6 Reasons Not to Write Off Chicken

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For me, chicken can feel like an uninspired fallback at a summer party, depending on the seasonings (or lack thereof) and the method of preparation. Perhaps I’ve been put off by one too many cookouts where the main event consisted of dried-out white meat and the only logical choice was to double up on pasta salad and dessert.

But truth be told, chicken — when done right — is a remarkably juicy canvas for conveying endless flavor combinations. With a little imagination (and a tasty rub or glaze), you can capture the attention of everyone at your summer party, starting with these healthy takes on the common bird. I, for one, am ready to give chicken a second look.

1: Whip up a seasonal marinade or glaze.

With stone-fruit season right around the corner, we’re nearing the best months to enjoy savory-and-sweet dishes the natural way, sans store-bought marinades. Witness the best of both worlds colliding in Bobby Flay’s Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Peach Glaze (pictured above), which calls for fresh whole peaches, peach preserves, soy sauce and Dijon mustard to create a sweet and tangy glaze for meaty grilled chicken breasts.

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2: Dress it up for an elegant luncheon.

If you’re hosting a luncheon, there’s no need to fire up the grill and make it a big production. These Herbal Chicken Salad Sandwiches are an understated yet sophisticated choice, requiring just 20 minutes of preparation. The chicken breasts are cubed, then poached in the jasmine green tea, lending fresh, floral notes to the chicken salad. You can even evoke the feel of a traditional English tea party by cutting the sandwiches into slender pieces and serving them as finger food (i.e., “tea” sandwiches).

3: Or embrace its casual side.

These smoky Grilled Yucatan Chicken Skewers fit in perfectly with fuss-free cookout fare. Serve the skewers hot off the grill with charred limes to squeeze over the chicken for a satisfying pucker. You can manipulate the degree of heat and smoke to fit your preferences by adding or subtracting the amount of chile powder and chipotle puree used in the marinade.

4: Use it as a meaty garnish.

No other dish embodies summer quite like a refreshing bowl of gazpacho. This traditional Spanish soup is generally served at lunchtime or even as a light dinner, but you can turn it into a more substantial entree with the addition of sliced grilled chicken. This Gazpacho with Lime Chicken comes together in under 30 minutes (or less if you use leftover grilled chicken from last night’s dinner) and offers a necessary protein boost, making it a reliable yet novel summer meal.

5: Don’t forget the thighs.

Let’s not forget the juiciest, most tender part of all. These Grilled Citrus Marinated Chicken Thighs are the cure for all of your dried-out-chicken woes. Because the thigh meat is naturally so moist, a light citrus marinade is all that’s needed, so chuck any bottled marinating solutions laced with unnecessary sugar. Leave the skin on and the bone in for the most-flavorful outcome possible, and be sure to let the thighs marinate for at least 30 minutes (but preferably a few hours) to lock in the citrus flavor.

6: Stick to the classics.

Never underestimate the crowd appeal of a classic, all-American Beer Can Chicken. The sheer sight of a whole bird perched atop your favorite brew is enough to get the crowd swarming around your grill station. While any recipe with “beer” in the title seems a far cry from “health food,” you’ll be pleased to know that one serving packs 40 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar, since the flavor comes from the smoking chips (and, of course, the beer). Before setting up, choose either mesquite or apple wood chips, depending on whether you prefer a powerful smoky flavor or a milder dose of smoke with sweet and fruity qualities.

Get more chicken recipes from our friends:

Feed Me Phoebe: Gluten-Free Healthy Chicken Parmesan with Fresh Cherry Tomato Sauce

The Lemon Bowl: Za’atar Spiced Grilled Chicken

Creative Culinary: Smoked Chicken with Chipotle, Peach and Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

Homemade Delish: Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups

Daisy at Home: Perfect Fried Chicken with 5 Dipping Sauces

Red or Green: Spicy Pesto Chicken Bruschetta

Napa Farmhouse 1885: “Buffums” Chicken Salad Sandwiches

TasteBook: Asian-Style Grilled Chicken Thighs

Domesticate Me: Chicken and Goat Cheese Burgers with Peaches, Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Taste with the Eyes: Gochujang Chicken Adobo

Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Tandoori Chicken

Bacon and Soufflé: BBQ Chicken Pizza

FN Dish: The 6 Essential Chicken Recipes of Summer