Tenderizing is one of the basic steps we use to get tender and delicious chicken. However, it’s also often forgotten about or skipped in the kitchen. Most of us end up with dry and hard chicken when this happens, even if we use the best food smoker.
You, therefore, need to learn how to tenderize your chicken to avoid this sort of embarrassment the next time you’re in the kitchen, especially when you have friends or guests over. Tenderizing your chicken, in the best way, guarantees you and your guests that succulent, tender, and tastier piece of meat that will leave everyone asking for more.
Chicken breasts are the most commonly tenderized pieces of chicken. Chicken breasts will flatten when tenderized and remain the same after cooking.
Why are chicken breasts tough?
Well, having tough chicken breasts shouldn’t make you think you’re the worst cook. Tough chicken breasts are due to a phenomenon known as “wood breast.” It’s common in at least 10% of all chickens. Its cause is not yet known, but wood breast is inevitably the reason for your unpleasant, tough, and grainy chicken breast.
Also, it’s good to keep in mind that older chickens are likely to be tougher chickens. But this shouldn’t be a major concern for you as most chicken is processed at a few weeks old.
The source of the meat could also be the cause of the toughness. We recommend sourcing your chicken from a trustworthy, reliable butcher. But at the same time, getting your chicken from an organic poultry farm may or may not have tough chicken wings.
Best ways to tenderize chicken
We are going to share different, simple ways you can tenderize your chicken. The options are diverse, and you may have to settle on the one that works best for you.
1. Pounding the chicken
Like any other meat tenderizing process, pounding a chicken will need you to have a meat hammer or any other meat tenderizing tool. You will use the hammer to pound the chicken evenly over a flat surface. It may be a tedious process, but you have to keep doing it until the chicken is as thin as you want it to be. Let the level of thinness be informed by the recipe you’re using.
Pounding the chicken is one of the greatest do-it-yourself ways to tenderize chicken before cooking. This is because the pounding breaks the fibers in the chicken, allowing for faster cooking.
Ensure you cover or wrap the chicken in plastic wrap or a sealable bag. We do this to ensure that the juices don’t escape and instead are retained in the chicken. Remember, pounding is meant for boneless chicken such as breasts and deboned thighs. We recommend not pounding bone-in meat as you will end up shattering the bones.
2. Marinade the chicken
You might have wondered why most chefs or cooks prefer to soak their chicken in buttermilk or yogurt overnight. Well, the answer is simple: they are tenderizing the chicken for cooking later, and that’s the secret behind their super delicious, juicy chicken.
Using a marinade is a good way to achieve soft and tender chicken, with plain yogurt or buttermilk being the most commonly used marinades. The two contain acids and enzymes that combine to break the proteins and fiber in the chicken.
We recommend marinating your chicken in buttermilk or yogurt overnight, but if it’s urgent, then an hour will do. However, the texture of the chicken won’t be as even as chicken marinated overnight.
The process is simple: you only have to immerse the chicken in a container with enough yogurt or buttermilk and seal it. Leave the container to settle in the refrigerator, after which you can season the chicken using your favorite spices.
Ensure you use plain yogurt to avoid having unpalatable chicken due to the different flavors.
3. Slow cooking the chicken
Slow cooking your chicken is one of the greatest ways to achieve a tender piece of meat. The long cooking process allows for a tender and delicious chicken, giving the juices and flavor time to blend and fuse.
You can choose to cook or smoke the chicken, depending on your recipe. For efficient chicken tenders, you won’t want to over-cook or over-smoke them. They call for the use of a food smoker that will give them both heat and moisture while cooking, and that is our Bradley Smoker. The Bradley Smoker will cook your chicken until tender when the meat reaches a temperature of 165°F (74°C).
Once ready, allow the chicken to rest for the juices to redistribute. For more great ideas on how to get the most out of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Bog for more tips & tricks.