Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, the chances are good you've had chicken several times this week. Chances are even better that you cooked some of that chicken in your home at least once during the course of the past seven days. Despite the fact that chicken is one of the most commonly prepared items in the United States, many home cooks across the country don’t cook — or handle — chicken properly. The effect of these mistakes may be as harmless and dry, flavorless chicken, or as serious as food poisoning. If you make chicken at home, you could be making these same mistakes.
Click here to see the 8 Ways You’ve Been Cooking Chicken Wrong (Slideshow)
The first part of cooking chicken properly is handling it correctly. Because much of the chicken raised for consumption in the United States is done so using “conventional methods,” which means raising as many chickens as possible in as little space as possible, the chances of chicken carrying salmonella bacteria in its digestive tract are significantly increased. Additional handling (for example, chopping chicken into smaller pieces like tenders) and packaging can introduce bacteria as well. Salmonella bacteria thrive in warm temperatures so it is important to store chicken at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and to cook it to 165 degrees. It’s also important to avoid cross-contaminating kitchen equipment and surfaces when you’re working with raw chicken; even simple mistakes like rinsing chicken can contaminate your sink, your dishes, and other foods.
White breast meat is such a popular choice when it comes to cooking chicken, so the second important thing to remember has to do with cooking lean meats in particular. It’s considered by some to be healthier than the chicken’s dark leg meat because it is lower in fat, but because it’s leaner, it’s more challenging to cook. Proper cooking techniques, staying within proper cooking temperatures, and adhering to appropriate cook times are all essential parts of ensuring a juicy, flavorful piece of white meat chicken. Though you should always cook chicken fully to prevent food-borne illness, you also should not overcook it; overcooking chicken will cause it to become dry.
Need more guidance? Here are some common mistakes home cooks make when working with chicken:
According to the USDA, there are three safe ways to thaw frozen chicken: plan ahead and thaw frozen chicken in your refrigerator, place the chicken in a sealed, leak-proof plastic bag and thaw it in cold water (changed every 30 minutes), or thaw the chicken in your microwave immediately before cooking it.
Rinsing your chicken before cooking it doesn’t kill germs; it actually spreads them. Don’t rinse your chicken in the sink and, if you have been, be sure to sanitize your sink to prevent food-borne illness.
Click here to see more ways you’ve been cooking chicken wrong
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.
This Surprising Ingredient Makes Roast Chicken So Tender
As far as we're concerned, cooking chicken is one of the most important skills every home chef should master. It takes a really, really good cook to make savory, tender chicken.
Chef Jamie Oliver knows how to whip up chicken that's golden, juicy and delicious. His secret? Basting the chicken with milk.
It's easy to be skeptical about the combo. But trust us! It's just as good as these 15 secret pantry ingredients that make your recipes yummier.
Why Cooking Chicken in Milk Makes Sense
The calcium in milk is thought to kick-start a natural enzyme in the chicken that helps it tenderize. It also breaks up the acidity and heat. (That's true for non-dairy milk, like coconut milk, too.) As an added bonus, the milk creates a creamy sauce that will make a roast chicken even juicier.
When you think about it, the combo really starts to make sense. We're huge fans of making chicken potpie and chicken with mushroom sauce, and both of those creamy, dreamy recipes contain milk. Before you get cooking, learn how to avoid the mistakes everyone makes when making chicken.
Jamie Oliver Got It Right
Thankfully, Jamie Oliver's famous recipe for chicken is easy to recreate at home. You start by seasoning your chicken and frying it on the stovetop until golden. (Yes&mdashthe whole chicken!)
From there, the chicken can be slid into the oven with cinnamon, sage leaves, lemon zest, unpeeled garlic cloves, and a generous pint of milk. Bake it in the oven for an hour and a half, basting with the milk mixture after a while, and voilà: a seriously good chicken.
Chef Oliver suggests serving with wilted spinach or some mashed potatoes. However you plate things up, it's clear that chicken in milk will be the star of your meal. Bon appétit! To make dinner even better, find out which 20 ways you've been cooking chicken breast all wrong.
15 Ways You’re Using Your Slow Cooker Wrong
Few cooking tools are as versatile as the slow cooker, but making these common mistakes could seriously wreck that perfect meal you had planned.
