Never suffer from rubbery chicken again! Find out what makes cooked chicken rubbery and how to prevent it.
For anyone who’s ever struggled to achieve tender, juicy chicken, you know the feeling of disappointment when your bird comes out rubbery instead. The texture, the flavor, the whole experience — it’s just not the same.
But what could be causing this common cooking mistake? Is it the chicken itself, the cooking method, or something else entirely? Well, I’m here to tell you that there are a few possible culprits when it comes to rubbery chicken, and with a little bit of knowledge and a few simple techniques, you can avoid them and enjoy perfectly cooked poultry every time.
So put on that apron and grab your favorite frying pan, because we’re about to dive into the world of chicken cookery and figure out why your bird might be coming out less than ideal.
Why Does Chicken Come Out Rubbery?
From the type of chicken you use to the way you handle it before and during cooking, there are a multitude of factors that can affect the end result. But don’t worry — by the time you and I are, you’ll be turning out mouth-watering chicken dishes in no time.
So, what’s causing rubbery chicken?
When it comes to chicken, some cuts are more tender than others.
If you’re looking for the most succulent, flavorful meat, you’ll want to focus on the parts of the bird that get the least amount of exercise. These cuts tend to be more tender and flavorful because the muscles are less developed, which results in a softer texture.
The breasts, particularly the tenderloins, are among the most tender parts of the bird. These cuts are lean and have a delicate, almost buttery texture. They’re perfect for grilling, sautéing, or roasting, and are great for quick weeknight dinners or special occasions alike.
Other tender cuts include the wings and the drumettes — in other words, the “drumstick” part of the wing. These cuts are small and cook quickly, making them ideal for a wide range of recipes. They’re also great for snacking, whether you’re eating them as is or tossing them in your favorite sauce.
The least tender chicken cuts?
The legs and thighs. These cuts are tougher because they get a lot of exercise, which leads to a more developed muscle structure.
It also comes down to the fact that chicken — like all poultry and meats — contains water. In fact, according to the USDA, raw chicken has 69% water when the skin is still on, and 66% when skinless. And when you expose chicken to heat, whether you’re frying it in a pan, baking it in the oven, or even boiling it in water (it’s hot water, remember?), you’re essentially causing that water to evaporate.
But here’s the thing: if you cook the chicken for too long, it can lose too much moisture, resulting in a rubbery texture. It’s the same concept as leaving a pot of water on the stove for too long. Eventually, all the water will evaporate and you’ll be left with a dry, overcooked mess.
The same goes for your chicken. If you cook it for too long, it will lose too much moisture and turn out, you guessed it, rubbery.
How to Cook Chicken So It Doesn’t Come Out Rubbery
So, does this mean you should be undercooking your chicken in order to avoid a rubbery texture? Absolutely and positively not! Chicken, like all poultry, must be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) in order to be safe to eat, so don’t skimp on the cooking time.
The trick is in how you cook the chicken:
If you’re boiling it, make sure to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken pieces. As soon as they’ve reached 165°F on the inside, remove them from the pot to avoid overcooking and ending up with rubbery chicken.
If you’re frying the chicken on the stovetop, be sure to use medium-high heat and cut the chicken pieces into small, even sizes to ensure they cook quickly and evenly. Overcooking the chicken or frying it at too high a heat can lead to a rubbery texture, so keep an eye on it as it cooks.
Remember, the key to perfectly cooked, juicy chicken is to strike the right balance between doneness and tenderness. With a bit of attention and the correct cooking methods, you can avoid the disappointment of rubbery chicken and enjoy perfectly cooked poultry every single time.
The Technique for Perfectly Cooked, Non-Rubbery Chicken
Let me share a little secret with you: the key to the perfect — and I mean perfect — chicken every time is to dry-brine it, then boil and sear it.
What is dry-brining, you ask? It’s a simple cooking technique that involves salt, time, and patience. All you have to do is liberally salt the chicken on all sides and refrigerate it for 1 hour before cooking. The salt will draw out the juices, dissolve in them, and then get soaked back up by the meat, seasoning it from the inside out.
Once you’ve dry-brined your chicken, the cooking process is a cinch. Boil the chicken in salty water for 5 to 8 minutes — the bigger and thicker the pieces, the longer the boiling time.
Then, preheat a skillet with a heavy bottom over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the skillet and sear it on all sides, creating a crispy, flavorful crust. Add a bit of oil only after the moisture have evaporated from the chicken’s surface, or it will splatter.
When the crust is golden brown, let the chicken rest for about 3 minutes before serving it. This will allow the juices to redistribute and help ensure that you end up with chicken that’s crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside every time.
Why does it work so well?
The dry-brining seasons the chicken and adds a great amount of flavor. The hot, salty water boils it to doneness on the inside. And the sear produces a golden crust that packs a punch in aroma and flavor thanks to something called the Maillard reaction.
Give this technique a try; you won’t be disappointed.