Sometimes I run across a recipe for skinless chicken breasts that includes 30 minutes to several hours of marinating. Then the recipes says bake. Pshaw! No amount of marinating has ever yielded juicy chicken breasts, at least for me. The muscle fibers may be tenderized, but juicy the chicken is not.
Searing Locks In the Juices
It is my method of choice for skinless breasts. It works if time is not on your side. It works if you want to stretch or manage portion sizes to the recommended 4-6 oz. range because you have someone in your house who will consume 12 oz. and then get the meat sweats. Eh hem. When you butterfly a chicken breast, or slice it in half, you get thinner pieces that cook up faster and more evenly. This method is particularly useful if you want to serve a pan sauce, which ramps up the yum and specialness factor without adding a lot of time. Forget the marinade. Simply make a pan sauce out of the marinade ingredients and add a bit of thickener (arrowroot or flour), if desired. For those of you following my meal plans, I reference this method to keep speed up kitchen time.
Butterfly, Don’t Beat, It
Finally, some recipes will call for pounding out breasts into a large uniform piece. If you butterfly the breast, without slicing all the way through, it will make uniform pounding easier or unnecessary. And certainly less messy.
How to Butterfly Chicken Breasts
With a sharp chef’s knife, slice through the breast using up and down strokes (away and towards you). Hold the top of the breast gently with the palm of your other hand. Be careful not to work too quickly and try to keep the thicknesses of the top and bottom pieces uniform.
Keep slicing and opening the top half away as you slice so that you can see what you’re doing.
When you are finished, you will two cuts of meat from the one breast. Note the tenderloin piece to the right, which I try to keep attached to the bottom piece.
How to Sear Chicken Breasts (or other cuts of meat)
Season one side of the meat well with salt and pepper, while you heat a bit of oil in the pan on med-high. A cast iron or stainless steel pan will sear meat. Avoid a non-stick pan for this purpose.
When the oil shimmers, add the meat seasoned side down. Season the up-facing side while you cook for 3-4 mins or until the meat releases easily.
Flip the meat. It should have a golden brown crust forming on the cooked side. Cook for 3-4 more minutes. At this point, you need to cook to desired wellness. Chicken is always 165 degrees which feels firm and juices are clear. Beef is 140 degrees (medium) and up (well).
When meat is to your desired wellness, move aside to a platter. If desired, serve as is or in a pan sauce.
How to Make a Pan Sauce
After removing meat, you can sauté the base ingredients for the pan sauce (i.e. shallots, garlic, bacon, etc.). Add a tad bit of butter or ghee, if necessary. Stir until the ingredients are cooked through. Add any thickeners (arrowroot, flour, etc.) and stir well to coat.
Now, you’re ready for the liquids (stock, broth, wine, etc.). If using a thickener, add liquid in slowly but stir quickly with a whisk to avoid lumps.
Use a whisk or wooden spoon to deglaze the pan (pick up the savory bits stuck to the bottom of the pan). Stir sauce to boiling and until it reaches the desired consistency.
Add the meat back to the pan and coat with the sauce.
Once heated through, move meat and sauce to a platter. Voila! Dinner’s READY!