Chicken is so easy to make and can be made in a variety of ways. Below are the most healthful techniques to cook chicken. And wouldn’t you know, they are also very traditional ways of cooking.
B’s of Cooking Healthy
Baking (or roasted) – White meat skinless chicken that is baked in the oven can easily dry out. To ensure your chicken maintains its moisture it is best to bake or roast white meat chicken with the skin on and then discard the skin before you eat it. If you choose to use skinless chicken it is best to bake it sitting in liquid or on vegetables that create liquid during cooking. Either way, the pan should be covered with aluminum foil during cooking.
Broiling – This is cooking below direct high heat. Broiling creates the char on food that many people look for. It is best to season chicken prior to broiling it in order to get the tastiest chicken. This can be done either by marinating it or seasoning it with herbs and spices. I will often bake chicken and then broil it for 3 minutes, when it is finished cooking so that it gets a crispy exterior.
Boiling (or poached) -This is a method of cooking that entails just barely covering the chicken with liquid that comes to a slow simmer…actually not a boil. The entire pan is then covered to let the chicken cook through. Flavor can be infused into the chicken by using broth as the liquid, adding herbs, spices, and/or vegetables to the liquid or incorporating wine into the liquid that is being simmered in. Most people don’t poach chicken even though it is extremely moist, probably because it looks plain and unappealing. Poached chicken works well in salads or chicken salad recipes, like my Green Light Chicken Salad.
Barbecuing (or grilled) – This is a method that conjures up ideas of outside cooking but that does not necessarily have to be the case. Grilling refers to cooking food over heat without the use of added fat or oil. Perfecto!! Yes, it can be done on an outside barbecue grill but it can also be done on an inside grill pan. My favorite is from William-Sonoma, it has a top part that can easily be heated over a stove and placed on top of the chicken for quicker cooking…minimal flipping necessary.
I know it may be a bit pricey but I have had mine for over 7 years now and have used it for so many meals from grilling chicken to making paninis to simple grilled cheese sandwiches.
For more flavorful chicken, I recommend marinating the chicken first.
3 S’s of Cooking Chicken
Stir-frying/Sautéing: The difference between stir-frying and sautéing is the pan that the food is cooked in. When the food is cooked in a basic skillet or pan it is called sautéing but when it is done in a wok it is called stir-frying. In order to do either, a liquid needs to be used. In restaurants and home cooking the liquid is usually oil or butter and usually more than we need. A little goes a long way. A lot of fat or any fat for that matter isn’t necessary when stir-frying or sautéing. The cooking medium can be any liquid: low sodium broth, low sodium soy sauce, tomato sauce, vinegar, vegetable stocks, even fruit juice or your favorite marinade, what have you. The key is slowly adding liquid when necessary and frequent stirring. Mix and match liquids, get creative but you don’t need to add fat.
Simple Steps to Stir-fry/Sauté Success:
- Spray your sauté pan or skillet with nonstick cooking spray
- Heat 2-4 Tablespoons of liquid in the pan or skillet over medium high heat.
- When the liquid begins to steam, add vegetables, meat or poultry and stir.
- Stir frequently until the liquid in the pan evaporates and then quickly add 2 more Tablespoons of liquid, scrapping the bottom of the pan as you continue to stir.
- Repeat step 3 until done. Meat and poultry should be brown on the outside and cooked through, vegetables should be tender and onions should be very soft and browned.
Slow-Cooking: People who know me well, know I love my slow cooker. I put the contents of the recipe into the slow cooker, turn it on, set it and I don’t think about the meal again until we are about to sit down to eat. I use my slow cooker often but it comes in particularly handy when I have evening clients and no time to cook.
Slow cookers work by indirect heat. This heat simmers the ingredients within the slow cooker at low temperatures for several hours until the food is thoroughly cooked. As the food simmers, it releases steam, which stays inside of the pot (that is why one should never open the slow cooker until it is finished). This moisture serves 2 purposes; it helps continue to cook the food and allows the food to retain extra moisture. My Any Day Flank Steak recipe is a perfect example of slow-cooking.
Stewing: Stewing is a combination of techniques, poaching and slow cooking. Like poaching, it involves placing all of the ingredients in liquid but cooks for a long period of time like slow cooking (but not necessarily for hours). When stewing, however, the liquid is typically a component of the meal and is often used as a sauce. Stewing is also different from using your slow cooker since it is done over an active flame and can’t be left unattended. I like to use stewing when cooking with lean cuts of meat like, skinless chicken breast since it tenderizes the food. If using higher-fat proteins, I recommend browning the meat first, drain the fat and then start the stewing process. When I make my Semi-Homemade Sweet and Sour Chicken, the cooking technique surprisingly is a stew.