To become an expert in chicken cooking or how to cook chicken, you have to understand the scientific processes that take place while cooking. When you get into this you’ll get exposure to a lot of new secrets that are unrevealed for you.
You won’t become a top-level chef if you overlook those small processes through which chicken passes while cooking and what minor adjustments you can make according to the flavour chemistry of chicken for the betterment of taste. The preliminary thing to start learning chicken cooking is to understand the composition of chicken.
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Composition of chicken:
Chicken is a piece separated from the muscle of slaughtered chicken. Content-wise composition is mentioned in the table.
What processes chicken go through when you start cooking?
When we start cooking chicken due to the constant provision of heat hot develops above the surface of chicken within the system of vessels in which we are cooking. Because hot air can’t penetrate the chicken so energy built on the surface of the chicken gradually moves towards the centre which ultimately cooks the chicken thoroughly. The colour of the chicken isn’t the only thing that varies with a rise in temperature, a lot of other physical and chemical reactions also take place. Every reaction gets initiated at its optimum temperature. The molecular structure of fats and proteins also gets transformed while heating.
General guide for temperature management in chicken:
To keep your chicken intact and attains pleasant taste after cooking temperature management is the most critical thing, even a small ignorance can dump your whole hard work. While temperature management you have to take care of a lot of other factors like acidity, age of the bird, salt content, type of heat (moist or dry), and humidity level.
The temperature guide or cooking time for different parts of chicken according to the standards of USDA (United States of Agriculture Department) is mentioned below.
Breast cuts with bone:
- Weight 6-8 Oz
- Roasting time 50-60 minutes at (350oF)
- Simmering time 35-40 minutes
- Grilling time 45-55 minutes per side
Breast pieces, boneless:
- Weight 4 Oz
- Roasting time 30-35 minutes at 350oF
- Simmering time 25-30 minutes
- Grilling time 6-8 minutes per side
- Weight 4-8 Oz
- Roasting time 40-50 minutes at 350oF
- Simmering time 40-50 minutes
- Grilling time per side 10-15 minutes per side
- Weight 4 Oz
- Roasting time 35-45 minutes at 350oF
- Simmering time 40-50 minutes
- Grilling time 8-12 minutes per side
- Weight 2-3 Oz
- Roasting time 30-40 minutes at 350oF
- Simmering time 35-45 minutes
- Grilling time 8-12 minutes per side
- The ideal temperature for cooking chicken is 325oF
Factors responsible for changing the color of cooked chicken to pink:
Cooked chicken become pink from outer edges when Carbon monoxide present in the oven reacts with the myoglobin protein in the chicken and transform its colour to pink. Carbon monoxide and other such gases are less in electric ovens as compared to the ones heated through gas, charcoal, or wood combustion. Many leafy vegetables contain nitrates naturally which can be a source of inducing pink colour when the chicken comes in contact with them.
Methods to achieve the right cooking temperature for chicken:
Attaining the ideal internal temperature of chicken before cooking is more important than the right cooking time and temperature. Steps to get the perfect taste of chicken are given below.
Acclimatizing the chicken pieces:
Expose the chicken to room temperature before cooking. If it is in pieces then 20 minutes are enough however the whole bird needs more than an hour. Tempering of chicken helps us to get balanced cooking.
Pre-heating the oven:
If your oven wasn’t ready then it becomes difficult for you to track the cooking time accurately which induces the variation in cooking time. You’ll be deprived of balanced cooking, some areas of chicken become dry due to overcooking while some remain undercooked and gives a raw appearance.
Calibration of oven before cooking:
Make sure that you have done calibration of your oven to get the exact time and temperature for your cooking. Put an oven thermometer in the oven and switch on the oven. Check the reading on the thermometer and then on the oven dial both the readings should be the same.
If these readings are not matching then you need to overhaul your oven or adjust your cooking timings according to that. You can follow the guidelines proposed by the USDA to get an idea. Use an instant meat thermometer to check that your chicken has attained the temperature of 165oF or not.
Flavour chemistry of chicken meat:
The flavour of any edible comprises of aroma and taste, it revolves around the behaviour and preferences of the buyer. Deterioration of chicken taste is a result of many factors like breed, diet post-mortem duration till cooking and method of cooking, etc.
