Thursday, June 18, 2009

Avoiding the Rubber Chicken

Dear Tricia, I like to buy the already grilled chicken breasts out of my deli and just heat it up at home. Problem is, when I microwave it, the chicken comes out rubbery and overcooked. What's the best way to re-heat it without overcooking it?

Ah, the microwave... so convenient, but you end up with crappy results. (Kind of like eating Taco Bell with a hangover. Get it? ..... Crappy? Ok, I'll stop.) So, you're right: what you're doing is just overcooking the chicken which, in turn, gives you that nasty rubbery texture that certainly won't impress the ladies. Easy to fix my convenience-loving friend. However, you're going to have to turn on your oven. I know, I know. Ovens aren't as convenient as microwaves. But it'll give you a more pleasant reheated chicken experience, and frankly, isn't that what you asked for?

You need to do two things:
1. Wrap the chicken breast in foil.
2. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees (all the way! Don't cheat and put the chicken in when its only at 350 degrees. Then you're just being lazy and you'll end up waiting longer.)

Once your oven is preheated, put the foil-wrapped chicken directly on the rack. Close the door and give it about 12 minutes for one chicken breast. If you've wrapped a couple of chicken breasts (they work better in pairs, don't they? ;) ) in foil, then give them 15 minutes to reheat. Once your time is up, use a towel or a hot pad (don't be a dumbass and use your bare hands because that foil is really freaking hot: 425 degrees of hot in case you can't do the math) to remove it, unwrap the foil, and voila: juicy reheated chicken free of a rubbery texture.
Here's the magical science of what's happening: when you microwave things, the microwave actually cooks the inside of the product first before it cooks the outside. (I know! Crazy, right!) So by the time your precooked chicken is reheated, the inside has been overcooking the whole time. When you use the oven, it cooks it at a slower, but more even rate so that the chicken heats up as a whole, without overcooking one part of it first. When you wrap it up in foil, the foil conducts heat faster and keeps the juices inside. Remember those science experiments in the 4th grade about conductors of heat? Unlike algebra, those are real life skills that you can actually use, especially a kitchen. That's why you cook potatoes in foil, and now why you're going to start reheating chicken in it.

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