Preparing Chicken


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Here are some poultry recipes from our collection:

Chicken is exceptionally versatile and needs
very little preparation. But there are several simple techniques that can help add taste, texture, and excitement to a chicken dish.
In this article, you'll find general guidelines for using these techniques successfully with your favorite chicken recipes.

Before you learn about the various preparation methods, you'll need to get the chicken itself. Check out the next section for helpful tips on what to look for when shopping for chicken.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page.
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article.
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

Shopping for Chicken

The vast selection of chicken products -- from boneless, skinless chicken breasts to whole capons -- can make choosing the right ones for your favorite chicken recipes a challenge. Knowing the differences between types of chicken makes it easier to cook with chicken in your kitchen. The following tips provide some quick chicken education.

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Here are some poultry recipes from our collection:
Learning about the types of chicken available in the supermarket can make you a better chicken cook. Chickens are first classified by age and weight. Young chickens are tender and cook quickly; older chickens need slow cooking to make them tender. For the best results, it's important to know which type of chicken to buy.

Broiler-fryers are young chickens weighing from 11/2 to 31/2 pounds. Only 7 to 10 weeks old, they yield tender, mildly flavored meat and are best when broiled, fried, or roasted.

Roasters are 4- to 6-pound chickens that are 16 weeks old. As the name implies, they are perfect for roasting and rotisserie cooking.

Capons are young, castrated roosters that weigh from 5 to 7 pounds. These richly flavored birds have a higher fat content and yield more meat than roasters.

Stewing Hens are adult chickens from 1 to 11/2 years old. They weigh from 41/2 to 7 pounds and have tough, stringy meat. Stewing hens are excellent for stocks, soups, or stews, since moist-heat preparation tenderizes them and enhances their flavor.

Supermarkets fulfill a constant demand for chicken with a variety of chicken cuts and products. The key is knowing what you plan to use it for and then buying according to your needs. Here are some of the more popular choices:

Whole chickens of every type are available with the neck and giblets wrapped separately and stuffed inside. Look for livers and giblets packaged separately for use in stuffings, soups, and specialty dishes.

Cut-up chickens, usually broiler-fryers, are disjointed whole chickens consisting of two breast halves, two thighs, two wings, and two drumsticks. Small broiler-fryers are also available in halves and quarters.

Chicken pieces are available to suit many needs.

Chicken pieces, such as these drumstricks, are good for breading.
Chicken pieces, such as these
drumstricks, are good for breading.
  • Chicken legs are whole broiler-fryer legs with thighs and drumsticks attached.

  • Thighs; boneless, skinless thighs; and drumsticks are available packaged separately.

  • Chicken wings are a popular choice for appetizer recipes. Drumettes are disjointed wing sections.

  • Chicken breasts are popular because of their tender, meaty, sweet character. They are available whole or split into halves. Recipes that call for one whole breast require both breast halves.

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (also called cutlets or supremes) have become a favorite choice for today's busy cook because of their convenience and quick-cooking appeal.

  • Chicken tenders are strips of boneless, skinless breast meat.

  • Ground chicken is a more recent addition to the poultry case; its most popular use is as a low-fat replacement for ground beef or pork.

  • Processed chicken includes canned chunk chicken, chicken sausage, chicken franks, and traditional deli and luncheon meats.

Now that you know how to select chicken, it's time to learn about the various prep techniques. Let's start with how to stuff a chicken on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page.
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article.
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

How to Stuff a Chicken

Stuffing chicken is one common way to prepare poultry. What's more, it typically adds extra flavor to the meat.
  1. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Slice a pocket into side of each chicken breast where breasts were originally attached. Fill pockets in chicken with mixture of your choice. Secure pockets with wooden toothpicks to enclose mixture.

  2. Coat each filled chicken breast with dressing, shaking off excess. Place each chicken breast in breadcrumb mixture; spoon breadcrumb mixture over chicken to coat.

  3. Place chicken in single layer in greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Drizzle with more dressing. Cover; bake 15 minutes. Uncover; bake 10 minutes or until chicken is tender. Garnish, if desired.
Breading chicken is another popular method. Find out more about coating and breading in the next section.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page.
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article.
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

Breading Chicken

As a general rule, chicken should be thoroughly wiped dry with a paper towel before applying breading so the coatings adhere, especially if the chicken has been marinated. Some recipes also call for a thin coating of flour to help the breading stick better.

To coat chicken in flour:

  1. In a small bowl, lightly beat an egg; thin with a small amount of oil, water, or both. (If you don't want to use egg, melted butter or margarine is an acceptable substitute.)

  2. Dip chicken into egg; shake off excess so only a thin layer of egg remains on the chicken.

  3. Roll chicken through a shallow plate of flour or place the flour in a resealable plastic food storage bag. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, seal the bag, and shake to coat.