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Gather your ingredients for this easy chicken fajita pasta
All in, this easy chicken fajita pasta dish calls for one tablespoon of olive oil, sliced red, green, and yellow bell peppers, a green bell pepper, a quarter of a yellow onion, sliced, two cups of cream, divided, two and a half cups of vegetable broth, a packet of taco seasoning, a pound of penne pasta, two cooked chicken breasts, chopped, and two cups of shredded Mexican cheese.
And note that if you don't want to use meat, Carli says you can "easily omit chicken and sub in black beans for a vegetarian dish," and it will still taste great.
The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Chicken
If you’re reading this article, rejoice: leftover chicken is like a gift to yourself. Light meat, dark meat: both are endlessly versatile. Although there’s nothing wrong with slicing it up and eating it with a side of plain roast veggies, we’re here to give you a dose of inspiration so the first and second days of leftovers are still interesting.
Below, you’ll find a list of our favorite leftover chicken recipes.
But first, here is a great trick for iterating leftover chicken ideas yourself: Any type of recipe that calls for rotisserie chicken can be made with your leftover chicken instead. We've also brainstormed ways to use up leftover chicken by thinking about three main buckets: sandwiching, mixing and topping. Let us explain.
Sandwiching is exactly what it sounds like: layering or wrapping up chicken in bread, tortillas, hard shell tacos or even lettuce. A simple chicken club sandwich with a chicken breast, bacon, lettuce, tomato and mayo is a great example. So, too, are chicken tacos. Stuff leftover chicken into hard shells or roll it up in tortillas with chopped tomatoes, avocado, pickled jalapeno and your favorite toppings. Create chicken and cheese quesadillas by sprinkling the two ingredients over a tortilla, topping it with a second tortilla and baking until the cheese is melted. If you’d like a low-carb option, consider rolling up chicken, shredded carrots, cilantro leaves and a creamy salad dressing in large lettuce leaves.
By mixing, we mean stirring leftover chicken into dishes that are already in your repertoire. For example, if you’re making your favorite pasta dish, add chopped chicken at the end and cook it for a few minutes to warm it through. Shred leftover chicken into microwaved mac and cheese, drizzle in buffalo sauce and call it a day. Add it to your go-to casserole recipe. Throw it into soup and simmer until the flavors meld. Combine it with stuffed pepper filling. you get the picture.
Finally, try topping off dishes like pizzas, salads or even baked sweet potatoes with leftover chicken. Serve leftover chicken over cooked rice with some salsa on top. Shred it, toss it with some chipotle chili powder and sprinkle it onto nachos.
Hopefully by now you’re feeling inspired, and just to get those creative juices flowing, here are those recipes we promised.
You've Been Eating&mdashAnd Storing&mdashYour Chocolate Incorrectly This Whole Time
You're also eating it completely wrong. Let us teach you.
Listen. Before you launch into me with some shtick about there being no "wrong" way to eat chocolate, allow me this: All that's to come in the next few hundred words only serves to help you enjoy your chocolate even more than you already do! So, yes, in that sense, you can be eating your chocolate "wrong." But, fine, if you'd rather, we can scrap the whole "wrong" thing and go with. 7 Ways To Eat Your Chocolate So That It Is The Ideal Texture, Temperature, And Preparedness To Ensure You Enjoy It In A Way You've Never Enjoyed Chocolate Before." Up 2 u.
Firstly, you don't have to keep it in the fridge.
It's not essential to the actual perishableness of the chocolate. Secondly, it's gonna make the below steps you should be taking to have the best, fullest chocolate experience a lot more time-consuming, so.
You're not rubbing it first.
Yeah, I said "rubbing." According to Vosges Haut-Chocolat, a luxury chocolate boutique based in Chicago, you should be pressing your thumb to your chocolate ahead of eating it. That not only softens it up a bit, but it also releases some of the chocolate's natural aromas, which is important because.
You're eating it without smelling it first.
