Chicken is a favourite go-to dinner option and it's a handy meat to keep on hand for a mid-week protein solution. Stock your freezer when it goes on sale and you'll save money too. And because it's an incredibly versatile meat, there's no reason to get into a chicken "rut". You can roast, sauté or grill it for starters, and use it up in everything from sandwiches to curries.
To help you cook chicken better, here are our best tips and recipes.
You can buy chicken a few different ways at the grocery store.
The whole bird: Plan on 1 lb of meat per person. That might seem like a lot, but remember that includes the bones. Roast two birds at once if you want leftovers for the rest of the week.
Boneless, skinless chicken: This is easy to prepare and there's less fat without the skin. Removing the skin on chicken breast can remove up to 16 g of fat.
Bone-in chicken: This can come with the skin on or off. The bone will give you added flavour and moisture and the skin will help keep the meat intact.
Chicken contains both light and dark meat. You'll find the dark meat in muscles that are exercised more, like the legs. The lighter meat is in the less active muscles, like the breast and wings. Here's what you need to know about the two kinds of meat.
Dark meat: Usually this meat is moist, tender and flavourful.
Light meat: While this is a lean source of protein, it can quickly dry out if over-cooked.
Now that you know what you're buying, here's what you need to know about cooking chicken at home.
Safety First: Chicken must be cooked all the way through to destroy any bad bacteria. The safest way to determine whether it's done is to use a cooking thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the meat, or into the thigh for the whole bird. Here are the temperatures it must cook to:
Whole 185 degrees F (85 degrees C)
Pieces 165 Degrees F (74 degrees C)
Ground 165 degrees F (74 degrees C)
When you're working with chicken, as with all meat and fish, avoid cross-contamination by washing and sanitizing all tools and surface areas and wash your hands before touching other food.
Roasting: Start roasting chicken at a high heat and brown the outside first before turning the oven down to finish roasting. Basting the bird as it cooks will help it retain moisture. Ladle the juices that collect in the pan over the bird a few times during cooking.
Grilling: Because chicken doesn't have a lot of fat, it can dry out quick. Marinating chicken before cooking can help to combat this, as can basting it with butter or oil while it's on the grill.
Sautéing: If you're cutting it into pieces, freeze the meat for 10 minutes first so it's easier to cut. The smaller pieces will also help it cook quick and evenly too and help prevent it from drying out.
Browning chicken first helps develop flavour, especially when you're using boneless skinless and you've cut out the fat. Brown it in small batches so each piece gets a turn with the heat. Take your time with this step. If you add them all at once the temperature will drop and the meat will steam instead of brown. You can read more about how to brown meat properly here.
And to help you change up your routine, check out these tested-till-perfect recipes. There's even one for the slow cooker!Lemon Herb Roast Chicken
Honey Roast Chicken with Onions and Figs
Roasted Chicken Breasts
Roasted Hazelnut-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Crispy Roasted Pistachio Chicken
Roasted Chicken and Brie Pie with Honey and Mustard
20-Minute Chicken Chili
Chicken and Black Bean Burritos
Chicken and Swiss Chard Fusilli
Chicken Cauliflower Curry
Chicken Cutlets With Cilantro Peanut Sauce
Chicken Rolls with Chardonnay Sauce