Chicken is one of the World's most popular foods. It can be cooked in a variety of ways, leading to delicious and nutritious meals.
In the following article, you can learn how to pick the best chicken in the supermarket, how to prepare it before cooking and 5 main methods and tips for cooking it according to time and weight, so that you can achieve the tastiest chicken meal every time, just like a professional chef.
Buying the right chicken:
Fresh chicken bought at the butcher should be flawless, light, evenly colored and must be moist but not wet. When buying frozen chicken, you should make sure that there are no traces of ice on the skin or signs of discoloration, typical of frostbite. It is very important that the packaging is completely sealed.
Proper treatment of poultry:
Chicken is a very delicate product that can contain a very high amount of bacteria if not handled properly, so you should carefully read how to treat the chicken before cooking, freezing and defrosting.
If you bought fresh chicken and want to use it for the next meal, store the chicken as follows:
- Remove the chicken from its original packaging.
- Place it on a rack, and place the rack over a slightly deep dish.
- Cover loosely, store in the refrigerator at a temperature of 34-40 degrees Fahrenheit on the bottom shelf.
- Remove the chicken right before you plan to cook it.
- There’s no need to wash your chicken as the bacteria on it will be killed in the cooking process. Rinsing chicken only serves to spread the bacteria around your countertop and sink.
- If you’ve decided to wash your chicken, pat it down with a paper towel
- If you’re planning on using the chicken later on in the week, wrap it, write down the date and put it in the freezer immediately when you get home.
- If you purchased chick breasts, place them in a single layer on parchment paper, cover, and freeze. Once the pieces are frozen you can place them in a Ziploc bag and put them back in the freezer. Doing this will ensure the chicken breasts won’t freeze and stick together.
Purchasing frozen chicken, either whole or in pieces is convenient for when you aren’t planning on using it right away.
- Check the date of freezing on the original packaging and pick the freshest of one.
- Before cooking, make sure the chicken is fully thawed.
- Thawing should be carried out with the chicken in its original packaging placed on a plate in the refrigerator for 3-5 hours per pound, on the bottom shelf only and far from food other cooked food.
- The chicken should be cooked within 12 hours of thawing, and should not be refrozen.
- Cooked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator for 2-3 days once cooled and covered well. Cooked chicken can be frozen only after the dish has cooled completely.
Preparing a whole chicken:
Whole chickens need careful preparation before cooking to maintain their shape during cooking and to make cutting easier. Dry with paper towels, cut and remove the collarbone with a sharp knife from the shoulder and chest area, and tie the feet and wings with flavorless dental floss or cooking thread. If you don’t have anything to tie the chicken with, you can use toothpicks or skewers to keep it in place. Lay the chicken breast up and now it’s ready to be cooked.
Once you’ve finished preparing your chicken, wash your hands and work surfaces with plenty of soap and water.
Methods for cooking poultry
There are several methods for cooking poultry, but the top 5 are poaching, grilling, frying, pot-roasting/stewing, and microwaving.
Chicken cooked in a well-seasoned broth is a classic dish in French cuisine. This dish is considered to be the most delicate of the five cooking methods, and the chicken cooked in this method is great for sandwiches, filling, and pies.
How to cook a whole chicken using this method:
- When cooking a whole chicken, tie the chicken to make sure it keeps its shape, and weigh it to determine the cooking time. The calculation is done so that every pound of chicken needs 20 minutes of cooking on a low flame.
- Put the chicken into a large pot, fill with cold water until covered, and bring the liquid to a slow boil over medium heat.
- Remove the fat and pieces that float to the top while cooking with a slotted spoon, lower the flame and add herbs, onions, and carrots (or any other similar ingredients). Cover half of the pot and continue poaching till it’s fully cooked (according to the time calculated).
- When the meat is soft, remove the chicken from the liquid and hold it for a few seconds above the pot to drain as much liquid as possible back into the pot. Place the chicken in a pan or any other dish, untie and cut the chicken. The liquid in the pot can be reduced into a sauce.
How to cook chicken breast using this method:
- Butterfly the chicken by cutting from one side almost to the end of the other. Place each one on parchment paper a little larger than the chicken breast.
- Place a filling of your choice in its center and roll the chicken. Place in a deep pan with chicken stock cover in aluminum foil and cook for about 15 minutes till the stock almost boils.
- Remove when a toothpick in the center of the roll comes out warm. Uncover, remove from the liquid and plate.
Grilling chicken is done at a very high temperature, which makes the chicken's skin crisp and gives it a special flavor. This method can be used to cook small parts such as chicken thighs, wings and the like, and for larger parts such as the whole bird. To prepare a juicier chicken dish, leave the skin on and marinate the chicken before grilling.
