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Old 07-12-2006, 10:09 PM   #1
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Help...Always tough chicken breasts

I've done the search for "tough" in the chicken forum, read the posts. I even did a web search: "how to cook chicken breasts". I have to face it, I can't seem to get it right. Last night, came home from work with the idea to either quickly saute some chicken breasts, or maybe grill them, serving them with some rice and nice fresh green veg. I had marinated them and frozen them on Sunday - thawed them out yesterday - with some leftover Italian dressing (having cleaned out my pantry). Was this my mistake? Freezing them in the dressing? In the end I asked my dh to grill them just because it was so hot inside. They were supposed to be done in something like 4 minutes per side, but they just didn't seem cooked (so said dh, usually an expert griller) 30 minutes after going outside, he came in with some shoe leather. Was he watching a Yankee game out there and did he fib? I don't think so. They did taste okay, but the texture was all wrong. Darn it! I have a package of frozen chicken breasts in the freezer, and I think I'm going to donate them to my neighbor - a better cook than me.
I pound them, sear them, bake them - they're always tough. I've started to just hate them. Help me please with my technique, or I may just quit cooking forever! (p.s. I'm looking for nicely browned, tender pieces - mainly I'd like to saute them properly) (p.p.s. I have an iron skillet, but also a heavy bottomed stainless steel skillet) (p.p.p.s. I don't have anything like Le Creuset, oh, woe).


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Old 07-12-2006, 10:12 PM   #2
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p.p.p.p.s......I cut the last of them up tonight for Shelby (see avatar) and Shadow (what the hey). Shelby thought they were okay.

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Old 07-12-2006, 10:14 PM   #3
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Sounds like your cooking them to long. Otherwise sounds like you did them ok.
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Old 07-12-2006, 10:26 PM   #4
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Sandy, the most common reason for tough chicken breasts is overcooking. Folks tend to overcook because they are concerned about killing off any bacterial contamination that may be present (salmonella).

Once you have marinated (I don't think freezing in the marinade was an issue), dry off the breasts and let them come to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Heat the SS skillet and add some fat. Sear the breasts on high heat for about three minutes per side and pop the pan and chicken into the oven. Cook for 12 minutes (15 minutes only if the breasts are really big).

Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the breasts to a plate. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. You're done! These breasts will be juicy and tender.

Also, you can brine the breasts to add flavor and moisture. There are many brining descriptions on DC.

You can also make a delicious pan sauce from the fond left in the pan while the breasts are resting. Pour off and excess fat and toss in some minced shallots. Sauté 'til soft and add a 1.4 cup of wine. Reduce, scraping up the fond, and add a little chicken broth. Reduce again. Turn off the heat and whisk in a few pats of butter. Season and serve.
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Old 07-13-2006, 01:15 AM   #5
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Andy M. you are a wise person! I can tell. Thank you for all that information. Tomorrow morning I will take those frozen chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them into the fridge. I will prepare a sauce of some sort and then I will try to do things exactly as you describe.

Wish me luck.

(Occasionally I feel like I'm living in the Twilight Zone of cooking).
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Old 07-13-2006, 08:46 AM   #6
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If you grill them again, use a meat thermometer and check the temp of the thickest part of the breast. Chicken is done at 165 degrees F. Cook until they reach 160 degrees F, and carry-over cooking will finish them off when you bring them in.
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Old 07-13-2006, 09:01 AM   #7
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I had this problem and I think it has to do with the chicken. The breasts were different in texture and kinda looked stringy. They even felt tough b4 I cooked them! I quit buying Tyson brand and now buy farm raised. I once threw out an entire package because it just looked strange! I used to think all chicken was the same but now I check it like I do meat b4 putting it in my basket.
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Old 07-13-2006, 09:05 AM   #8
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On the grill I go with indirect heat. I turn on the back burners and put the chick over the front burners that are off. I also brine my chicken and use a probe thermometer to see when it hits 160 at which point I pull it off the grill and let it rest until it hits 165.
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Old 07-13-2006, 09:10 AM   #9
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Thanks again, everyone.
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Old 07-13-2006, 09:10 AM   #10
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I agree with all of the above comments, but have also found that if the chicken has been frozen and thawed too many times, that leads to toughness, too. Sometimes you have no idea of knowing this--if they've been frozen and partially thawed a few times at the grocery store. I find I have this happen more when I buy store brand as opposed to Perdue. Other times, it's my fault (I thaw them then don't get around to cooking them for one reason or another so I pop them back in the freezer--big no-no, I know!)

Also, if the breast are really large and thick, I fillet them, making two thinner pieces out of one. That helps to reduce the cooking time, resulting in less chance of them getting tough.

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