How to Cook Chicken
PhotodiscDon't be afraid of handling and cooking chicken. It's easy once you know how.
Use separate, differently colored sets of utensils for handling raw and cooked chicken, or wash thoroughly with hot, soapy water in between uses. A minimum internal temperature of 160 degrees F must be reached in order to kill any bacteria.
The older the bird, the more flavorful it is. Research the producer's practices to find out their age standards. Excess liquid in the bird's shrink-wrap indicates that it may be past its ideal sell-by date.
Covering the chicken after it's been fried will cause it to lose its crispiness. To avoid dangerous spattering, dry off utensils before they come into contact with the cooking oil. Also allow floured or coated pieces to dry for 20-30 minutes before they're placed into the oil. They'll brown more evenly.
Drain cooked chicken on a metal rack or a brown paper bag rather than on paper towels. It'll retain more crispiness. Try the best fried chicken recipe ever.
Spatchcock (split open) whole birds to enable even cooking. Turn the meat with tongs or a spatula -- piercing with a fork causes the juices to escape. Use a loose foil tent or inverted disposable pan to cover chicken on the grill and retain both heat and moisture when using the indirect grilling method.
Brining (soaking the meat in a salted-water solution) before roasting makes for tender, juicy meat. Room-temperature butter slipped under the skin before cooking also keeps the meat moist and ensures flavorful, crispy skin. A V-shaped rack or basket placed in a pan allows for even heating, and keeps the bottom of the bird lofted from the drippings.
Start with a whole, skin-on breast and split and/or remove skin after cooking. This allows for more even heating and juiciness than pre-split breasts, which may be of unequal size. Press the chicken during cooking with a heavy pot, or a deep pan filled with water. Keep a layer of foil between the vessel bottom and the chicken. Combine equal parts butter and oil for maximum flavor and browning without smoking and burning.
Using a broiler pan rather than a flat roasting pan greatly reduces the risk of grease fire. Arrange chicken parts with the largest, thickest pieces in the center under the most direct heat, and the smaller pieces out toward the pan's edges. Even in this arrangement, the smaller pieces will need several minutes less cooking time. The chicken should sit 5 inches to 6 inches from the heating element. Adjust racks if needed.
Several sprigs of fresh herbs blended or processed with a clove of garlic, a pinch of kosher salt, a splash of red or white wine and several tablespoons of olive oil adds fresh flavor to grilled and roasted chicken. For maximum flavor, rub pastes and spices both on and under the bird's skin. Multi-hour marination isn't necessary. Thirty to 60 minutes tends to be sufficient.
Use metal or wooden utensils, as plastic will likely melt at the high temperatures required for this method.
It is easier to cut chicken into thin strips if it's slightly frozen. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of peanut, vegetable or corn oil for each pound of chicken.
Braising and Stewing
Brown the meat evenly in oil or butter, and then add the cooking liquid to the same pan to maximize flavor and reduce cleanup. Don't use non-enameled cast iron or regular aluminum pans as they can impart an unwanted taste to the chicken with this method. Nonstick cookware doesn't let the meat brown as well as anodized or pressure-cast aluminum or stainless steel does. Stock and red or white wine make excellent braising and stewing liquids, as do brandy, cider and crushed tomatoes.