To coat chicken in batter:

  1. Whisk ingredients together to form a batter. It should be fairly thick and not too wet.

    For a smoother batter, use a whisk to blend ingredients together.
    For a smoother batter, use a whisk to blend ingredients together.

  2. Dip chicken in the batter; shake off the excess.

    Use a fork to dip small chicken chunks or strips into batter.
    Use a fork to dip small chicken chunks or strips into batter.

  3. Place batter-covered chicken on a rack that has been set over a sheet of waxed paper until ready to cook.

To make light, dry coatings:

Delicate coatings such as seasoned flour or tempura panko, can be used with or without the flouring step outlined above.

Adding light, dry coatings by shaking the chicken in a sealed plastic bag, saves on cleanup.
Adding light, dry coatings by shaking the chicken in a sealed plastic bag
saves on cleanup.

  1. Combine coating ingredients in a large, resealable plastic food storage bag.

  2. Add chicken to bag, a few pieces at a time, close, and shake to coat the chicken.

    Shake the bag to completely coat the chicken.
    Shake the bag to completely coat the chicken.

  3. Place coated chicken on a rack that has been set over a sheet of waxed paper until ready to cook.

To coat with crushed nuts or coarse crumbs:

  1. Place beaten egg, mustard, yogurt, or whatever wet mixture the recipe indicates in a shallow bowl.

  2. Place coarse coating in a shallow bowl or pie plate.

  3. Dip the chicken pieces into the wet coating; shake off excess.

    Try to use just one hand when handling uncooked chicken.
    Try to use one hand when handling uncooked chicken. Keep the other clean so you can safely touch other ingredients or utensils.

  4. Roll chicken pieces in the coating; shake off excess.

    Try to roll each piece in a small section of crumbs, so t
    Try to roll each piece in a small section of crumbs, so the rest of the crumbs stay dry and don't clump together.

  5. Place coated chicken on a rack that has been set over a sheet of waxed paper until ready to cook.

Learn all about marinating chicken on the next page.

Hot Tip!
It's a good idea to let coated or breaded chicken rest for about 5 minutes before cooking. This helps set the coating and bind it to the chicken.
Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page.
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article.
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

How to Marinate Chicken

Before you marinate a chicken, you need to determine if you want to just add flavor, tenderize the meat, or both. The following tips will help.

Flavoring marinades do exactly what they should -- add flavor. Marinating times for chicken can range from just 15 minutes to several hours.

Marinating chicken pieces in a resealable plastic food storage bag makes for easy clean up.
Marinating chicken pieces in a resealable plastic food storage bag
 makes for easy cleanup.


Tenderizing marinades include an acidic ingredient such as wine, vinegar, yogurt, tomatoes, lemon juice, and lime juice, combined with herbs, seasonings, and oil. Some fruits also contain tenderizing enzymes. These include pineapple, papaya, kiwi, and figs.

Don't use an aluminum container with a highly acidic marinade. The acid can cause a chemical reaction.
Don't use an aluminum container with a highly acidic marinade. The acid
can cause a chemical reaction.

Knowing how to flatten a chicken can come in handy for certain recipes. Learn how on the next page.

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page. 
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article. 
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

Flattening Chicken

Flattening chicken is a helpful technique that will come up in various recipes. The main purpose of this method is to get the chicken to a consistent thickness, which promotes even cooking.
  1. Remove the tenderloin from the underside of each breast and save for another use.

  2. Place uncooked chicken between two sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap.

  3. Using the flat side of a meat mallet, a flat circular meat tenderizer, a rolling pin, or even the bottom of a small pan, gently pound the chicken, from the center to the outside, until an even thickness is reached -- usually about 1/2 inch, though some "scallopini" dishes call for even thinner cutlets.

    Gently pounding the chicken to a consistent thickness promotes even cooking.
    Gently pounding the chicken to a consistent thickness promotes even cooking.
Take the time to prepare chicken properly will help ensure your finished product -- that is, your meal -- is as delicious as you hoped it would be!

Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Chicken Recipes: Chicken is a very versatile food that can take on a variety of different flavors and be used in all kinds of dishes. Find some suggestions on our Chicken Recipes page.
  • Chicken Safety: Since raw chicken can harbor harmful bacteria, it's important to know how to properly handle chicken in the kitchen. Learn chicken safety tips in this article.
  • How to Cook Chicken: Get all the facts on cooking this popular poultry on our How to Cook Chicken page.
  • Cooking Chicken: Cooking chicken can be a bit difficult because it's imperative that the meat is cooked all the way through. Gather helpful tips at HowStuffWorks.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.