Flavour deterioration is very rapid in chicken due to oxidation of lipids which results in off-flavouring. Thermally flavour of chicken is derived by Maillard’s reaction and thermal degradation of lipids. Interaction between these two reactions is responsible for the generation of aroma and flavouring compounds.
Typical intriguing chicken flavour arises due to the reaction between sugar and cysteine. Although the flavour of chicken is a combined effort of many compounds 2-methyl-3-franthiol is regarded as the most vital compound for this. In addition to that lot of other heterocyclic compounds are formed at high temperatures and low moisture conditions in different cooking methods like pressure-cooking frying etc.
Flavours of roasted and fried chicken are due to Alkylprazines but not in the chicken broth. The main reasons for the deterioration of flavour and formation of warmed-over flavour in chicken products are due to lack of α-tocopherols.
Dos and don’ts on how to cook Chicken – chicken food safety:
Don’t wash chicken before cooking:
Washing chicken before cooking doesn’t recommend much, the reason behind is that the chicken which we buy from the market accompanying many bacteria and if we wash it there is a strong chance of cross-contamination around the kitchen.
Cook it thoroughly:
To kill all the microbes such a bacteria thorough cooking is necessary. Check the temperature while cooking it should reach 75oC. Apart from that take care of hygiene conditions in the premises of cooking. Wash your hands, utensils, and knives as well.
Tips and tricks of chicken roasting chicken:
Before starting your chicken roasting recipe you need to be sure about the following few things such as what tools you need, the spices, cooking time, and what flavor you are looking for.
Tools needed for roasting:
Let’s see some of the equipment required for roasting. Take a pan suitable for roasting. Having a grilled wire on top of the pan helps in even roasting of the chicken. It becomes easy to clean as well if you have aluminium foil along the edges of the pan.
Brining of chicken:
Though brining is an optional thing but it’s done to impart flavouring and juiciness in roasted meat. Brining has two basic methods.
- Wet brining (soaking the chicken in saltwater)
- Dry brining (ribbing the chicken with salt)
- If you don’t like bringing your chicken then pat the chicken with a paper towel to wipe out extra moisture and assist the chicken skin is becoming brown.
Use of flavor boosters in roasted chicken:
Properly roasted chicken with just a pinch of butter, crushed pepper and salt makes it very tasty. Taste and aroma can be further refined by placing chopped herbs under the skin of the chicken with teaspoons of butter/cheese. Also stuffing the chicken with diced onions and crushed garlic can be a better choice as this combination induces the taste. Chicken becomes more fragrant if you place the wedges of aromatic fruits like oranges on the chicken while roasting.
Advantages of retaining the chicken skin:
Chicken skin becomes fragrant and crispy after roasting but it contains high-fat contents. Even if you eat it or not citing health concerns of fat, you should keep the roasted skin of the chicken after cooking because this preserves the moisture of the baked/roasted chicken.
Method of trussing the chicken for roasting:
Trussing is the process of combining the legs of chicken after stuffing the required ingredients within the cavity of the chicken and tying it down altogether. Tying can be done using aluminium wires between both the legs. Also, trussing is usually done for turkey because the size of the bird is larger and also for chicken in special cases.
- Put down the chicken on the ray with the breast portion of the chicken facing up.
- Keep the aluminium string handy and pierce both the legs of the chicken one by one.
- After piercing both the legs, tie down the legs strongly and put a knot over it in order for the legs to not untie.
- Now the centre of the string is under the tail of the chicken and tie a knot between the chicken/turkey breasts as well as the tail of the chicken.
Trussing of chicken is usually done to preserve the flavour of the stuffing across the whole meat.
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Complete chicken roasting has two methods, the high heating method and the traditional regular heating method:
- Regular-heating method: Let’s start by preheating the oven at 350 degrees F and roast whole chickens for fifteen to twenty minutes per kilogram and then for twenty minutes additional.
- High-heating method: Let’s start this method by heating the oven to very high temperatures of 440 degrees F and put the chickens into the oven for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Then slowly reduce the heat after the first one to about 340 degrees F for fifteen minutes. Care must be taken to prevent overcooking. This method is suitable for preparing the slow roast and crispy darker chicken.
