I hate boneless skinless chicken breasts. I like chicken with skin. I like the fat, crackle, salt, FLAVOR, that comes from the skin. My favorite chicken to cook, outside of a whole roasted chicken, is the “Split Breasts” available from most markets. In a future post I’ll share my technique for barbecuing these so they’re perfect. This post isn’t about that. It’s about my least favorite kind of chicken; boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Here’s the thing. All of the good reasons to eat this food are all of the good reasons why it’s bad. (From here on out in this post I’m going to call these BS Breasts, simply because I like the sound of that). Let’s dissect a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Ready? They are made up of very lean chicken meat. That’s it. Extremely little fat, no connective tissue, no bones, no nothing. Therefore, they have very little flavor and no natural tenderizers. When most people cook them they turn out like semi soft hockey pucks. Yuck!
It’s easy to make them better and the really good news is that all you need is a mallet, an ounce of aggression and a gallon sized ziplock bag.
Technically speaking there are really two problems with BS Breasts. They have very little flavor-carrying surface area and they are so protein rich (and thick) that they get tough and dry easily. How do you solve that problem? It sounds like crazy talk, but pound them out flat. This increases the flavor-carrying surface area geometrically and it also thins out the protein, making it much less likely that it will be tough.
Here’s a method for preparing these that we call “Dad’s ‘I’m Tired Tonight’ Chicken.” It’s pretty close to foolproof. (Which IS actually to say that if you mess it up, you’re a fool…. which is fine so long as you don’t tell anyone.)
- BS Breasts. (If you’re the plan ahead type you can buy these frozen for a fraction of the cost of the ones in the deli counter).
- Seasoning. Really anything you want, salt and pepper, chicken seasoning, cajon seasoning, fajita seasoning, whatever.
- Olive Oil
- Not essential but sometimes nice, lemon juice, flavor infused vinegar (those pretty bottles people give you that you don’t know what to do with)
Heat a grill or large skillet to very hot…
Working one at a time, put the chicken breasts in a gallon sized ziplock bag. Squeeze out all of the air and zip the bag shut, leaving about 1″ open at one end. DO NOT SEAL THE BAG! IT WILL POP OPEN IN A BAD PLACE AND SPRAY RAW CHICKEN ALL OVER YOUR KITCHEN OR YOU. Use a rubber mallet from a hardware store, your fist, or one of those fancy kitchen mallets with a smooth side, to pound the chicken into a uniform 1/4″ thickness. It will be surprisingly big.
Do this with all of your BS Breasts.
Drizzle liberally with whatever Olive Oil you have and then season. (Heavily for the grill, not quite as heavily for indoor preparation.)
With either your grill or your skillet (Big flat frying pan for the uninitiated) fire cracker hot (I like my grill in the 500 degree range for this) lay the flattened breasts down and let them cook for about 1 minute. If your grill flares from the olive oil, all the better. Turn them over and let them cook for another two minutes. No longer.
Drizzle with a little more of the olive oil and your reserved lemon juice or vinegar mix, slice into nice sized serving pieces and serve. You will never just cook the whole damn BS Breast again. Ever. For anything. I promise.
BTW – leftovers are perfect for salads, pastas, sandwiches, pretty much anything you might want to make chicken for…