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Old 01-07-2009, 02:07 AM   #1
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Question About New Cooking Method

Hey all,

It's been a while since I've visited DC, thanks to school and actually forgetting the name of this site a few times. I'm glad I found it again, though! With that, I have a question about the very handy sear & bake method I've started using for just about everything. That is, searing the meat in an iron cast skillet for a few minutes and sticking the whole thing in the oven to finish. I have two nice iron cast skillets, one with grill ridges in it and the other flat-bottomed.

Unfortunately I'm a pretty novice cook, especially when it comes to telling if meats are done without cutting into them and wasting valuable juices. I almost always undercook them or dry them out unless I use sear & bake.

So finally, my question -- I've learned how to cook steak and boneless skinless chicken breasts using sear & bake, but wanted to see if anyone has had a similar experience with chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs? With it being winter and the grill covered up in the backyard, I want to use my iron cast grill pan to get some distinct grill marks on all sides of the drumsticks and then blast them in the oven. After searing on all sides for a total of 4-5 minutes, how long should I blast them in the oven and at what temperature? For chicken breast, it came out nicely with me searing 2 minutes a side on very high heat and then sticking it in a 325 F degree oven for about 20 minutes.

It's always disappointing messing up meat, since I have 5-6 rock solid marinades. The cooking itself is always the variable that messes up my dishes.

Thanks in advance for the help!

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Old 01-07-2009, 04:10 AM   #2
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The nice thing about thighs and drumsticks is that they have the bone in and are cut. Do as you did with the chicken breasts on the sear part, giving them a nice sear on the outside. When you are happy with the way they look, pop them into the oven at 350 for 15 minutes and then check. You want to look around where the meat was cut and the bone is showing. The juices running from there should be clear, no red in them. Drumsticks will cook faster and may be ready after 15 minutes or need another 5 to finish. Thighs of decent size may need to go a bit longer.
Just check on them as they cook and look for that juice running out to turn clear.
Ovens vary so it is hard to set exact times for everyone, but in mine after searing they go about 20 minutes at 350 and are done. Also remember that since drumsticks and thighs have bone and sinew in them, they are prime candidates for slow cooking after searing. This will soften up the skin somewhat as they slow cook, but are delicious this way. In my case 250 for 45 minutes seems to work well. Again the key is no blood around the bones. You can usually check this by wiggling a fork in around the bone to see what comes out without having to cut into it.
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Old 01-07-2009, 05:40 AM   #3
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Can I suggest that you do as the pro's do. Get a digital thermometer. You can get a Taylor in the gadget area of the grocery store for a few dollars, up to a thermopen for a couple hundred that reads in 2 to 4 seconds. Thermopen even offers one with a very thin probe that is designed for thin things like hamburger, etc. Should be great for chicken parts.

As Mav said, you can vary the oven temp and time to achieve the effect that you want. However, done is done and temperature is the best judge. With a thermometer, you do not need to cut anything open.

Hope this helps.

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Old 01-07-2009, 06:22 AM   #4
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Thank you both for the advice. It turns out I have a fairly reliable thermometer with an oven-safe probe, but stopped using it a while back because I think I'd stick it into the wrong part of the meat and end up overcooking because of the inaccurate reading. The worst was when I cooked chicken breasts on the grill last summer until the "correct" temperature and they dried out completely. Blech. I probably need to improve my temperature taking technique. I'll try again with the thermometer and the no bloody bones/juices run clear signs until I find the right time for my specific oven.

One more question, actually -- approximately what would be the cooking time difference if the drumsticks/thighs were skinless(but not boneless)? Would there be any difference?

If the thighs were boneless too, they could probably be finished in the skillet in about 10 minutes without any oven blasting I assume.
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Old 01-07-2009, 05:43 PM   #5
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I don't think there would be any difference if it were skinless. One of the key factors in cook time is thickness of the meat. Taking the bone out would effect this somewhat, but not greatly I don't think.
As for thermometers, I have only used them on whole poultry roasters or on the stove top for candies, sauces, and meats done there, so I will let someone else explain the best way to use one and where to stick it so it gets the more accurate temp.
My understanding is the thickest part of the meat, but I could be wrong. On a whole bird I do it down by the drumstick/thigh area.
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Old 01-07-2009, 11:34 PM   #6
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That makes sense about the thickness Maverick. I'll keep that in mind.