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How to Fry Chicken:
Many of us always get wondered these multinational food brands are so consistent with the taste and appearance of their fried chicken products. Its secret lies in the equipment used called as pressure fryer.
How to Cook Chicken in Frying Pan:
Take a cast iron pan and take such amount of oil which can cover the bottom and sides of the product being fried. Place the chicken in the hot oil and keep flipping it to avoid burning on one side. Cook it until it becomes fully cooked and golden brown from all sides.
Deep fat frying:
In this method chicken is fully submerged in hot oil which allows rapid cooking as compared to the other method.
Process of frying:
Pressure frying works by increasing the atmospheric pressure inside the fryer. This increased pressure causes the boiling of water in the chicken and lets it evaporate in the form of steam. Due to this evaporation aggressive bubbling happens during the early stage of frying.
The other effect is that because a lot of steam is enveloping the fried food, this steam can act as a temperature buffer creating a maximum temperature of 100oC around the product. Because this steam is in direct contact with the protein surface, which allows the protein to get the required internal temperature much faster. Less moisture loss is also helpful in keeping the chicken juicy and tender.
Chemistry of deep-fat frying oils:
Fatty chains that make up these oils get broken down by hydrolysis results in the formation of free from fatty acids as a byproduct. The more free form fatty acids an oil or fat have the lower its smoke point will be.
Effect of chicken texture on the pressure required for cooking:
Earlier when there weren’t many facilities to store chicken and slaughtered chicken become a lot harder, due to such hard texture it requires more time and pressure to for tenderizing. With modern techniques and instrument chicken frying require less pressure.
Earlier it required 250oF/121oC and 15 PSI pressure but these days it can be done at 223oF/106oC with 5PSI pressure. Older chicken has more collagen which requires relatively more time and temperature for tenderizing. To get better results of frying always prefer young bird’s chicken while buying.
How to Boil Chicken:
Boiling is also a quite popular method of consuming chicken. This method of chicken cooking is mostly used by fitness freak people like bodybuilders, models, and fitness athletes who can’t afford to have excessive fats which come in other methods like frying roasting, etc.
Determination of the right amount of time for boiling of chicken:
The time required to boil chicken perfectly depends on the size of the chicken, it’s frozen or not, and the amount of water you are using for this. Normally a full chicken requires 1-1/2 hours of simmering in boiling water for complete cooking. If your chicken is bigger than 4lbs. then it will take a little longer. Completion of boiling can be analyzed by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into thighs and note the reading. It should reach 165oC.
How to Roast Chicken without Oven:
You can enjoy roasted chicken even if your oven is out of order, by roasting it on the stovetop. This is an easier and quicker method of roasting chicken pieces. The steps involved in this are explained below.
To keep your chicken pieces moist before roasting brine them for a least 4 hours. Take half cup sugar and equal quantity of salt in a large bowl with 2 quarters of water. Mix them thoroughly and soak the chicken pieces in it for 12 hours and place this bowl in the refrigerator. If you are concerned with sodium intake then it’s better to skip this step.
Wipeout all the moisture with a paper towel to make them nice and dry before the next step.
Spread out a thin layer of healthy oil on the pan like olive oil or any other which you like. Heat this oil on medium heat until it shimmers in the pan.
Put chicken pieces in the hot oil with the skin side facing upwards. Cook the chicken pieces with moving the pieces for 5-10 minutes until golden brown skin color is achieved.
Flip the chicken pieces over and add ¾ cups of water in the pan. Lose the lid of the pan and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes more.
Crisp the skin by removing the chicken from the pan. Pour out the liquid from the pan and save it to make gravy and wipe out the pan with a paper towel. Add just one teaspoon of oil to the pan and place the chicken pieces back in the pan, skin side should be downward. Cook them until they get crisp.
For complete cooking, it’s important to achieve the standard internal temperature, it can be checked by using an internal meat thermometer. The standard temperature for chicken breasts at fully cooked stage should be 160oF and for legs or thighs, it should be 175oF. If the reading is low than that then cook it further until the temperature becomes at par with the standard value. While cooking it further to attain standard temperature heat should be medium, high can cause burning or dry on the outer part.
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