Probably you often cook, grill or pan-fry chicken for salad. But how come it become so dry and tough? The key is temperature.
A little Science of Meat Cooking
Generally, meat protein suddenly starts shrinking at 140-150°F/60-65°C and releases surrounding liquid rapidly, and it becomes chewy, dry meat. In order to avoid this, keeping the cooking temperature low is the key.
However, we need to consider the risk of foodborne illness, and safe minimum cooking temperature for meat is usually between 160-165°F/70-74°C. Please note that this does not mean that it is safe if you cook meat in the oven heated at 165°F, but the center of meat must reach the temperature.
And I also found a research result that said the meats cooked at 175°F/80°C and 165°F/74°C were equivalently tender .
Considering all this, I tried a few times and found that cooking slowly at 175°F/80°C promises tender, juicy chicken and still safe.
A ziploc bag helps to cook at lower-temperature and slowly. It is airtight when heated and cooked, so this method prevents meat from oxidized and you can keep it longer in your fridge, not only its finish is so tender, juicier and more flavorful.
What to do:
Use boneless chicken. You can use breast or thigh, with or without skin. Skim excess fat and make it as flat as you can. Season it with salt and pepper.
Place a piece of chicken in a ziploc, deflate as much as you can do. Close the bag tightly.
In a large pot, preferably heavy one, pour a lot of water and heat. You need at least 2 quarts of water for cooking two bags of chicken. The more chicken to cook, the more water you need.
When the water is rapidly boiling, add 1/2 quart of water. I mean, lower the boiling water temperature with 1/4 – 1/3 quantity of cold water. It will make approximately 175°F/80°C, more or less.
Place the bags in the pot.
Be careful the bags don’t touch the pot. Even though the water temperature is low, the pot itself may be as hot as it can melt the bag.
Keep the heat low, cover, and wait for 10-15 minutes. Required cooking time may vary depending on how much of meat you cook at once. Cook longer for more meat.
After heating, turn the heat off and let rest for 30-45 minutes. Do not uncover.
Take the bags out of hot water after resting.
After rest, put them in your fridge. You can keep them up to 5 days.
Next day, the chicken in the bag should be nicely covered with aspic, the natural gelatin from chicken itself.
Slice it and lay it over the bed of your favorite salad.
I have this recipe in Japanese, too.
Science of Cooking, Science of Slow Cooking : http://www.scienceofcooking.com/meat/slow_cooking1.htm
Foodsafety.gov Safe Minimum Cooking Temperatures: http://www.foodsafety.gov/keep/charts/mintemp.html