As a fitness enthusiast, chicken is probably a standard food item on your dinner table. And for a good reason! It's an inexpensive, versatile, easy-to-cook, low-fat, high-protein food choice that goes well with other foods.
What else can you ask for? Well, chicken can get a little boring if eaten day in and day out. There's only so much you can do with barbeque sauce! So we've gathered 10 tips and recipes to spice up chicken and make this mainstay a whole lot tastier.
For a richer flavor, season and marinate your chicken for 24 hours before cooking and store it in the refrigerator.
The longer you keep chicken in a marinade, the more it'll be infused with flavor.
2. Healthy Marinating
To keep meals healthier, marinate chicken in seasoned fruit juice or chicken broth instead of oil-based marinades before grilling or broiling.
Always store chicken in the fridge while it marinates, even if you only plan to let it soak for 30 minutes.
Use bold seasonings like freshly grated lemon peel, minced hot peppers, fresh herbs, and infused vinegars to add flavor to chicken dishes without adding fat.
4. Non-Stick Skillets
Sauteed chicken tastes great, but can be fattening if you use oil or butter. Instead, eliminate the need for oil and butter by using a non-stick skillet. Trim all visible fat from cuts of chicken and add some onions, green peppers, and spices.
5. Cooking Thermostat
Drying out chicken by overcooking it can ruin its taste. To get around this problem, use a cooking thermometer to determine when your chicken is cooked just right.
The internal temperature of a whole chicken should reach 180 degrees F and chicken breasts should be cooked to a temperature of 170 degrees F.
Another way to see if chicken is done is to pierce the thickest part of the meat to see if the juices run clear. If they're clear and not pink, the chicken is ready.
When baking a whole chicken, it's best to keep the skin on to avoid drying out the meat. The skin helps hold in the juices and flavor of the meat. It can be easily removed after cooking.
One of the best ways to cook a very juicy, tender, and flavorful chicken is to soak it in salt water, also known as brine, before cooking. To create good brine, dissolve a half-cup of salt and a half-cup of brown sugar in a gallon of water.
Immerse the chicken completely in the solution and place it in the refrigerator right away. You may want to weight the chicken with a plate to keep it completely immersed. Let the chicken soak in the brine for 3 to 12 hours.
Brining makes cooked meat moister by hydrating the cells of its muscle tissue before cooking, via the process of osmosis. The brine surrounding the cells has a higher concentration of salt than the fluid within the cells, but the cell fluid has a higher concentration of other solutes.
This leads salt ions to enter the cell via diffusion. The increased salinity of the cell fluid causes the cell to absorb water from the brine via osmosis. The salt introduced into the cell also denatures its proteins. The proteins coagulate, forming a matrix which traps water molecules and holds them during cooking. This prevents the meat from drying out, or dehydrating.
In many foods the additional salt is also desirable as a preservative. Note that kosher meats are salted during the process of koshering so they should not be brined.
Before cooking the chicken, make sure to rinse off the excess brine with fresh water and dry completely with paper towels. Brine works by allowing moisture to pass through the meat more easily.
This process adds moisture to chicken, infuses the meat with more flavor, and shortens cooking time. It's important to note that brined chicken will cook faster than chicken that has not been pre-treated, because water is a better conductor of heat than meat.
8. Salt-And-Sugar Rub
Another way to make tasty, tender chicken is to add it to a salt-and-sugar rub. For chicken breasts, blend 1/3 cup of course salt and 1/3 cup of brown sugar with a mixture of your favorite seasonings. A tablespoon each of ground black pepper, paprika and chili powder are good seasonings to spice up this mix.
In a large resealable plastic bag, rub the entire mixture evenly over the chicken, seal up bag, and refrigerate for 4 to 8 hours. You may find it easier to use several bags in this instance.
When ready to cook, rinse the chicken breasts thoroughly to remove the salt-and-sugar rub and dry the breasts with paper towels. The chicken is then ready for cooking.
Leftover chicken is great for lunches. It can be heated up or eaten cold. When reheating leftover chicken, cover the dish to retain moisture and flavor.
You may want to consider brining your chicken if you know you'll have a lot of leftovers. Brining chicken makes reheated leftovers much more tasty, tender, and juicy.
One lunch idea is to roll up sliced chicken breast in pita bread with fresh green peppers, onions, lettuce, pickles, mustard, and ground pepper.
This makes for a delicious, high-protein, low-fat lunch meal. Try adding other fresh ingredients to make your own version.
10. Spice It Up
Adding particular ingredients to a marinade, brine, rub, saute, or sauce can really enhance chicken's flavor and give it an international flare.
For Italian chicken recipes, use fresh minced garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, and dried thyme. For Indian-style chicken, you may want to try mixing coriander, turmeric, cardamom, and bay leaves into a marinate.
For Thai chicken, try adding some cilantro, lime juice, ginger, coconut milk, and lemongrass to the recipe. And for that Tex-Mex flavor, try adding cumin, sage, minced fresh chili peppers, or chili powder to chicken.
Chicken is a great source of protein for any athlete. Adding new flavors to this nutritious staple can make meals more pleasing and something to look forward to again.
So don't be afraid to experiment with different tastes. Chicken can go with many food combinations and flavors. It just takes a little imagination to bring life back into your chicken meals. Bon appetit!