Happy New Year from all of us here at GrateTV. It’s probably cold in your region and we forget about the grill because weather is uncooperative and the days are shorter. Keep your grill accessible. It will help keep your food interesting.
We are about 2 weeks into the New Year and resolutions are being tested. If you are a maker of resolutions then you probably vowed to make better choices, eat healthy and get fit. One of the best choices for protein in your diet is the boneless skinless chicken breast (BLSL). Chicken provides protein that rivals tofu or fish with a single serving offering 26 grams of protein and 1 gram of saturated fat. The problem is; IT’S BORING!!. Boring, tasteless food is a sure deal breaker for good intentions. Consuming Chicken breast doesn’t have to be torture. Here are three processes or methods to “flavor up” and add some moisture to the otherwise tasteless experience. Season, marinade or brine your chicken, then a quick and simple trip to the grill will help keep you interested in the food and you’ll look forward to the next chicken delight!
Start with simple seasoning or what’s called a “dry rub”. There are plenty of dry rubs available in stores today. Most of them have common spices that run through the blends. Salt, pepper, garlic, onion, paprika, chile powder, and cumin dominate the spices. Oregano, sage, and tarragon are great herbs to bring the blend over the top! Try one of these simple mixes the next time you grill up some BLSL chicken:
- Tex-Mex Style: A pinch of salt, ¼ tsp each garlic powder, chile powder, black pepper, and oregano.
- Southwestern: ¼ tsp each black pepper, chile powder, red pepper flakes, and cumin.
- French: ¼ each dried basil, rosemary, and thyme. Add a pinch of salt and pepper
Rub the meat generously and put the chicken in a container. A resealable bag makes a great container. They are easy, quick and disposable. Allow the chicken to sit in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to allow the herbs and spices to hydrate. A quick spray of oil after you apply the rub will help it to adhere. Do not spray the chicken before you apply the seasoning. The layer of oil will prevent flavor penetration into the meat. Spray it on top after you season or better yet, just before you put the chicken on the grill.
Marinating is another quick and easy way to bring flavor to the meat. Many marinades are available in the grocery store. There are plenty in condiment section. Don’t forget to check out the salad dressing section. Many good salad dressings make great marinades. Stay away from the creamy types of dressings. They make a better finishing sauce that you can brush on at the end of grilling.
Look for marinades and dressings that have a high acidic content like Italian dressings and oil and vinegar combinations. The Mojo Criollo shown is generally available in the ethnic section and features sour orange and lime juice with a great combination of herbs and spices. Marinades need only about an hour to work. If you are going to use a marinade put some in a side container to use for basting during the grilling stage to help keep the meat moist. Try some of these suggestions for making a homemade tasty marinade:
- 2 Tbsp bourbon, 1 tsp deli-style mustard, 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp bourbon; 1 tsp honey; 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbsp white wine; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/4 tsp thyme
- 2 Tbsp red wine; 1 tsp barbecue sauce; 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbsp Coca-Cola, 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette, 1/4 tsp rosemary
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp lemon zest, 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 2 Tbsp plain yogurt, 1/4 tsp dill
- 2 Tbsp plain yogurt, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp curry powder
- 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp cilantro
- 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp orange juice, 1/4 tsp powdered ginger, 1/4 tsp cilantro
2 Tbsp orange juice, 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbsp pineapple juice; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/4 tsp black pepper
Season the Chicken. Use your favorite dry rub form the store or make your own. Let it sit in the refrigerator just like we discussed in the rub section and you will make a creation that will be packed with great flavor.
Brining meats before cooking them is a very effective way to increase the moisture and tenderness of the meat. Brining is similar to marinating, but uses a simpler liquid for soaking the meat — just salt and water. The process of soaking meat in salted water causes the meat’s cells to absorb some of the water through osmosis, making it more moist when cooked. Learning how to brine chicken or other meats will quickly increase your ability to prepare flavorful dishes in the kitchen.
Pour some cold water into a large bowl. The bowl will need to be large enough to submerge all of the chicken you are cooking, but also able to fit into your refrigerator. Fill the bowl with enough water to cover the chicken.
Add salt to the water. All forms of brine contain salt, as it is necessary to force the water into the meat’s cells. The amount of salt used can vary greatly, but a good starting point is adding 3/4 cup of kosher salt per gallon of water (46 ml of salt per liter of water). Stir the salt into the water to dissolve it.
Add sugar to the water. Sugar, while not required in the brine, is a very useful ingredient. Adding sugar to the brine will increase the amount of caramelization achieved when cooking the chicken, regardless of cooking method. A good option is adding the same amount of sugar by volume as salt. You can use any type of sugar, including white, brown, turbinado, or even molasses or honey. Stir the water to dissolve the sugar.
Add any other desired seasonings to the brine. You can also add other ingredients to your brine to season the chicken. Peppercorns, fresh herbs, and fruit juices are all options for seasoning the brine.
Place the chicken into the brining solution. Make sure that the chicken is fully submerged in the brine. You can use the brine for either a whole chicken or for smaller pieces of chicken; the process is the same either way.
Place the brine into the refrigerator and let it soak. Place the entire bowl into the refrigerator, covering it with plastic wrap if desired. Let the chicken soak in the brining solution for several hours. For small pieces, 1 or 2 hours is sufficient, while 8 to12 hours is ideal for a whole chicken. If you can’t spare that much time, brine will still impart flavor and improve tenderness if used for only a short period of time. Never brine chicken at room temperature.
Remove the chicken from the brine. Take the chicken out of the brining solution and pat off the excess water before cooking. Dispose of the brining solution by pouring it down the drain.
The rule of thumb for making brine is very simple. To one gallon of water, add 1 cup of salt and one cup of Sugar. Here is one of my favorite brines and the one we used on the show. O’Reilly’s Brined Chicken
- 1 gallon water
- 3/4 cup salt
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon dried tarragon, thyme; and black pepper
Season the Chicken. Use your favorite dry rub form the store or make your own. Let it sit in the refrigerator just like we discussed in the rub section and you will be blessed with great BLSL chicken breast. It will be moist, and bursting with flavor.
- When purchasing fresh poultry ensure that the packaging is tightly wrapped.
- Always check the use by dates to ensure freshness
- Carry and Insulated cooler in the car
- Always defrost chicken in the refrigerator or microwave, and once thawed, cook it immediately, and never refreeze chicken.
Cooking Guide and Tips
- Cook for about 30 minutes per pound to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.
- Best practice is to use a thermometer and check in the thickest part. If you don’t use a thermometer pierce with a fork the juices should run clear. Never consume undercooked chicken.
Preheat the grill to 350°F and grill for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an internal roasting thermometer reaches 165°. Don’t overcook it. Err on the side of tenderness. An overcooked, dried-out chicken breast won’t give you salmonella, but you probably won’t want to eat it in the first place. Quickly searing the breast over high heat or a sear burner will help avoid dryness because it locks in the bird’s juices.