The 6 Biggest Mistakes You Make Cooking Chicken Breasts

The fear of undercooking chicken is what usually leads to dry and stringy breasts. Boost your confidence with these easy cooking and purchasing tips and experience the joy of cooking your chicken better.

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Mistake #1: Not Using a Thermometer

We can’t say it enough in Food Network Kitchen — clever cooks use thermometers. They are insurance against cooking those breasts above (or below) 165 degrees F, which is the temperature recommended by the USDA for poultry. We like the instant-read digital kind, but a plain analog thermometer will work too.

Mistake #2: Not Cooking Bone-In, Skin-On Breasts

Think of the skin and bone as insulation for the breasts as they cook, helping them stay juicer and more flavorful. They also help the breasts cook more evenly too. Don't worry: you don’t have to eat the skin if it’s not your thing — give it to your favorite person at the table.

Mistake #3: Not Pre-Salting

Dryness is the biggest chicken breast complaint. Some people swear by wet brines and marinades to lock in moisture but one easier trick is to generously salt the breasts, cover and refrigerate overnight. Then wipe off the salt with a paper towel and cook.

Mistake #4: Not Cooking Cutlets

Already bought boneless, skinless breasts? All is not lost, just cut them in half horizontally and pound each piece about 1/4 inch thick. Season them and sear in a pan with hot oil. They’re quicker to cook than breasts, and the thinner the pieces the less noticeably dry they'll seem.

Mistake #5: Letting it Go to Waste

If you’re disheartened by an overcooked chicken breast then cut it up and give it a new life. The chunks can easily be resurrected as chicken salad or thrown into a soup.

Mistake #6: Not Cooking Chicken Thighs

So, maybe it’s time to consider moving on from breasts. Chicken thighs are dark meat, so even the boneless, skinless ones are juicer and more flavorful than any chicken breast. Plus, they’re cheaper and more versatile— pan-sear or stew them without worrying about overcooking (the optimal temperature for thighs is about 170 degrees F.)

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