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Chicken Breasts Always Dry!

Asked by kellyhowells. Answered on 20th February 2011

Full question

I love Nigella's Kitchen and she has actually converted me to using chicken thighs but I do enjoy chicken breasts, but everytime I cook them they always go so dry - even sometimes with marinades. Do you have any tips on how I can get tender and juicy chicken breasts? Thanks!

Our answer

Boneless chicken breasts can be very difficult to cook well, even with the skin on. The ideal way to cook them is on the bone. You may need to go to a butcher to get chicken beast on the bone as they are not too popular in supermarkets but cooking on the bone always results in moister and more flavoursome meat. Nigella likes to use a chicken "supreme" which is a breast with the peg bone from the wing still attached - this gives a nice combination of chicken with some bone and an attractive presentation. If you are cooking an even number of chicken breasts then look for a "crown" (essentially a chicken with the legs, wings and backbone removed to leave the two breast fillets on the ribcage) which roasts well and the cooking time is calculated as for a whole chicken (45 mins per kg plus 20 minutes or 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes).

If you need to cook boneless breasts then try to buy ones with the skin on. Pan-frying is a good way to cook the chicken whilst retaining some of the moisture and is useful for smaller numbers of chicken breasts. Cook the skin side first on a medium heat until the skin is crisp then flip the breasts over and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through - the total cooking time will be 20-30 minutes but we suggest you also check by making a small incision into the centre of the breast and ensuring that the juices run clear. In the oven try to cook the breasts with some sauce or stock in the bottom of the dish or pan - the steam created will help a little to keep the chicken moist. For skinless, boneless breasts poaching is a gentle method and using stock (broth) will add some extra flavour. However be careful not to let the chicken boil rapidly in the poaching liquid or it will become dry and stringy. Again check if the chicken is done by using the method above.

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