Here is everything you should not do regardless of whether you are learning to cook chicken breast, roast a whole bird or fry some wings.
Go for it:
Mistake # 1: Washing your chicken
This is totally unnecessary, and yet home cooks do it all the time, especially when cooking a whole bird. There is no need to wash the chicken in the sink. Chances are you’re spraying bacteria-laden water all over your kitchen counter near your sink, where it will settle and multiply. Skip this step and be sure to wash all surfaces, dishes, and hands after processing the raw chicken.
Mistake # 2: Defrosting it on the counter or in the microwave
Both methods are foolproof ways to encourage the growth of bacteria. You don’t want to let the poultry be at the temperature considered to be in the “danger zone.” Bacteria grow fastest in the temperature range between 40 degrees and 140 degrees, doubling in number in just 20 minutes. By microwaving your chicken to defrost (even in the defrost setting), you’re basically encouraging bacteria growth.
Instead, plan ahead and give it plenty of time to thaw in the fridge: It can take up to two days for whole chickens to thaw completely in the fridge, while boneless breasts must thaw overnight. Once the product is thawed, it should be kept in the refrigerator for no more than a day before cooking and should not be refrozen. Once it’s thawed, use it within a day.
Mistake # 3: Not drying it before cooking
Whether you are cutting, roasting, or roasting, your chicken should always be dry. This prevents the chicken from steaming during cooking because if it is not dry it will release more moisture throughout the cooking process. The end result will be a crisper, tastier chicken with just the right amount of moisture. Skinless chicken breast is one of the best meats you can eat.
Mistake # 4: Using a timer to determine when it will be ready
Asking how long to cook the chicken breast (or any other part of the chicken) is the wrong question. Get rid of the timer and take the thermometer. Chickens vary in size and shape, which means they are all cooked differently. The correct approach is to cook by temperature, not by time.
A piece of boneless chicken breast is safely cooked to 165 to 170 degrees internal. For bone-in chicken, cook it at least 180 to 185 degrees internal. This ensures that the bone marrow is well cooked, avoiding an undercooked appearance. If the chicken is below these temperatures, it will be undercooked.
Mistake # 5: Cutting it to see if it’s done
This is one of the biggest mistakes people make when learning to cook chicken breast. Understandably, the reason people do this is to check if the chicken is fully cooked. However, cutting the chicken allows the juices to run out, leaving it dry, rather than moist and tasty. Instead, invest in a meat thermometer.
Mistake # 6: Storing it anywhere it can fit in the fridge
Chicken should always be stored on the lowest possible shelf. This is because cold air sinks in, making the lowest shelf generally the safest place for storage. Properly storing chicken helps prevent cross-contamination and the growth of bacteria. You’ll also want to make sure it’s tightly wrapped to prevent dripping of defrosting by-products.
Mistake # 7: Just cooking chicken breast
Eating the other parts of the chicken can also be healthy, even if most people only know how to cook chicken breast. Dark meat chicken remains relatively lean as long as it is not fried, but it stays wetter and is more tolerant during cooking due to its higher fat profile. Plus, ounce for ounce, it has more iron and zinc than white chicken meat.
Mistake # 8: Not testing the pan before cooking
Home cooks generally don’t heat a pan enough to get a good grill. You can easily test the pan by spraying the surface with a little water. If it sizzles and evaporates immediately, it is hot enough to scorch. To properly brown the chicken, heat the skillet without oil and once hot enough, add the oil and then the seasoned chicken. This step is especially important if you are cooking breasts or thighs with skin. The skin will never achieve the golden brown color and delicious, crunchy caramel flavor without starting in a hot skillet.
Mistake # 9: Overcooking it
Overcooking chicken is a mistake that even seasoned home cooks can make. Because no one wants to have undercooked chicken, people tend to overcompensate in the other direction. By learning to cook chicken breast or whole chickens with a thermometer, you can avoid this common pitfall.
Mistake # 10: Not marinating it
Marinating the chicken adds flavor to a blank canvas. It’s sometimes overlooked for white meat, but it’s a great container for new flavors and interesting flavors. The best options for marinating are fresh or dried herbs like thyme, sage, oregano, or rosemary, along with fresh garlic and a pinch of citrus.
Mistake # 11: Cutting the chicken as soon as you finish cooking
After your chicken has finished cooking, give it a chance to rest before cutting it. This allows juices to be redistributed throughout the meat, helping to retain the flavor rather than releasing it on your cutting board.
Mistake # 12: Reusing marinade
Continuing to place the marinade in the bird once it is done can cause Salmonella or cross-contamination. Have fresh sauce ready for your done bird. That way, you won’t have to worry about whether the marinade carries bacteria or not.
Mistake # 13: Not letting the oil get hot enough before frying
People don’t let the oil get hot enough when frying chicken, which is key to keeping it crispy. Throwing a few breadcrumbs is a trick of an old cook. If they sizzle, then the oil should be hot enough.
Mistake # 14: Thinking you have to use oil or butter
Most people use oil or butter to cook their chicken, but cooking without it actually produces great results. This may appear to be at odds with conventional wisdom, but since chicken skin is high in fat there is no longer any need to add more to get crispy skin. Start by placing the chicken skin-side down in a cool dry skillet and cook on the stove. You’ll know it’s ready to flip when the chicken doesn’t stick to the pan. This usually takes much longer than people expect, but once you can easily lift it out of the pan, you’ll see the best, crispiest chicken skin.
Mistake # 15: Choosing the wrong chicken
Even super talented chefs can’t make shoddy chicken taste good. When shopping for chicken, try looking for recognized brands or choose a chicken that is advertised without hormones or steroids. When it comes to poultry of any kind, it pays to spend a little more money on a superior product and a trusted brand. Finally, always check the expiration date of the chicken.