Let’s start with this: my new regular feature, 16-Bar Cooking Technique, has officially been renamed 32-Bar Cooking Technique, because mastering fundamental principles of the kitchen simply can’t be done in 30-40 seconds. To truly teach someone to become an expert you need at least a minute. Today: chicken breasts.
I would estimate that a full 70% of the chicken breasts I’ve had in my lifetime were dry, and about half flavorless. It doesn’t have to be that way. Prepared properly, chicken breasts are extremely delicious, extremely easy, and very healthy. There’s nothing not to not dislike about them.
Longstanding darlings of the lean protein movement, boneless, skinless chicken breasts seem to have become something vaguely resembling medicine over the past 20 years: not a favorite cut of meat, but something people choke down mindlessly in the interest of health while wishing they were having a burger instead. And I suppose there’s a certain comfort in the fact that a boneless, skinless, chicken breast looks nothing like a chicken, making it easier for many people to swallow by keeping the cognitive separation between animals and meat intact. But to quote the Book of Durden: Don’t deal with this the way those dead people do! Come on! Let’s do this right. To make chicken breasts that warrant primal craving:
1. The first rule of Chicken Club is: buy good chicken. There is no substitute. They should have led lives with ample room to roam. Regular (near-constant) outdoor access. Eating what chickens eat – grass, seeds, worms. Why this all translates into deliciousness I don’t know, but it does. I strongly suspect there’s some evolutionary factors in play.
Ideally, you bought a whole chicken or two instead of parts, and you’ve used the legs and wings for something else. Or perhaps you’ve bought the breasts from a responsible (read: tasty) producer.
2. The second rule of Chicken Club is: buy good chicken.
3. Brine the chicken. This takes next to no time and makes a HUGE difference in the moistness of the finished product. The salt, which permeates the breast in a very short time, holds in additional water that would otherwise evaporate during cooking. That, and salt is objectively delicious. If you’re cut from empirical science cloth then leave one boob out of the brine before you cook, and note the difference in the eating.
4. Make sure the outside surface is very dry before putting it in the pan. We do this by patting dry the breasts then coating them in flour.
5. Put the chicken in a very low temperature oven to finish cooking it through without drying it out.
6. If this is your first time at Chicken Club… you have to make chicken.
The music is 32 bars of “Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On,” remixed by DJ Jumbotron. Buy the original Boswell Sisters tune here. “Grapevine,” a Zapp and Roger track used in the remix, can be purchased here.
Finally: if you like Fight Club and have never seen the Pitt/Norton/Fincher NSFW cover of the Frankie Avalon song “Venus,” please do so at your earliest possible convenience.