Out of all the meat / poultry-based food, preparation of Chicken is amazingly flexible and varied techniques could be employed while cooking. However, preparation of a chicken recipe starts right from the stage of buying the chicken, and goes through many levels, to keep its texture and enhance its taste.
This post is dedicated to the few simple steps of choosing, marinating, spicing and sautéing processes, to get the best out of your chicken recipes.
Choosing the chicken
First you need to check the different types and varieties of chicken options available in the market before preparing to cook. This step can place you in a better place ahead of the other chicken chefs. Chicken – especially the boneless skin free chicken-chest – tastes better and offers a better surface if marinated properly prior cooking. Further, the age and weight of the chicken is also important while choosing a better variety. Younger / tender chicken is soft and gets cooked faster, while a matured chicken needs slower preparation to make it softer. Therefore for the best results, it’s essential to know which variety of chicken you need to buy.
Marinating the chicken
Marinating of any meat of fish is essentially intended to make sure that the spices and other condiments go deeper into the flesh while cooking. Different methods of marinating, using an acid, like vinegar, yoghurt, lemon juice, etc. brings out different but unique flavors of chicken. In addition to the acid used, you need to add some oil and basic ingredients like salt, turmeric, chili powder, pepper, and in some cases the paste of onion, garlic, coriander leaves, green chillies and / or any other exotic or aromatic ingredients in the marinade.
Marinating makes your job easier in the later stages of cooking. This process adds moisture to the meat and makes it softer, juicier and brings out / enhances the specific flavors as per your requirements. For best results, follow these guidelines:
- Soak the chicken in salty water (3 tbsp.of salt to 4 cups of water) for an hour.
- Reduce oil in the marinade for more flavors. Best marinade is the combination of half oil and half acid (vinegar, yoghurt, lime juice)
- The marinating time shouldn’t exceed a specific period. Otherwise if marinated for too long, the acid can break the chicken flesh fiber, making it taste like finer minced meat.
- Usage of yoghurt (dahi) is the best way to marinate any meat. Add the required salt, turmeric & chili powder to the mixture of yoghurt & raw chicken while marinating.
Stay healthy by limiting the usage of oil in your recipes. Limit the usage of oil to the minimum for cooking your chicken. The marinated chicken contains a healthy amount of yoghurt, which, together with the chicken’s own fat, is more than enough to cook the chicken.
Spicing the chicken
The combination of spices is the most crucial part of rendering flavor to a chicken recipe. The right amount of cardamom, cinnamon, clove, pepper and most importantly the salt used for marinating will infuse the perfect flavor and taste into the chicken. Anything more or less than the recommended dosage changes the taste of the completed recipe. Salt can be used as per taste even while cooking, but the amount of turmeric shouldn’t exceed your requirements – otherwise it can mess up the entire recipe. Too much red chilli powder or pepper might subdue the subtle flavor of the chicken, while the adverse combinations of 3Cs of spices – clove, cinnamon and cardamom – might make the chicken taste too aromatic, thus again subduing its real flavor.
Sautéing the chicken
Sautéing process was covered in another post before. However, sautéing the chicken needs special care, since unlike vegetables, it is preferably not cut down to smaller pieces. Sauté in oil or butter for 2-3 minutes, along the 3Cs of spices, before mixing any other ingredients. This technique will result in better flavor and richer aroma. Next add the other ingredients as necessitated by the recipe, to the chicken and continue to sauté for more 6-7 minutes over medium-high heat. Always use a non-sticky skillet while doing this, and sauté the chicken thoroughly from the bottom to get its intense flavor.
Hence these are a few basics which you must get right before cooking any chicken recipe of your choice. Follow these steps to prepare a healthier, juicier, softer and flavor-filled chicken recipe at home, and your friends will ask for much more than ever!.
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