Why is My Cooked Chicken Chewy?

Chicken is adored by people throughout the world for its versatility, affordability, protein content, and most importantly…flavor. There are many ways to cook chicken so whether you fry, grill, roast, poach, bake or boil, get to know the many ways to cook this revered bird.

So, why is my cooked chicken chewy? Chewy or rubbery chicken usually occurs when it is overcooked, it has lost its moisture content, or was not marinated or seasoned properly. To prevent chewy chicken, make sure the chicken is fresh, each piece is cut to the same thickness, and it is marinated and seasoned before cooking.

There is more to preparing and cooking chicken than meets the eye. Different parts of a chicken provide totally different tastes and textures and knowing the difference will make the difference in taste and texture. 

What are the different parts of a chicken?

  • The Whole Bird:  The best way to enjoy all parts of a chicken is by cooking the entire bird at the same time. 
  • Chicken Breasts: The breasts feature white meat and are the leanest cut of the chicken and noted for their health benefits.  
  • Chicken Thighs/Legs: The chicken thighs/legs are considered dark meat, usually are tender and juicy and cooking times will vary based on whether they are boneless and skinless or still have the skin and bones intact. 
  • Chicken Wings: Chicken wings have two parts, the drum and the flat, both are white meat. Wings, either baked or fried are a common appetizer or bar food that is served with flavorful dipping sauces.
  • Chicken-Bones:  Chicken bones are full of flavor and make delicious chicken stock or broth to add to soups, casseroles, and other recipes.

How Can A Chicken Lose Moisture?

Moisture equals tender, juicy chicken. What makes chicken chewy or rubbery is a loss of moisture either before or during cooking. Actually, moisture can evaporate from the chicken while is stored in the refrigerator or freezer. The best way to keep the moisture in is to seal it in an airtight container, airtight plastic bag, or plastic wrap. Another way to keep the moisture inside the chicken before cooking is by soaking it in very salty water or pickle juice. The salt will absorb into the meat and break down the chicken’s muscle fibers and act as a meat tenderizer.

What Makes Chicken Chewy?

So, what makes chicken chewy? Overcooking is the biggest reason for chewy chicken. It doesn’t take as long to cook chicken when compared to other meats, so it is easy to overcook. Since some people are afraid of bacteria like Salmonella caused by uncooked meat, they tend to overcook it. Using a meat thermometer to check the temperature can help prevent chewy chicken. According to The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chicken is cooked properly when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Another reason for chewy chicken is a sudden change in cooking temperature so maintain a consistent temperature for best results.

How Do You Add Moisture to Chewy Chicken?

There are a few ways you can add flavor and moisture to an overcooked chicken. 

  • Let it Soak in Soup or Broth: This might not be ideal but will add moisture and enhance the flavor to a dried-out bird. Add vegetables, pasta, or potatoes to create a hearty chicken soup.
  • Brush on Sauces: Sauces, like ranch dressing, buffalo, honey mustard, or sweet and sour will improve the texture and flavor of an overcooked chicken.
  • Make Chicken Salad:  Slice overcooked chicken into small pieces, add chopped celery, onion, and plenty of mayonnaise to create a tasty chicken salad spread for sandwiches.

How Do You Cook A Moist Chicken?

The best way to cook a moist, delicious chicken, especially the breasts that have less fat content, is to cook it with the skin and bones included. This will keep the moisture inside the meat while it is cooking. You don’t have to eat the skin if you don’t like it. Removing the bones and skin prior to cooking will lead to a dry, chewy dish. Each piece of the chicken should be cut or pounded to an equal thickness to cook evenly. The easiest way to accomplish this is to pound the thicker parts of the chicken, like the breast meat until it is the same size as the other parts. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Does An Overcooked Chicken Look and Taste Like?

Overcooked chicken, although safe to eat, is extremely dry, stringy, and difficult to chew. Some say it is similar to eating a piece of rubber. The color that should be bright white, turns to a dull, unappealing yellowish color. 

What is the Best Way To Tenderize Chicken?

There are a few tried and true ways to tenderize a chicken. One is using a wooden or metal meat mallet, hammer, or the bottom of a frying pan, gently pound the raw chicken to break down the meat fibers. Two other tenderizing methods are to marinate the chicken, brine the chicken or apply a meat tenderizer. A commercial meat tenderizer’s active ingredient is the enzyme papain, from the papaya plant.

How Long Should You Marinade a Chicken?

For the best and most flavorful and tender results, marinate an uncooked chicken for five to six hours and up to 24 hours, but no longer. Remove the chicken from the marinade. Do not consume the marinade, it is not safe and can cause illnesses similar to eating raw chicken.

What Ingredients Is In A Chicken Marinade?

Marinades are meant to improve the flavor and texture of meat so three things are needed. One, an acid to tenderize the meat, two, flavoring to season the meat, and three, oil to moisturize the meat and hold the marinade together. 

What happens If You Eat Undercooked Chicken?

Eating chicken or any meat that is not properly cooked can cause illnesses from harmful bacteria including stomach aches, vomiting, and high fever. Always follow the recipe for guidance and use a meat thermometer for an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

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