At the grocery store or butcher shop, your choices for chicken are seemingly endless. Bone-in or boneless, legs, thighs, wings, or breasts, skin-on or skinless—all of these options are enough to give even the most knowledgeable shopper a healthy dose of decision fatigue.
While we can’t tell you what cut of chicken you need, there is one aspect of shopping for chicken that we can help you with—skin-on or skinless. While opting for skinless may seem more appealing, healthy, and straightforward, you’re leaving behind the flavors and texture that only skin-on can lend to a chicken dish. Here’s how to perfectly cook skin-on chicken every time without losing any of that delicious flavor.
We get it—at the grocery store, skin-on chicken looks anything but appealing. But trust us, once you know how to get perfectly crispy skin with a moist, juicy meat, you’ll be reaching for it every time. If you’re searching for skin-on, boneless chicken, you may not find it in the meat aisle of your local grocery store—it’s an unusual cut, so you may be better off either asking your butcher, buying skin-on bone-in breasts and deboning, or buying a whole chicken and breaking it down yourself.
Leaving the skin on chicken helps imbue both flavor and moisture in the meat itself during the cooking process, especially when roasting chicken—the skin traps moisture, natural juices, fat, and flavor, which results in tender meat and succulent skin. And considering chicken skin is high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, leaving the skin on isn’t as unhealthy as initially thought.
Cooking skin-on chicken, much like skinless, varies depending on what preparation technique and recipe you’re planning to use. However, there are some tips you can utilize to make sure you’re cooking chicken that is flavorful, tender, and most importantly, still has its skin after cooking.Step 1: Temper the Chicken
Before cooking or even heating your pan, let your meat come to room temperature. This makes sure that there’s no temperature shock when you add the meat to a hot pan, as a cold ingredient can prolong the cooking process—and cause the skin to contract and get stuck to the surface instead of staying on the meat.
No matter how you’re preparing your chicken, you should let the skin dry out completely before cooking. This ensures the skin can get completely crispy instead of steamed whether getting sauteed, roasted, or fried.Step 2: Heat the Pan
Especially if you’re using a Stainless Steel Frying Pan to sear or saute the meat, you’re going to want the pan to be very hot before you begin cooking the chicken. Medium-high is the sweet spot for tender, crispy chicken without being overcooked.
To tell if your pan is ready to add your cooking oil and ingredients, drop some water in your pan—if the water “dances” then it’s ready to go. If the water droplets stay in the same place, then it needs to be preheated a little longer.Step 3. Add the Oil
Not only do you need a good cooking fat, like avocado or grapeseed oil, but you need to let it come to temperature—same as the chicken. This helps everything in the pan stay the same temperature throughout the cooking process, which is essential for keeping the skin on the chicken instead of sticking to the bottom of your pan.
You’ll want to just cover the bottom of the pan with oil, so your chicken cooks without being submerged. Wait a few minutes for the oil to heat up before adding in the chicken.Step 4: Add the Chicken and Let it Cook
Once it’s fully tempered and completely dry, season both sides generously with salt and start the chicken skin-side-down in the pan. Cook until the skin renders its fat and naturally releases from the pan, adjusting the heat if needed to avoid burning the skin. Flip the breast over and continue cooking until juices run clear and a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken reads 165F.
It’s important not to flip your meat too often, especially when cooking with a Stainless Steel skillet. Once one side is cooked, it will naturally lift off the pan—skin included. Flipping the chicken too much not only impacts the Maillard reaction, but could cause the skin to stick to the pan instead of on the chicken. Once removed from the pan, let it rest for about 5 minutes to preserve the juiciness.
If you want to take it a step further, treat the chicken like a steak—once fully cooked, lower the heat and add a knob of butter and a crushed clove of garlic or a sprig or two of thyme or rosemary. Use a spoon to baste the chicken skin with the flavored butter.
If any bits of chicken do stick to your pan, don’t toss them or wash them down the sink—that’s fond. You can use this to create a delicious pan sauce, or just deglaze and spoon it onto your chicken for some added flavor.
Skin-on chicken, when cooked right, will be tender, flavorful, and juicy—everything you want a chicken dish to be instead of dry and flavorless. These tips will help you perfect any skin-on chicken dish when seared in a Stainless Clad Frying Pan.
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