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Juicy roasted chicken breast

Sat, 11 November, 2023

⯆ JUMP TO RECIPE
What’s the secret to a really juicy and succulent roasted chicken breast fillet, even skinless? Read on to find out!

juicy roasted chicken breast cuisinefiend.com

Chicken breast misery

Roasted skinless chicken breast must be the saddest dish in the world. It’s dry, it’s bland, it’s generally unloved. And yet it’s so commonly prepared, as if we were revelling in torturing ourselves with dreary food.

Why? Because it’s an easy, cheap and non-threatening source of protein.

Chicken fillet, especially skinless (and I have witnessed a lady at my local butcher’s asking to remove chicken skin, as if it was skilled butchery), screams ‘easy dinner’ to most people. Much less complicated than a whole chicken, it can be bunged into the oven and come out straight onto a plate. Except, whatever seasoning you put on it, however long you marinate it, there’s only ever going to be one word for it: DRY.

oven baked juicy chicken breast cuisinefiend.com

Marinades don’t work

There are a lot of misconceptions on how effective various marinades for meat are in terms of tenderising, flavouring and sealing in moisture.

I have tested the issue by subjecting chicken fillets to many different approaches over the years, and I was pleased to be proved right by Kenji Lopez-Alt in his The Food Lab cookbook.

The main point is: marinades can impart flavour, and that works very well on chicken breast indeed. Secondly, they can have certain impact on tenderising the bird, but that’s purely through their salt content. And lastly, they do nothing whatsoever for keeping chicken moist.

Salt does work

Salt on the other hand does not just tenderise the meat but also helps prevent the loss of moisture whilst cooking.

My other cookery guru, Samin Nosrat, rightly picked salt as one of the four most important factors in cookery. She says we should salt the meat as soon as we lay eyes on it, I’d add that perhaps we’d better buy and take it home first, hehe.

Salt works magic. Even tougher cuts of beef or venison tenderise beautifully if they are allowed to sit for a couple of days in the fridge, dry-brined which means simply generously salted.

salted chicken cuisinefiend.com

It’s good to place the meat on a rack set over a plate so the meat is being aired as much as possible, and of course completely unwrapped. Wrapping only helps bacteria which happily multiply in a dark, airless environment. With meat, it’s best to either vacuum-wrap it or keep it naked.

Chicken breast doesn’t need tenderising, but salting it at least an hour before cooking will help keep it moist. Not as efficiently though as my cooking method described here.

dry brining chicken breast cuisinefiend.com

How to roast juicy chicken breast

My cooking method was originally inspired by the sous-vide concept which is famously responsible for producing the most delicate, tender and succulent meat dishes.

I don’t want the faff of the sous-vide apparatus but I have found time and again that one simple trick can deliver very similar results: cooking in a low temperature oven.

moist chicken fillet baked in oven cuisinefiend.com

How low is low oven?

If you have an electric oven, reasonably good at keeping steady temperature, you’re in business. Unfortunately it probably won’t work that well in gas ovens, unless they’ve changed considerably for the better since the last time I had one.

The oven temperature should be anything between 80C/176F and 110C/230. Warming drawers, which go up to that temperature range can be used too. That temperature is high enough to cook the meat safely, but not aggressive so as to dry it out by forcibly expelling moisture from the cells and tissues.

A digital probe is pretty essential here. If you have one that can be inserted in the meat and go in the oven (usually with a wire leading out to the display), stick it into the chicken breast and roast until the temperature goes up to 68C (155F). That is chicken perfectly cooked and safe, but if you're particular about its cookedness, it will go higher while it rests, and during its final five minutes at higher oven blast.

If you have a probe that isn't oven proof, like a Thermapen, check the chicken after thirty minutes of roasting. If you have no meat thermometer but still want to try out the recipe, roast the chicken for 35-40 minutes depending on the size of the breasts.

roasting chicken breast at low temperature cuisinefiend.com

What about the Maillard reaction?

Maillard reaction, the mouth-watering caramelisation effect achieved by searing and frying food is admittedly absent here. When cooking dishes at low temperature, we should sear food at high heat either before or after the low cooking process, like reverse steak or slow roasted haddock.

But hello! Skinless chicken breast? It will never be salivation-inducing caramelised unless turned into a crisp. With skinless chicken we want to pull off the opposite: juicy, tender and delicate.

So I don’t bother with searing or browning, before or after cooking except giving it final five minutes with the heat whacked up. Instead, I prepare a simple topping to give the chicken a flavour, seasoning and some interest.

garlic and tarragon cuisinefiend.com

Toppings for chicken breast fillet

In this instance, in a pestle and mortar I pound fresh tarragon with garlic and a few peppercorns, for friction. Normally I’d use salt for that purpose but since the chicken has been dry brined with salt, more would be excessive. A little oil should be added at the end to whatever spices and herbs you use, to make the topping stick.

Other variations are frankly endless, whatever you prefer. Chilli powder or paste with ground cumin. Lemon zest and juice. Oyster sauce and softened butter. Honey and gochujang, Korean chilli paste. Teriyaki sauce. Dried mushroom powder. Coarsely ground black or pink peppercorns. Mustard. Ketchup. You get my drift.

Chicken breast fillets cooked this way can be served warm or cold, and they are delicious sliced in sandwiches or salads.

low temp roasted chicken breast cuisinefiend.com

More chicken breast recipes

Chicken rarebit inspired by Welsh rarebit is chicken fillet with mozzarella and mushroom topping. An incredible chicken melt super easy to prepare.

Chicken teriyaki, marinated overnight in homemade teriyaki which doubles up as sauce. Zinged with cinnamon, ginger and garlic, teriyaki sauce is much easier to make than you'd think and totally worth the effort.

Chicken saltimbocca, thin escalopes of chicken fillet layered with sage leaves, Parmesan and Parma ham. Saltimbocca is classically made with veal but chicken is great cooked like this.

More low temperature roasting recipes

Slow roasted salmon with dill sauce, oven baked at 200F/100C. Salmon roasted in very low oven, at 100C, takes about 45 minutes to cook. Slow roasted salmon is moist and succulent and delicious served with the easiest dill sauce that goes with any fish.

Roast sirloin of beef cooked at low temperature produces as fantastic a result as sous-vide cooking. The caveat: best outcome if you own a digital meat probe of some kind.

Lamb loin, or cannon of lamb, wrapped in prosciutto with rosemary and thyme, roasted in low temperature oven. The finest dining easily made!

the best juicy chicken breast cuisinefiend.com



juicy roasted chicken breast

Servings: 2-4Time: 40 minutes plus dry brining

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • sea salt
  • For the topping:
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tbsp olive oil


METHOD

1. Sprinkle the chicken breasts generously with salt at least 3 hours before roasting, preferably overnight. Set them on a wire rack over a plate and chill in the fridge.

2. To make the topping, strip the tarragon leaves off the sprigs, peel the garlic cloves and roughly chop both. Pound in a pestle and mortar to a paste with the peppercorns. Stir in the olive oil.

3. Heat the oven to 95–100C/203–212F.

4. Spoon the flavour topping onto the chicken breasts and place on a tray. If you have a digital probe that can go in the oven, insert it in the thickest part of one breast, and roast in the oven until the probe shows 68C/155F. If you have a probe but not oven-proof, check the chicken after 30 minutes. If you have no probe, roast the chicken for 35 minutes.

5. Remove the chicken from the oven and turn it up to 200C/400F. When the temperature is reached, return the chicken to the oven for 5 minutes (the internal temperature will go up to 75-78C/167-172F).

6. The chicken cooked this way doesn’t need to rest. Slice and serve.


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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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