Ever wonder why your favorite chicken recipe in your favorite restaurant tastes good and tender? Maybe it was because of the way they cooked it or it’s simply because of its meat. Now, it got you thinking what they did that you simply can’t figure out. To tell you what, you cannot simply identify what causes something especially if it’s unpredictable. It’s just like guessing what the secret ingredient of something is.
Check out our updated article on this: Marinating Chicken in Dairy: A Complete Guide
Why Do You Have to Soak Chicken in Milk?
Well, marinating does not only make the chicken tender but it also enhances the texture of the bland chicken meat. Try out other types of marinade if you wish and witness how it affects the chicken meat. You can either buy commercial marinades or make your own marinade versions. Keep in mind that different types will unequally tenderize the meat. Some will yield a tougher chicken meat while others will not tenderize it.
While milk is the best option to tenderize the chicken meat, you can actually choose from other options. Very acidic marinades like vinegar and lemon juice will slightly toughen the meat while acid-based marinades will add flavor to it. Acid-based marinades are ideal for curry recipes. If you wish your chicken to be mushy, you can use enzyme-based marinades with pineapple or meat tenderizer.
If not, fruit marinades are a good alternative. Puree a kiwi fruit, pineapple, or mango and mix it with the raw chicken meat. Cover it before refrigerating for an hour. Aside from fruit marinades, you can also use soda. The highly acidic properties of the soda will break down the protein and enhances the flavor. Sprinkle salt into your marinade and add some water if you wish.
How to Tenderize Chicken
There are various ways on how to tenderize chicken but the tricky part is people are left clueless on what is the proper way of doing it. In here, you can see various methods of tenderizing the chicken from using tenderizer tools to marinating the chicken. Here are the methods on how to tenderize chicken.
Method 1: Using a Meat Tenderizer Tool
Meat tenderizing tools are generally made out of wooden or metal mallets. They have bumpy head which is used for pounding the meat in order to make it tenderer. These tools are available in kitchen supply stores. If this tool is not available, you can use a clean hammer instead. However, it won’t be as effective as the meat tenderizing tool because of its smooth head. Tenderizing tools are usually used for boneless cuts of chicken such as the chicken breasts or thighs.
Avoid tenderizing the chicken meat if there are still bones in it because you could shatter the bones. It would be better to separate the meat from the bones before tenderizing. Wrap the meat with a piece of plastic wrap so it will prevent the small pieces of meat from scattering over the countertop when pounding. Afterward, evenly pound the entire surface of the meat and keep going back and forth until you obtained your desired thinness. This method is ideal for grilling or frying since pounding will break down the fibers. This will enable the meat for quick cooking.
Method 2: Using a Marinade
Marinade the chicken in a plain yogurt or buttermilk since it contains enzymes and acids. These enzymes and acids work together in order to break down the proteins allowing the chicken meat to become tenderer. This is the reason why chefs soak chicken in yogurt or milk overnight before cooking it. The marinade will yield for a better result especially when you plan to fry the chicken. This could also work on any chicken recipe that you want.
Using a plain yogurt will alter the taste of the chicken but flavored yogurt could bring out the best flavor of the chicken. You can use lemon, lime, or coconut instead if you want to add flavors to the chicken meat. You can also add pepper and other spices which work well with the slight yogurt flavor.
On the other hand, buttermilk is a bit milder and it does not affect the flavor of the chicken. Buttermilk is also easy to do. You just have to add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a measuring cup and mix in whole or low-fat milk. Let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes until the mixture curdles. This can be used if buttermilk is unavailable. If not, just use milk and seasonings to taste.
After choosing which marinade you will use, marinate the chicken meat for an hour or more. But marinating the chicken overnight could yield better results. It could also bring out a better texture of the meat. Flatten the chicken meat in a container and pour in the marinade to cover it. Seal the container and refrigerate until it is ready to use. You can also add seasonings and spices to brine the marinating chicken. Before cooking, shake off the excess marinade.
Method 3: Cooking the Chicken
When cooking the chicken meat, you can actually choose from numerous ways. These include blackening the chicken, oven-baking the chicken, grilling, and stewing. However, it would be better if you won’t overcook it because this can remove the moisture and the tightening of the proteins. This causes the bubblegum consistency of the chicken meat. You can use a thermometer to monitor the proper temperature to prevent from overcooking.
When cooking, you have to low and slow cook it. The “low and slow” cooking method breaks the protein down for a tenderer consistency. This also allows the flavors and juices to penetrate into the meat for more juiciness. Doing this cooking method works best with bone-in thighs and other dark meat. After cooking, let the meat rest for about 5 to 10 minutes while covered with an aluminum foil. This enables the redistribution of the juices in the meat.
Do not cut the chicken meat immediately because it causes the juices to drain instead of reabsorbing the juices. It is also better if you let the chicken cool down to prevent having burns and dry, mess meal.
Method 4: Selecting and Cooking a Tender Chicken
Before buying, you must choose your reliable source. Thus, it is important to know whether your source is as reliable as the others. Keep in mind that old chicken will yield you a tough chicken meat. You should also consider the cut of the poultry used. Since dark meat chicken has more fat, they tend to be more moist and tender. Breast meat and white meat are a bit tougher. However, soaking it in milk or buttermilk marinade will make it tender.
When purchasing for commercial meat tenderizers, you have to check it since there are unnecessary chemical additives. Fresh chicken are likely to be tenderer than frozen ones. The chicken meat should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure its safety. Roasted chicken should be at 155 degrees. When pounding, you can put two sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper in between. You can also use zip top bags and rolling pin if plastic wrap and mallets are not available.
Eating raw or undercooked chicken is harmful and risky. When defrosting, you should defrost the chicken in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Other than that, you can seal the chicken in a zip-top bag without air in it and run it under cold water.
In summary - The Secret to Tender chicken
Marinating the chicken meat before cooking is a great thing to do, especially if you are not in a rush to cook it. Let it sit overnight and notice the changes once you have already cooked it. Soaking chicken in milk will yield you a better result in its taste. So, if you are asking what wonders they do to your favorite chicken recipe, you can actually try it out by using the marinades listed in this article.