Kitchen Helpline: Chicken

We'll help you solve some of your most pressing poultry problems.

Episode: Favorites

Geoffrey Zakarian and Katie Lee share their tips and tricks for chicken in a Kitchen Helpline, as seen on Food Network's The Kitchen

We know you love chicken but sometimes run into trouble preparing it. That's why we've dedicated this Kitchen Helpline to answering your questions about it.

Question 1: Does resting a roast chicken really make a difference? And if so, how long should you let it rest for?

The short answer: For the best—let it rest! In our test kitchen, we roasted four 5 1/2-pound chickens at 425 degrees F. We removed the chickens when they reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and let them rest (the FDA recommends 165 degrees F; the temperature of a roast chicken will continue to climb to about 165 degrees F as it sits). Here were our results:

  • After 5 minutes of resting, a carved chicken lost about 3 1/2 ounces of juice.
  • After 10 minutes of resting, a carved chicken lost about 2 1/2 ounces of juice.
  • After 20 minutes of resting, a carved chicken lost a little less than 2 ounces of juice.
  • After 30 minutes of resting, the result was nearly identical to the 20-minute rest, losing less than 2 ounces.

So now you know resting does matter! To maximize the amount of moisture that stays in your chicken, let it rest for 20 to 30 minutes. (After 30 minutes you don't retain significantly more juice and your chicken is just going to get cold.)

Question 2: I love making boneless, skinless chicken breasts but they often come out dry. Any tips for avoiding this?

Try this foolproof method and you'll have flavorful and moist chicken breasts every time!

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Pound, season and sear chicken breasts on both sides in an oven-safe skillet until brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of a liquid of your choice. We used chicken stock, but you could also try wine, sherry or even water and lemon juice for a different flavor profile.
  4. Cover your skillet and finish the chicken in the oven until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, for 8 minutes. Let it rest for another 8 minutes, covered, then enjoy!

Question 3: I'm so paranoid about undercooking my chicken that I wind up overcooking it. Is there a foolproof way to know it’s cooked through but not overcooked?

Answer: When cooking meat, a digital thermometer is key. With chicken, you're looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees F when the thermometer is inserted into the thickest part of the meat. Taking it out at 165 degrees F (or at 160 degrees F and letting it rest until it reaches 165 degrees F) will ensure your meat isn't overcooked.

Question 4: My breading often falls off when I'm making fried chicken. I've tried various methods and can't seem to get that nice crispy breading to stay intact. Any tips?

Answer: The key to not losing your breading when frying chicken is to let the dredged chicken rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. This helps to solidify the wet breading and allows it to better adhere. Though some recipes recommend refrigerating it for this rest period, we find that keeping it at room temperature prevents the oil temperature from plummeting when you add the chicken, which further ensures that the breading will stay put.

Question 5: Is washing chicken before cooking it necessary or just a myth?

Answer: "Washing" or "rinsing" chicken is an outdated practice. The USDA does not currently recommend rinsing your chicken because of cross-contamination risks. The juices from the meat can spray and splash while you're rinsing and spread harmful bacteria. If you cook your food to recommended temperatures, most bacteria will be killed—no need to wash!

Question 6: I love making roast chicken but sometimes my skin doesn't get as crispy as I'd like, and that's everyone's favorite part! Help!

Answer: Skin needs to be dry for maximum crispness. Try patting raw chicken dry with a paper towel and then leaving it uncovered in the fridge for a few hours or overnight before roasting. Roasting in the top third of your oven (the hottest part) also helps.

You can also remove the skin and then crisp it up in a frying pan or a convection oven. If you love crispy, salty chicken skin, try saving up the skin from a rotisserie chicken, getting it extra-crisp on the stovetop or in the oven, and then using it to top various foods—mac and cheese, casseroles, veggies, etc. What could be better?

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