat dry and then placing a clean paper towel under the chicken while you cut through the breast. Even with the lack of seasonal produce at this time of year, the bright, acidic, and salty flavors in this recipe always help me through the January doldrums."
Cookbook author Molly Stevens fillets chicken breast for crispy grown-up chicken tenders.
"To make crunchy, tender, grown-up chicken tenders, cutlets are my cut of choice. But instead of buying them premade, I like to make my own. I start by slicing each chicken breast in half horizontally, like halving a bagel. Then, I cut the halves into strips. If any of the pieces are more than 1/3 inch thick, I whack them a few times with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Thickness is paramount here: If the chicken is too thick, it takes too long to cook, and you risk scorching the coating before the interior is done; if too thin, it'll dry out before the breading has time to brown. The key in frying them is monitoring the heat; the cutlets should sizzle when you lower them into the pan. If the heat is too low, the breading will absorb the fat and become soggy. If it's too high, the outside will scorch before the inside cooks through. You can also skip making tenders and fry the cutlets whole—they're fantastic in sandwiches (I like mine on a soft roll slathered with mayonnaise and mustard, a thick slice of tomato, and lettuce) or atop bright, crisp salads."
*Pictured at top: Fried Chicken Sandwiches with Anchovy-Garlic Dressing