In fact, this may very well be the biggest mistake you're making. Nadège Piller of the Swiss La Maison Cailler told National Geographic the biggest mistake she sees chocolate-eating people make (and she sees chocolate-eating people all day, every day) "is that they don&rsquot look at it or smell it&mdashthey just pop it in their mouth.&rdquo
In fact, some people think smelling chocolate is similar to smelling wine. There's a bouquet that hits you before you eat it that prepares you for the actual bite more than you'd think. That bouquet can be vanilla-y, caramel-y, coffee-y, malt-y, or just about anything else you can imagine. If the first smell that hits you is "chocolate," keep sniffing. You'll get there.
You're not breaking it into pieces first.
Just like rubbing all up on your chocolate, this serves to release all the natural aromas the chocolate has to offer. In fact, Ghirardelli suggests you actually snap your chocolate in half before eating it: "Snap is the feel and sound of a piece of chocolate when you first break it. [It] is a function of the amount and quality of the cocoa butter in the chocolate, how finely ground the chocolate particles are, and how well the chocolate was tempered."
You're shoving it all into your mouth at once.
Taking a teeny tiny baby bite of your chocolate first is yet another way to ensure that you're readying your delicate not-currently-chocolate-eating palate for the chocolate that's soon to come. No, seriously&mdashthat's another professional recommendation.
You're chewing it.
Turns out chocolate isn't meant to be chewed. Next time, press it to the roof of your mouth, suck, and then let it melt there for about as long as you can stand it. Not only does that make the whole experience of consuming the stuff last longer, but it'll also (again) help you appreciate all the usually hidden complexities of what you're eating.
You're mixing chocolates.
Far be it from me to say you shouldn't have Reese's, Hershey's, Snickers, and Twix or whatever in one sitting, but I feel obligated to relay to you that having so many kinds of chocolate at the same time makes the whole sesh a blur for your taste buds after awhile. Stick to one or two varieties at a time if possible. Three, if you must.
You're washing it down too fast.
Another Ghirardelli tip: Don't drink anything immediately after doing the above six things with chocolate! Otherwise, you'll have no way to know if the stuff's got "a 'long finish.' This is simply flavor that lasts a long time in your mouth." That's all to say if you're chugging water after eating chocolate, you're cutting a good few minutes off your chocolate enjoyment time.
How to Cut Down On Meat, Even If You're Not Cutting It Out Entirely
Using a small amount of meat is a good way to cut back while still infusing your meal with meaty flavor.
As a butter obsessive, hamburger enthusiast, and a food writer, I doubt there will be a time that I’ll totally cut out meat and dairy products. But I can’t ignore the mounting evidence that cutting back on eating meat is a very good idea. It’s definitely less expensive and possibly healthier, but the biggest motivator, for me, is the climate crisis. The meat and dairy industries, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, are responsible for 14.5 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions each year. Even if I probably won’t become a strict vegan or vegetarian, cutting down on meat feels like an achievable way to reduce my carbon footprint, and I know that I’m not alone in that goal. I want to eat meat in an intentional way, rather than have it be the default option for lunch.
This isn’t a new strategy. In the aughts, Mark Bittman popularized flexitarianism, meaning mostly eating plants, with a bit of meat and diary on occasion. But the less-but-not-no-meat idea isn’t anything new. It’s been around for centuries, not because of global warming, but because meat hasn’t always been as cheap or readily available as it is now in America in 2020. Stretching a little bit of sausage or bacon for a crowd to cut down on costs is a time-honored strategy, as is using meat as a seasoning or a garnish rather than having a lamb chop or T-bone as the centerpiece of dinner.
If you’re not ready to turn vegan or vegetarian, you can ease your way in by breaking up meatless meals with a few go-tos that use a less-is-more approach to meat and easily cut down on your intake. Plus, reducing your meat consumption doesn’t mean that you have to give up on meals tasting good—not by a long shot. Here are a few ways to cut down on meat, even if you’re not going to cut it out altogether.
Mistake: Placing the meat in the pan while it heats up
Never place your meat in the pan or on the grill while it heats up, says
Max Hardy, chef and owner of Coop Detroit. Cooking in a pan that's not already hot will gradually dry the meat out.
How to fix it: "When cooking beef, you always want to start with a really hot pan," Hardy explains. "Let your meat get to room temperature before placing it in the pan. When you start with cold meat, it can cool off your pan, not allowing you to get the nice sear that you want." This nice sear is what locks in the meat's flavors and juices.
