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Browning Chicken Pieces For Pilaf

Asked by DJDeeJay. Answered on 25th February 2017

Full question

Hi! Whenever I saute chunks of chicken, like for Nigella's Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf, the chicken releases so much water that it ends up steaming instead of browning. This happens even when I cook the chicken in batches so as to not crowd the pan. How do I avoid this? Thanks!

Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf
Photo by Petrina Tinslay
Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf
By Nigella
  • 14
  • 2

Our answer

Nigella's Saffron Scented Chicken Pilaf (from NIGELLA SUMMER) marinates chicken in a yogurt, lemon and cinnamon marinade before cooking. As this marinade is wet it does make it more difficult to brown the chicken without steaming it and you need to remove as much of the marinade as possible before frying the chicken. Make sure that you shake the sieve or strainer well to shake off the marinade and you may find it helpful to pat the chicken a little with kitchen roll (paper towels) to remove some extra from the surface of the chicken.

It could also be that your pan is not hot enough, particularly if the problem also occurs with plain chicken. You need to let the pan and oil heat up so that the chicken sizzles as soon as it comes into contact with the pan. Usually chicken is browned at the beginning of a recipe before cooking it further, so you can keep the pan heat on medium-high. Don't crowd the pan as this will trap steam and stop the chicken from browning, so cook the chicken pieces a few at a time and allow the pan to heat up again for a minute or so between batches. If the chicken is to continue cooking in the pan then brown the pieces a few at a time first and set them aside on a plate. Scrape or carefully wipe out any residue in the pan that looks too dark, lower the heat then return the browned pieces to the pan and continue until they are cooked all the way through.

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