During the ten years I’ve been on a carnivore diet, I’ve tried every possible way of preparing chicken. Roasting, braising, poaching, pan-frying, and grilling are only some of the ways you can cook this poultry to perfection.
Depending on my mood and appetite, I change my cooking methods from time to time, and that allowed me to master each of them.
Here’s what you need to know.
- You should buy chicken raised crate-free for the most delicious meat.
- Pound the chicken and season with olive oil and herbs to get tender meat.
- You can cook chicken using several different cooking methods.
Preparing Chicken Meat Before Cooking
Getting your chicken right entails preparing the meat before you start cooking.
1. Choosing a Cut
Before you learn how to cook chicken, you must know how to choose the best chicken cuts for the most tender and juicy results.
I recommended buying boneless skinless chicken breasts between 6 to 10 oz. If you buy chicken breasts with tenders still attached, it’s harder to flatten the meat because they make it bulky.
Overall, anything larger than 8 oz will be too wide after you flatten it, and you’ll have to cook the breasts in two batches.
Chicken thighs, chicken wings, and drumsticks are other good options. You can also use chicken tenderloin to make chicken fajitas or chicken tenders.
Always look for chicken-grown free-range or organic birds raised in natural surroundings. These birds have much better lives than those grown indoors.
Free-range tends to be more expensive, but it’s worth it because you’ll get better flavor, texture, and meat quality.
Another tip is to choose chicken cuts with opaque skin with no bruising. The flesh should look plump and have a pink color.
If you notice brownish-red “hock burn” on the skin of the legs, it’s a sign the chicken hasn’t been kept in good conditions during growth.
2. Flatten or Cut
After you’ve chosen your cut, it’s time to flatten it. It’s difficult to cook chicken breasts evenly because of their shape — they are thicker on one side and thin out on the other.
You need to flatten the thick side so that the entire boneless chicken breast is level.
Put the boneless skinless chicken breast in a plastic bag, use a mallet or a rolling pin, and pound it. You should have a chicken breast about 1/2 or 3/4 in thick.
Another option is to cut the chicken. You can slice the chicken breast in half horizontally, lengthwise. This works well if your meat is thicker than an inch.
3. Brine and Seasoning
Once you flatten the meat, it’s time to brine or season it. Dry the meat with paper towels on both sides. This removes any extra moisture, so the meat’s surface won’t steam or brown.
Use your preferred seasoning blend and sprinkle the chicken. I use 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning per side, but this can differ in different chicken recipes.
Also, make sure your chicken breast doesn’t sit too long because the salt draws out the moisture to the surface. In case this happens, blot the chicken breast again before cooking.
You can use dry seasonings, such as salt, black pepper, herbs, and garlic powder.
Tip: A little paprika will give your meat a golden hue and a richer taste when you cook it. You can use sweet, smoked, or spicy paprika, depending on your preferences.
“USDA recommends never relying on color, firmness, or time as an indicator to know if your food is fully cooked. Always cook all meats to a minimum safe internal temperature as measured with a food thermometer to prevent foodborne illness.”
- United States Department of Agriculture
If you want to cook chicken breasts in the oven, I recommend brining them first. It makes the chicken breast extra juicy. Fill a bowl with lukewarm water (never with hot). Stir in salt and add the chicken breasts. Let them sit in the saltwater for 15 minutes. Or, you can brine chicken basts in advance and let them sit in the fridge for up to six hours.
Once you’re ready to cook chicken breast, remove it from the brine, rinse with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.
Note: Some store-bought chicken breasts are pre-brined, so you can skip this step.
After the brine, brush the chicken breast with melted butter for more flavor and a golden crust.
Make sure to brush on both sides so the cooked chicken breast doesn’t stick to the pan.
Tip: Slash the chicken breasts a few times before marinating. This helps the marinade penetrate the meat better.
4 Ways to Cook Chicken
Chicken meat yields the best results when you cook it on the stove, but you can also roast, grill, or boil it.
