Chicken breasts are healthy and readily available so, naturally, they have become a pretty common dish.
The downside is that chicken breasts can get boring rather quickly, particularly if you are recycling the same old recipes.
If you are looking for ways to take this traditional cut up a notch, here are some ideas to try out.
Try Smoked Chicken Breast
If you are like most people, then you probably make chicken breast on the stovetop, roast or bake it in the oven, or throw it on the grill out in the backyard. While these methods are great, they don’t do all that much to impart flavor.
This is why you should consider smoking your chicken breasts!
Buy chicken breasts with bones and skin for best results; this way, the chicken breasts will turn out juicier and crispier than when they are boneless and skinless. Throw mild wood—such as apple, cherry, or peach wood—into your smoker’s firefox to avoid overloading the poultry with strong flavors.
The smoky flavor penetrates deep into the chicken, ensuring that every bite is a treat. Kristy Norton, chef and contributor to Cat Head’s BBQ, also advises using a dry rub to coat the chicken breast beforehand.
This results in a delicious and crunchy covering as well.
Aim for a cooking temperature of 250°F (120°C). Chicken cooks quicker than duck, quail, or pheasant, especially when it is cut. So test for doneness in an hour/hour and a half using a meat thermometer. When it has reached 165°F (74°C), it is ready to rest and serve.
If you don’t have a smoker, this shouldn’t be a problem. Most charcoal grills and pellet grills can be turned into smokers simply by adding wood pellets and closing the lid to create smoke.
Prep Your Chicken Beforehand with a Marinade
If you are short on time, a marinade can be a great way to kick the flavor up a notch. Typically, marinades are made up of a mixture of oil, acid, and flavorings. Not only does this combination work to add flavor, but, when done right, it can also tenderize the outside of the chicken breasts.
What is great about marinades, though, is that there are so many to choose from! You can even get creative and make your own mix. This means that you can change things up every time that you prepare chicken breasts, ensuring there are no more boring dinners in store for you!
When in doubt, mix ¼ cup soy sauce, ½ cup olive oil, ½ cup balsamic vinegar, ½ cup brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt with black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.
This marinate will be enough for 5-6 chicken breasts depending on the size. For best results, marinade in the fridge for 6 hours.
Dry Brine Before Cooking
The great thing about dry brining chicken is that not only does it give the breasts a more chicken-like flavor, but it also adds makes them juicy and tender. Also, unlike marinades, the salt is able to penetrate further into the muscles fibers.
It is especially useful when roasting or grilling chicken as the high temperature can often dry the meat out.
Dry brining works thanks to osmosis. When the salt comes in contact with the raw chicken meat, it slowly but surely draws out the moisture. The salt then dissolves in the moisture—forming a salty, flavorful brine that’s reabsorbed by the meat.
The result is chicken breasts more tender and more flavorsome than otherwise. Try this dry brining technique once, and we guarantee you that everyone in the family, without exceptions, will fall in love with it.
As Sasha Marx of Serious Eats explains it, the key to dry brine is to use good-quality kosher salt as it doesn’t clump up in the same way that table salt does. Plus, it is easier to sprinkle on the meat.
There is an art to dry brining. Take a pinch of kosher salt between your fingers and position your hand about eight to ten inches above the chicken breast. Then, sprinkle the salt, allowing it to fall over every inch of the surface.
As for how long you should brine each chicken breast for: Do this for at least 45 minutes, although you can brine the meat for several hours. Do so in a refrigerator, in a baking dish or other container, and not on the counter. (Leaving raw chicken meat out for long periods of time will render it unsafe to eat.)
Giving Glazing A Shot
If you want flavors to really stick to the chicken breasts, then you should try a glaze. These are usually made of some kind of liquid sweetener such as honey or maple syrup.
To balance the sweetness out, you will also use some kind of acid such as lemon juice or vinegar. To add even more flavor, you can add garlic and a host of other herbs and spices.
The glaze is then brushed onto the meat and it is roasted, baked, or grilled.
To take things up a notch, save some of the glaze. Once the chicken breasts are nearly cooked through, remove them and brush on the leftover glaze. Then broil or sear the chicken breasts for added flavor and texture.
As you can see, there are quite a few tricks that you can try when ramping up the flavor of chicken breasts. Make sure to try your hand at all of the options mentioned here. You just may end up falling in love with all of them!