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Cooking With Chicken - The Basics

Created January 10, 2017
Whether grilled or fried, every chicken recipe starts with food safety.
Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Rice

Looking to plan a meal around a main ingredient that’s both healthy and easy to prepare? Chicken is popular choice because it’s so versatile. Opt for a quick and simple recipe like our chicken ranch tacos, or try something a bit more challenging and exotic like our recipe for Asian chicken with kumquat sauce. 

But whether you choose to grill, fry, bake or roast your chicken, it’s important first to learn to handle the poultry properly and safely, as well as to debone, flatten, freeze and store it. 

Handling Raw Poultry 

Because raw meat can transmit dangerous bacteria, never let raw or frozen chicken sit at room temperature. Frozen chicken can be stored up to a year. But raw chicken stored in the refrigerator should be cooked within two days. 

Follow these steps when handling raw poultry: 

  1. Frozen chicken takes up to one day to thaw in the refrigerator. You can also run cold water over it in the sink or defrost it in the microwave. 
  2. Once thawed, rinse the chicken with cold water before cooking. 
  3. After handling raw poultry, thoroughly clean all surfaces, utensils, cutting boards, knives and hands with hot soapy water. 
  4. Always serve cooked meat on a clean plate. 
  5. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days. 

Deboning Chicken Breasts 

Boneless chicken cooks faster and is easier to prepare. Here’s how to debone chicken properly: 

  1. Loosen the keel bone and white cartilage by running the tip of your index finger around both sides of the bone. Pull out the bone in one or two pieces. 
  2. Insert the tip of the knife under the long rib bone. Resting the knife against the bones, use steady and even pressure to gradually trim the meat away from the bones. 
  3. Cut the rib cage away from the breast, cutting through the shoulder joint to remove the rib cage. Repeat on the other side. 
  4. Cut away the wishbone. Slip the knife under the white tendons on either side of the breast; loosen and pull out the tendons. If they’re too slippery, grasp the end of the tendons with a paper towel. 
  5. Remove skin if desired. 

Flattening Chicken 

Many international favorites, like our recipe for chicken marsala, require flattening boneless, skinless cutlets. Here’s how: Place the uncooked chicken between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or tenderizer, pound the meat evenly, moving from the center outward until the meat is ¼-inch thick (density may vary). 

Marinades and Rubs 

Marinades can to add zest and flavor to your favorite chicken dishes, and prevent the chicken from drying out during cooking. 

Try our recipe for grilled chicken salsa verde, or create your own marinade with wine, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice, salt or garlic. 

  • Place marinated chicken pieces in a plastic bag and refrigerate. Time varies greatly, from 15 minutes to two hours for boneless pieces, to one or two days with bones. 
  • Always marinate in the refrigerator to prevent bacteria from growing. The same applies when applying rubs in advance. 
  • Do not baste using the same marinade. Either make extra and set aside for basting, or boil for two to three minutes to kill any bacteria. 

Dry rubs are seasoning blends that add flavor to rotisserie or grilled chicken. Ground black or white pepper, paprika and garlic powder can be rubbed all over the chicken before cooking. Spice up the meal with blackened seasoning, or add fresh flavor with crushed basil, thyme or oregano. Or, try our recipe for a Cajun spice rub.