7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Cooking Chicken

Hate it when chicken breasts are dry and tough? Tweak your technique to make sure your chicken stays juicy and delicious.

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How many of these mistakes do you make when cooking chicken?

Cooking the perfect chicken breast is a skill many home cooks aspire to have in their culinary toolbox. Chicken is versatile and affordable–and healthy, too. But chicken that’s dried out and tough? No, thank you!

To help make sure you get a moist and always-delicious chicken breast, avoid these seven kitchen mistakes.

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Raw chicken breast fillets on wooden background
Shutterstock / Bon Appetit

Mistake #1: Starting with skinless chicken breasts

A lot of us go straight for the boneless, skinless chicken breast fillets at the meat counter. It makes sense–they’re easy to work with, and we’ve all heard that the skin is unhealthy. But keeping the skin on while it’s cooking helps keep the chicken moist. (You can always take it off before you dig in.)

Psst—this kitchen hack can make you the perfect chicken without ever turning your oven on.

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Chicken breast
Shutterstock / Fredograf

Mistake #2: Not marinating or brining the meat

Chicken breasts can be dry. After all, they’re not as fatty as other parts of the bird. But a marinade, brine or rub goes a long way in adding flavour to the meat and keeping it moist. If you’re going for simple, that’s OK—a basic salt and pepper rub is just fine.

Check out seven more cooking mistakes everybody makes—and how to fix them.

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Tenderizing the chicken meat with a mallet - Preparing homemade chicken kiev in a kitchen
Shutterstock / napocska

Mistake #3: Not pounding out the meat

Pounding chicken breasts helps tenderize the meat. With your strength (and the force of a trusty meat tenderizer), you start to break down the proteins in the meat. Plus, with thinner breasts, you reduce the amount of time it takes to cook the breasts all the way through. This is helpful because we often end up overcooking it!

Here are 10 things you should never do to your oven.

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Food preparing, cooking concept. Male hands chef beating steak chicken breast with meat tenderizer on wooden board close up
Shutterstock / Anetlanda

Mistake #4: Not pounding the breasts out to an even thickness

If you’re cooking more than one chicken breast, you’ll benefit from making sure the breasts are all the same thickness. If they’re not, you’ll likely have a hard time getting them all to the proper internal temperature (165° F) without drying out a few.

Discover the secret ingredient that will pack your dinner with flavour.

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Checking the temperature with thermometer of fry chicken at home
Shutterstock / Kit Leong

Mistake #5: Cooking chicken for too long

Nobody likes a medium-rare chicken breast–or food poisoning. (Here’s the difference between food poisoning and a stomach bug.) But an overcooked chicken breast is tough and unpleasant to eat. Recipes offer good guidelines for cooking, but until you’ve practiced enough, it can be hard to know when you’ve cooked the chicken through.

Let a meat thermometer help. Lots of cooks advise cooking chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 160° F, assured that it will rise to 165° while it rests.

Here are 13 more foods you should never, ever eat raw.

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grilled chicken fillets on wooden cutting board
Shutterstock / MaraZe

Mistake #6: Not letting the meat rest

If you’ve ever pulled a piece of meat out of the oven or off the grill and cut into it right away, you’ve probably noticed the juices running onto your plate. That is juicy goodness that you’d probably rather savour in the meat! So, tent some foil over your chicken after it cooks and let it rest on the countertop for 10 minutes before serving. Here’s why you should never wrap your leftovers in foil.

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Mistake #7: Not adding a sauce

Nothing beats a perfectly cooked piece of chicken. But if it’s not quite perfect, you can help disguise some of that dryness with a delicious sauce. A yummy sauce is a great way to add flavour, too, of course. Next, find out why you should never wash chicken before cooking it.

Taste of Home
Originally Published on Taste of Home

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