Monday, May 25, 2015

Chicken Breast: Why I hate it

I love a pan roasted chicken - In the context of a whole chicken, the breast is a blank canvas

So you love chicken breast - boneless, skinless -- eating it all the time? Well, your mouth just dialed my 911 number and is asking for an intervention.  Here it is: why on earth are you eating this nonsense?

I love chicken - a whole roasted chicken is one of my favorite meals of all time- made in either a splatchcock style as above, or on my ancient rotisserie.  In the case of those, the breast is a part of a whole- it is in context, it is a blank canvas upon which you can layer lovely flavors. 

But a boneless, skinless chicken breast - it has no flavor. None. It is bland, it is lifeless, it is the favorite of dieters since the ancient myths about this lean protein being healthy. 

Here it is - the naked chicken breast - with a herb satchel. 

Chicken Breast Is It Low In Fat - must be compared to steak

Oh, but this is good - you hear the chorus say. It is a "diet" food.  This is a 5 ounce chicken breast, it has about 250 calories in it. About 30 grams of protein, 4 grams of the evil saturated fat, and etc. 

Oh that red meat you eschew? A similar piece of New York Strip (one of my favorite cuts) is also about 250 calories. About 42 grams of protein, and 2.8 grams of the evil saturated fat. What? Yes, you read that correctly.  There is more saturated fat in chicken breast than New York Strip. I ask you- which has more flavor? 

It is Too Easy To Overcook

People overcook the chicken breast all the time.  The instructions of many recipes are set to an internal temperature of about 165 degrees Fahrenheit - which means all of the moisture will be gone - the chicken will be dry. 

Or they put it into a crock pot thinking a slow cooking at a low temperature will be a good thing. Nothing worse than crock pot chicken breast -- the lowest temperature on most crock pots is about 177 degrees Fahrenheit - again, over cooked.  So the chicken will be surrounded by juice of itself and be dry and overcooked. The best way to cook this protein is Sous Vide - otherwise you sacrificed the life of a chicken for naught.

Speaking of the steak - ever wonder why a steak is more moist than a chicken? Medium rare is 132-134 degrees Fahrenheit - so the steak is still moist.  All you need is that sear on it, the Maillard reaction, and you have a great bit of food.

It has no flavor

Seriously - grill a plain chicken breast and eat it. Kind of dull. Make it interesting- surround it with other flavors and the chicken is just a dull protein that won't ruin the spark of the other flavors. Chicken Marsala - well,  if you make a rich marsala with great mushrooms, stock, and wonderful wine the sauce will not be overwhelmed with the flavor of the chicken breast (don't buy the cheap wine, this is food, if you eat cheap food you are missing out). 

Pick any chicken breast dish - any - tell me how the chicken flavor added to it. 

Boneless - Skinless - oh you just tossed the best part

Try this- cook the skin separately on a baking sheet with some poultry spice and salt. It crisps up nicely like bacon - and is delicious. Then cook the chicken breast with the bones - oh there is flavor there, and it comes out- a rich flavor, a flavor of savory chicken that was lost when someone convinced you to pay a bit extra not to have the bone.

It Is Not Diet Food

The increase in sales of chicken breast correlate with obesity. Many think chicken breast is "diet food." It isn't.  Try this experiment: eat four ounces of chicken breast one night, four ounces of salmon the next, and four ounces of steak the next.  See when you get hungry.  Most people find that the fat in the salmon and the savory of the steak keeps you from getting hungry longer than the bland chicken breast.

Chicken breast is just poultry - it isn't diet food. 

But the Thigh

Ok, maybe I am a leg man more than a breast man - but the thigh has flavor, and texture.  Ever wonder why wings taste so good -- (hint, it isn't the blue cheese -- seriously, some people put that on wings - of course some people still choose margarine).

Do Yourself A Favor

Stop buying chicken breasts and thinking you are eating healthy. You want a great chicken - roast one properly, and then you can use the pan gravy from the stock and the drippings to make that breast stand out. 

Don't buy it skinless and boneless. Don't just grill it. Don't put it in a crock pot. 

Stop the insanity. 

Chicken breast - it ranks with fillet and pork loin as flavorless proteins.  I think Tofu is cheaper, and probably tastier. 

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