Chicken adds protein and flavor to lunch and dinner favorites, but not when it's overcooked and dry. Ensure chicken is tender, juicy and full of flavor every time by following our easy suggestions for buying, prepping and cooking poultry. Prepped chicken is convenient to have on hand so you can quickly add it to meals or appetizers, such as Chicken, Berry and Almond Salad, One-Pot Chicken Pasta or Frank's RedHot Buffalo Chicken Dip.
Buy Dark or Bone-In Meat
Dark meat chicken pieces, such as thighs, have more fat than white meat, such as breasts. Fat helps the chicken stay juicy and flavorful while it cooks, so start with thighs or bone-in breasts when possible. Bone-in chicken also has extra fat connecting the meat to the bone.
Pat Dry Before Cooking
Before cooking the chicken, pat the outside dry with a paper towel (even if the chicken was marinated). Any liquid left on the chicken will have to evaporate as it cooks, which can make the skin soggy or increase the cooking time.
Marinate or Brine Chicken
For juicier, more flavorful chicken, marinate for at least 1 hour (up to 24 hours). Place the chicken in a sealable plastic bag with sauce or seasoning, and marinate in the fridge. Or, fill a bowl with water and stir in a handful of salt. Place the chicken in the bowl and brine for up to 1 hour.
Pound or Cut to Even Thickness
Before cooking, pound boneless chicken breasts to an even thickness with a meat mallet, or butterfly (slice the breast almost in half and open it like a book). This will help it cook evenly and prevent overcooking or undercooking of any portion.
Use a Meat Thermometer
For food safety, all chicken needs to be cooked to 165 degrees, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken to check the temperature. More moisture will evaporate as the chicken overcooks, making it taste dry.
Let Rest Before Slicing
If you slice into a piece of chicken immediately after removing it from the heat, some juices will flow out. To retain the most moisture, rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes (rest whole chickens for at least 20 minutes).