Friday, February 6, 2009
What's the matter Colonel Sanders... chicken?!!
Dear Tricia, Why is it that the common directions for cooking chicken in a skillet don't work? I always get the outside too cooked and the inside stays raw.
I briefly addressed this situation a couple of months ago when I was talking about grilling, but I know not everyone has time to read all my blogs. (It's ok... you probably have an excuse for everything.) It's easy to get the outside too cooked before the middle is done because you have the heat up too high. If you cook the chicken on each side for four minutes or so on high, the outside is just going to get a really dark, tough skin, and as you wait for the heat to cook the center its just going to dry out the rest of the chicken. Its gross. No one's going to want to eat that. And then they'll never come over for dinner again and you won't have any friends.
Here's a trick to prevent your potential loss of friends: Preheat your oven at 400 degrees. That way it'll be ready when you need it in a few minutes. Heat your pan over medium high heat. After you oil the pan, cook each side of the (seasoned!)chicken for about 3 minutes. When you look at the side of the chicken breast, you should notice that there is still a line of pink in the middle; it'll be about half cooked, and half raw. Then, for the magic friend-keeping trick: put the pan in the oven and finish cooking it in there. How long, you ask? Well, that depends on how big your chicken breast is. Come on, let's be honest: everyone has their preference in (chicken) breast size. Some people can eat a giant piece of chicken, and some people eat the recommended portion of about a deck of cards. The smaller one is obviously going to cook faster, so don't depend on a time to tell you when your chicken is done. As a ball park estimate, the chicken should not take any longer than 8-10 minutes to finish cooking. To check it, you can just cut a small slit in the thickest part of the chicken breast with a knife and see if the center is still raw. Press on the chicken too and remember how it feels. As you continue this method, you'll be able to tell when its done just by pressing on it and not cutting into it.
Another great trick is to pull the chicken out of the oven just before it's finished, when there is a trace of pink left. Meat does this magical thing where it keeps cooking another 5-10 degrees even after you take it off the heat. So if you pull it out of the oven right before it's done, it'll finish cooking on the counter and by the time you eat it, its perfectly cooked. It's called "carryover cooking." Use that term next time you're trying to impress your foodie friends. If they look like they don't know what you're talking about, you can immediately strip them of their foodie title and mercilessly make fun of them.
This method not only cooks your chicken through, but it makes the chicken so much juicier. But, please please please remember to use a pan that has a METAL HANDLE, NOT A PLASTIC ONE. If you melt the plastic handle in the oven, don't come crying to me about it. I warned you.