I ended up trying a paprika/garlic/hot sauce marinade with a few skin-on drumsticks tonight. Turned out pretty juicy and tender! After searing 4-5 minutes so the drumsticks were caramelized all around, I stuck them in a 350 F oven while still in the skillet. About fifteen minutes in, I stuck the probe into the thickest part of the drumstick without touching the bone and closed the oven door. It took about 25-30 minutes to reach an internal temperature of ~ 170-175, and that was with the last 5-7 minutes upped to 400 F. Tasted excellent.

I think maybe I'll start using the thermometer with bone-in meats, then slowly advance my technique... :D
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:35 PM   #7
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I too, have really enjoyed cooking my chicken breasts with the sear and bake method. However I'm still looking for some great marinades.

Turkeyman or anyone else, would you mind sharing some of your favorites?
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Old 01-09-2009, 10:31 PM   #8
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Honestly, I agree with Maverick on this one. Legs and thighs are best suited to a moist-heat cooking method, like braising (sear then simmer). I have literally 30 different recipes for chicken thighs like this. All sorts of different sauces and such.

If I'm going to sear-and-broil/bake, I'd stick with a boneless/skinless chicken breast, or a good steak.

If you're having problems with the chicken breasts drying out when you grill them, try brining them. Run a search for "brine" and you should get all sorts of hits.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:32 AM   #9
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@AllenOK - It's interesting you mentioned brining because after my last post, I did some more google searching on how to produce juicy and flavorful poultry. Brining came up a lot, so I looked further into it and noted down a simple all-purpose brine. Yesterday, I used 4-5 drumsticks I had remaining in the brine (formula below). After brining and patting them dry came black pepper, garlic powder, finely chopped rosemary & thyme and a few brushes of olive oil. I then straight roasted them on a sheet pan, no sear & bake. Also decided to try my luck with the meat thermometer again so I just cooked till the internal temperature was right. They came out really well.

Brine formula:
1 quart of water for each pound of poultry
1/4 cup of kosher salt for each quart of water
1/2 cup of sugar for each quart of water
1 hour of brine time for each quart of water

The greatest thing about the brine was that the chicken legs took about 1/4 to 1/3 less cooking time. I was expecting 45-55 minutes in a 375 oven but they hit the right internal temperature at close to 30 minutes. I was skeptical, but they were done.

@Penguin
I'm a fan of yogurt based marinades - the following two are favorites and the last one is simply good:

Tandoori Marinade(for each 1 lb chicken):
For chicken:
-Score chicken and salt chicken, also rubbing salt into newly made cuts.
-Rub chili powder into newly made cuts as well.

For marinade:
-2 T ginger-garlic paste (made in food processor with olive oil, and a garlic to ginger ratio of about 1.5 to 1, so maybe 8 cloves of garlic and 1.5 inches of ginger)
-Juice of half a lemon
-1.5 T gharam masala powder (you can buy this, but I make my own with cumin, coriander, fenugreek leaves, cinnamon, cardomom, chili powder, etc. -- I have an Indian food store closeby that sells these ingredients in their whole forms really cheap. I can just pop them into a coffee grinder and store the powder in an airtight container.)
-1/4 cup plain nonfat yogurt (squeezed in cheesecloth to release as much water/moisture as possible, moisture is the enemy of kabob style marinades)

Mix together and marinade about 3-4 hours, less for breasts(1-1.5 hours max) since the lemon juice will act fast. Then, wipe off most of the marinade and sear & bake.


Paprika Marinade(a recent favorite, got this off YouTube, for 2 chicken breasts):
-2 cloves crushed garlic
-1.5 T paprika
-1.5 T olive oil
-1/2 t cayenne pepper
-1 T sriracha(sp) sauce - you know, that beautiful asian chili-garlic sauce
-1 t salt
-2 T plain nonfat yogurt

Mix together and marinade for about 3 hours, then wipe off most of the marinade and sear & bake or grill till done.

Honey Dijon chicken(for 2 chicken breasts):
-2 T Dijon mustard
-1.5 T Honey
-1 T Mayonnaise
-1 t Steak sauce
-1 t hot sauce
-1/2 t salt

Mix together and marinade for about 30 minutes, then sear & bake or grill till done.

There goes just about my entire cooking repertoire hahaha.
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Old 01-10-2009, 12:34 PM   #10
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I often leave the skin on when working with drumsticks, legs, etc. The fat from the skin helps to baste the meat and keep it moist. It's much harder to overcook that way.
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