Just about anytime you get a chicken finger, find grilled chicken on a Caesar salad or order a fried chicken sandwich, chances are that's a breast you're eating. Favored by health-conscious people, children, and white meat lovers, chicken breasts show up on most. There's nothing wrong with that either, especially if the item gets cooked to juicy perfection and slathered with eye-opening spices or succulent sauce. The breast is the largest cut of meat off the bird, and it's a type of food just about any meat eater can get behind.
What Part of the Animal Do Chicken Breasts Come From?
You'll find the breast in the front of the bird, or more, its round chest. Divided into two parts by a bone, each chicken has two breasts that get scooped out of the chest cavity. Because this piece of meat proves seamless, meaning no bones, weird fat deposits, or cartilage, it's the easiest part to shape into whatever meal you have in mind. Also, because the breast doesn't do any of the "heavy lifting", it's the palest of white meat.
How to Prep Chicken Breasts
Once the breast gets sliced from the rib cage cooks are presented with a large, oblong piece of meat that's thick on one end and thinner on the other. This strange shape makes cooking the chicken a little tricky since you need to be sure the meat gets heated to 165-degrees all the way through, but you don't want to dry out that smaller portion. This conundrum is why so many breasts get deep-fried, marinated, wrapped in bacon, or sliced into smaller parts like nuggets, fingers, and kabab chunks.
Alternatively, using a meat tenderizer until the whole breast is about the same thickness all around is a great trick. Not only does this allow for even cooking in a pan or on the grill, but searing it this way seals in the juices. Try breading your breasts too, this adds a pleasing texture to whatever dish you're preparing. No matter how you decide to cook your breasts in the end, it's good to salt and pepper each side before adding heat.
Best Way to Cook Chicken Breasts
Because the tender white meat of the breast has less fat than other parts of the chicken, you will want to make sure not to overcook the bird lest it gets dry and unpalatable. Those juices are your friend, so keep them in the meat. Simply cook the meat to a safe inner temperature of 165 F.
For baking chicken, first, preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Lightly coat the breasts in olive oil with whatever herbs you like and then cook for about 20 to 25 minutes. At the 20 minute mark monitor the internal temp with a meat thermometer, which needs to register at 165 F. The second it hits that temperature pull out your breasts and let them rest for around five minutes. Resting the meat helps those tasty juices redistribute throughout the cut. Wrapping the breasts in foil helps seal in moisture when baking.
Frying is another popular way of cooking chicken breasts. It's a tasty way too, and you can do so much with the breading, spices and sauce. For example, Nashville hot proves deliciously devilish in heat, and that's just a fried chicken with a ton of spicy peppers added to the finishing sauce. Not that you need capsicum to make this dish, but salting and adding a pinch of pepper, green herbs and/or paprika adds a nice layer to the overall flavor.
Another popular way to cook chicken breasts is on the grill. Oil the grate and heat it up to medium heat. Once hot, place the raw, oil-tossed breasts on (spices optional but encouraged), cover and cook one side for about 5 to 7 minutes and then flip. Check the internal temp before taking off the grill, and if it's at 165 it's time to plate and add to the picnic table. Serve with sauce and/or condiments. Slice breasts along the meat grain to create more tender cuts that also stay together better when cooking
What Do Chicken Breasts Taste Like?
When you hear the phrase, "tastes like chicken," it's the breast we're thinking of. Some think this white meat has no flavor, and it's mild for sure. But when you get a succulent, slightly charred breast hot off the grill it's not something you'll forget readily. In fact, you might start craving one here and there or garner an affinity for fried chicken breasts, which have a a pleasing texture and pull flavor from the juices. Sure, chicken breasts will soak up whatever flavor you put on it nicely, and that imparts a lot of the nuances, but that's part of the wonder of this neutral protein.
Chicken Breast Recipes
Though chicken breasts prove a common meat, there are plenty of ways to cook it that you may not know about. From marinades to spice blends to adding other meat on top, experiment with this cut and find a new favorite way to eat and prepare it.
Where to Buy Chicken Breasts
Any grocery story you go into will have chicken breasts, it's probably the most common part of the chicken. Look for pink-tinged breasts with a sheen. Any gray or spotty meat should be avoided. Farmers' markets too should have poultry farmers, and though these breasts tend to be a smaller thanks to hormone-free, pasteurized chickens, the fresh flavor stands out and makes it worth buying.
Keep all raw chicken in the fridge for up to a few days until ready to use. Make sure the raw meat isn't touching anything and juices aren't dripping into the fridge. We suggest putting any packages of raw chicken in a bowl while you wait to cook. If you aren't going to eat the breasts within three or four days, freeze them in a resealable freezer bag or container.