Hardy adds that when cooking your beef to the desired temperature, you should allow it to rest for a few minutes so the juices won't leave the meat. "Allowing it to rest will help lock in more flavor and creates a succulent piece of meat," he says.
The Low-down on Meal Prepping
Before we get to the easy meal prep recipes below, let’s go over some important meal prepping details.
The reality is, most meals can be meal prepped, you just have to know how to do it right.
All of these tips hold true whether you’re following the chicken meal prep recipes below or you’re trying to convert your favorite recipe into a meal prep-friendly version.
Balance is Key
Ever notice how many servings of rice you get when eating out?
It’s way more than you’d make yourself, right?
One of the great things about meal prepping is that, unlike when eating out, you get to decide your portion sizes.
Your meals for weight loss should be balanced, meaning they contain adequate portions of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. These are known as your macros and your body needs certain ratios of each to run properly.
This portion guide will quickly show you how to create a balanced meal.
You can also calculate your macros, divide them between your meals throughout the day (not necessarily the same for each meal), and track them using MyFitnessPal to make sure you’re hitting your goals.
How to Meal Prep Chicken for the Week
Chicken can be a tricky meat to meal prep because it’s so lean and gets so dang dry when reheated.
But…. there are a few things you can do to prevent this from happening!
Do You Need to Prep the Chicken?
Before you even think about cooking chicken, you first need to brine it.
- Add 1/4 cup salt to 6 cups water (room temperature)
- Mix until salt dissolves
- Add chicken
- Place in fridge for 30 minutes
- Rinse chicken and pat dry
Salt breaks down certain proteins in the chicken that prevent the meat from contracting while cooking, meaning it’s more difficult for the juices to leak out.
Essentially, the salt helps the chicken retain the juices it already contains while adding more moisture from the water.
Once the chicken has been removed from the brine, you either coat it in:
Then it’s time to start cooking.
How Do You Cook Chicken for Meal Prep?
There are a number of ways you can cook chicken, as you’ll see from the meal prep recipes below.
These are all meal prep-friendly ways to cook chicken:
- Crockpot: Have other things to do than cook all day? With a slow cooker, you can have your whole week’s worth of meals cooking while you’re out and about and come home to a heavenly aroma.
- Instant Pot: For those days when you’re in a rush, the instant pot will save your day. You can quickly and efficiently cook multiple items in a pressure cooker at once, making it the ultimate multitasker.
- Grill: You can’t beat the taste of meat cooked on a grill. If weather isn’t cooperating, you can use an indoor grill. It’s great for meat and veggies!
- Oven: Either whole or diced, you can throw the chicken on a baking tray by itself or with some vegetables to cook. Meanwhile, you can prepare other meals and snacks.
- Stove: Although the stovetop requires more hands-on cooking, it’s a quick way to cook up some chicken and doesn’t require other gadgets.
What you use depends on the chicken meal prep recipe you use or what you have time for, but they’re all great options.
If you cooked the chicken whole, make sure you don’t cut it open until it’s cooled off or until you’re ready to eat it.
This will prevent the juices from flowing out and therefore prevent your chicken from drying out.
How Long Does Chicken Last in the Fridge?
According to the Federal Food Safety database, cooked chicken should only be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days.
This is one of the reasons many people prep half their meals on Sunday and the other half on Wednesday (or your days of choice).
The Best Meal Prep Containers to Store Your Food In
The freshness of your food is largely affected by the storage containers you use.
I only recommend glass storage contains for reheated foods because unlike plastic, glass doesn’t contain harmful chemicals such as BPA or phthalates that can leak into your food when heated up.
Glass is also non-porous, so your food will always taste fresh. No funky plastic flavors around here.
I also love and highly recommend these reusable food storage bags that are BPA-free. They even come with cute little designs!
Let’s Get Cooking
Now that you know the basics of cooking and storing chicken, you can put these these healthy meal prep recipes for weight loss to use!
Recreate this vintage steakhouse classic at home! This dish is playing fast and loose with the term "salad," but it's definitely delicious.
Courtesy of Five Heart Home
These days, you're more likely to use that canned tuna for tuna melts. But back in the day, tuna casserole was all the rage. Up the nostalgia factor by making this classic dish.