1. On the Stove
Once you prepare chicken for cooking, it’s time to choose a pan. Go for a cast iron skillet or a stainless steel pan, as these are best for creating a golden-brown crust on chicken breasts. Preheat the pan and heat the oil before you add the chicken breast.
Press down on the chicken breast when you put it in the pan and don’t move the meat for five minutes so it sears well. Once the chicken changes color and develops a crust, it’s time to flip it over.
Add a tablespoon of butter when you flip the chicken and baste the meat. This ensures it doesn’t dry out. You can also add herbs for an aromatic flavor at this step.
Cooked chicken breast should be golden brown and opaque throughout. It’s fine if the juices are slightly pink.
You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. Make sure to check the thickest part of the chicken breast. The temperature should be between 160 to 165 degrees .
Finally, let the meat rest for about five minutes so that the juices redistribute, and then slice.
Roasting is an excellent cooking method for cooking a whole chicken. I like baking chicken breasts on high heat at 450 degrees for around 15 minutes. The time depends on the size of the chicken breast .
Roasting on high heat allows the chicken to develop a crisp crust on the outside, which locks in the juices and keeps the chicken tender on the inside.
Once again, you can use a meat thermometer to check if the temperature is 165 degrees. Don’t cut the juicy chicken with a fork, or the juices will seep out.
You also need to let the chicken rest after you bake it. This finishes the cooking and locks in all the juices, so you have tender and juicy chicken.
Tip: I like to loosely tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan of roasted chicken to keep the heat in while it rests.
Choose bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for grilling. Pat them dry and season, and make sure they reach room temperature for even cooking results.
Preheat the grill and create a hot zone for charred and crisp skin and a cool zone for gently cooking the chicken. Your grill should be very hot, around 500 degrees.
Start grilling the chicken skin-side up on the cool side of the grill and cook for 15 minutes. If the chicken starts to burn on the outside, move it to a cold area.
Then flip the chicken with tongs and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the thermometer reads 150 degrees.
You can also baste the chicken with sauce if you like. Finally, finish cooking the chicken on the hot side of the grill for five minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.
Grilled chicken is extremely versatile. You can skewer pieces of chicken thigh or grill a whole chicken breast on the barbecue. Or, use leftover chicken to make kebabs, jerk chicken, and many other dishes.
Also Read: How Long to Grill Chicken?
You must be careful with boiling meat because it can result in some of the most tender chicken you’ve ever tasted or in a chewy slab of meat.
The most important part when poaching chicken is determining the water-to-meat ratio. Use four cups of water if you boil two large chicken breasts.
You should season the water with freshly ground black pepper or other seasonings of your choice. Make sure the water is cold when you add the chicken. It’ll cook this way gradually.
Turn the stove to medium-high heat. Once the water starts to boil, flip the chicken, and remove the pot from the heat. Let it rest for five minutes on the cutting board. Bone and skin the chicken and cut it into cubes.
Tip: You can store the broth and keep it in the fridge for three days.
What Is the Best Way to Cook Raw Chicken?
The best way to cook raw chicken is to cook it in a hot pan. This is a quick cooking method that produces delicious results.
How Long Do You Cook Raw Chicken?
How long you cook raw chicken depends on the cut of the chicken and the cooking method. It can range from over two hours for whole chicken and less than 10 minutes for chicken breasts.
What is the Easiest Method of Cooking a Chicken?
The easiest method of cooking a chicken is grilling, frying, and poaching.
How Should You Cook Your Chicken?
If you want juicy chicken breast that’s easy to cook evenly, make sure to pound the meat, season and brine it, and cook until it reaches 165 degrees.
No matter which cooking method you choose, the most important thing is buying quality cuts. I get my chicken from ButcherBox, a meat delivery company that sells poultry raised crate-free.
They have a wide selection of chicken and turkey cuts, and their animals are responsibly raised without any hormones or antibiotics, which is a huge plus if you’re a health-conscious meat lover.