How to cook chicken legs using this method:
- Chicken legs are the kind of meat suitable for grilling in the oven as well as over charcoal because they remain soft and juicy when cooked on high heat.
- Brush the outer surface of each leg with your marinade, cut small cuts onto the meat so the marinade seeps in, cover and place them in the refrigerator for an hour.
- Arrange the legs on a grilling rack and place them over the coals or under the grill in the oven, 2.5 inches from the heat source for 15-20 minutes, turn the chicken often making sure to brush with your marinade on each turn.
How to cook chicken skewers using this method:
- When grilling chicken skewers, the chicken pieces should be left to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour or overnight
- The wooden skewers should also be soaked in water for about 20 minutes before the meat is skewered on.
- Grill in the oven or over charcoal the same as you would the chicken legs (above).
How to cook a whole chicken using this method:
- Grilling a whole chicken requires a metal pan with a rack and a lid. The chicken is seasoned and placed on the rack in the pan which is placed on the grill or in the oven.
- Grill the chicken until the dripping liquid becomes clear.
- While grilling, lift the lid from time to time and baste your chicken with its own liquids. Cooking time for a 4-pound chicken varies between 1 ½ to 1 ¾ hours.
The frying method is one of the fastest, but it is suitable only for small pieces or for previously cooked pieces. You can fry chicken in a frying pan, deep oil, or by stir-frying in a wok. The most common pieces of chicken which are fried are chicken breast, legs, and thighs.
How to use this method for cooking chicken breast:
- Dredge each slice of chicken breast in flour first, transfer to a dish with a beaten egg, and then dip in bread crumbs or seasoned flour again. Place a little vegetable oil or shortening into a pan, making sure that the amount is enough to cover the bottom.
- Once the oil is very hot (place a wooden spoon into the oil, if it bubbles the oil is hot enough), start frying the chicken breasts.
- Fry the chicken breast on both sides until golden brown, serve hot.
How to use this method for cooking larger chicken pieces:
- To cook larger pieces, such as thighs and legs, it is recommended to pan fry them in a little bit of oil, first skin side down. Turn the chicken often to make sure the outside is seared but the inside doesn’t cook. Lower the heat to medium and let the chicken cook for another 25-30 minutes in its own juices.
- To make crispy legs and thighs, cook the chicken pieces in a liquid until they are about 90% cooked through. Let the pieces cool, remove the skin, dredge and fry as you did the chicken breasts, until golden.
How to make crispier fried chicken:
- If you want a crispy coating for your chicken, coat the chicken and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour on a dry surface, uncovered, before frying.
How to stir-fry:
In order to get the best result when stir-frying, it is recommended to prepare a mixture of egg white with cornstarch in a 1 egg white to 1 tablespoon cornstarch ratio for every ½ pound of chicken pieces. Coat chicken in this mixture, heat oil in your wok, place chicken in the oil once it’s hot enough, and stir constantly over medium to high heat. Cook until the meat is fully cooked and still soft.
4. Pot roasting/stewing
The method of pot roasting/stewing chicken is very long but it adds to the taste a softness and depth that can’t be achieved using other cooking methods. These methods are highly recommended for cooking pieces of chicken on the bone as well as whole chicken, and these dishes can be cooked on the stove or in the oven.
How to use this method:
- Coat the chicken in a red wine vegetable reduction that has been cooled, add a little oil and let rest in the refrigerator overnight.
- Before cooking, remove the chicken from the pan you left it in to marinade and pat dry with paper towels.
- Heat oil in a pot according to the recipe and place the chicken only when the oil is hot, browning on all sides.
- Then add the marinade with a stock of your choice and vegetables, cover with a lid and place in the oven for 2 hours (325 degrees F). Remove, and allow to rest for 20 minutes before serving.
5. Microwave cooking
Cooking chicken in a microwave is one of the easiest and fastest ways to do it, but there are several golden rules in this method as well:
- Do not place the chicken on a plate, turn on the microwave and let it work its magic until the meat is soft and cooked. Rather occasionally turn the chicken over while cooking, so that the cooking is uniform and the chicken stays moist.
- After cooking, let the chicken rest for a few minutes before eating, so that the accumulated heat reaches the center of the meat. After resting, check whether the meat is cooked in the center by making a small cut. If the meat is not cooked, return it to the microwave for another 1-2 minutes.
- If you don’t want the chicken cooking in its own juices, resulting in a bland taste, place the chicken on a rack allowing it to drain for at least an hour in the refrigerator before cooking.
Cooking times and heat levels will vary depending on the number of chicken pieces or size:
- For 1-2 pieces: 4-6 minutes at maximum power.
- For 3-4 pieces: 7-10 minutes at maximum power.
- For 7-8 pieces: 15-18 minutes with maximum power.
- Quarter chicken: 12-15 minutes at medium power.
- Half chicken: 15-18 minutes at medium power.