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Substituting Chicken Breast for Thighs

Chicken dark meat tastes better than white meat. I get it and I agree. It's tastier, more forgiving, etc. However, both for health and marital bliss reasons, I generally need to reduce fat and, frankly, my wife doesn't like the taste of dark meat and as well.

Do you have recommendations for using chicken breasts instead of thighs without drying out the chicken? For example, I've found that converting some recipes into grilled kebabs with two zones allows chicken breast to cook through more quickly and evenly. But that doesn't work for everything. For example, Milk Street's miso-glazed chicken with mushrooms recipe that was recently highlighted doesn't lend itself to this sort of approach.

Thanks!

Comments

  • edited August 2019

    Hi Mitchell - you can substitute chicken breasts for most (if not all) of our sheet pan chicken recipes, including our recipe for Miso-Glazed Chicken with Mushrooms. In fact our Sheet Pan-Roasted Chicken (which includes 3 flavor variations - za'atar, jerk, and coriander) calls for a mix of whatever parts you like. I would recommend using bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. The skin and bone will protect the chicken a bit from drying out. Most importantly, temp your chicken. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast and pull it out of the oven when it hits 160 degrees. This will ensure that the chicken will still be moist and juicy. Hope that helps! Best, Lynn C. _

  • I brine my bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, then air-dry in the fridge before use regardless of the recipe for which they are intended: pan-seared and oven-finished; sheet pan, etc., unless obviously for stews or soup. The results have been consistently tender and juicy for the 10+ years I've done it this way. Typically, I'll brine 4-6 split breasts, use 2 and freeze the rest which I'll air-dry after defrosting.

  • Thank you both.

  • This is very helpful. I'm not a fan of thigh meat, tho do eat it. My biggest problem is those HUGE chicken breasts that you buy in the grocery store -- almost turkey size breasts. Can I cut the huge breasts in half? It seems that you then lose so much of the moisture in the breast. I find I'm buying 2-3 packages of bone-in breasts just to find 1 or 2 that are normal size.

  • Hi Carel - Ugh. I totally agree. Chicken breast sizing has gotten a little out of hand. I’ve had better luck when buying organic chicken breasts - they tend to be more reasonably-sized. Otherwise, yes, you can certainly cut them in half. In fact, for bone-in breasts, I do that most times I cook them so they cook faster. Hope that helps! Best, Lynn C.

  • I like the idea of air drying meat in the frige but have never tried it. It would be great to get more information on how to do this. Also, I have had problems with tough dried out pork chops to the point of no longer buying them. I'm wondering if Howard C's method would work for? Jennie O.

  • Hi Jennie - You can certainly dry or wet brine pork chops to try to keep them moist and add some seasoning. Here at Milk Street though, for most of our pork chop recipes, we simply salt the meat and either cook the chops in a very flavorful sauce or serve them with one on the side. See Pork Chops with Peanut-Guajillo Sauce or Pork Chops in Chipotle Sauce. Making sure to cook the pork just until it reaches 134-140 on an instant-read thermometer will also ensure that the chops will still be moist and tender. If you're using bone-in chops, make sure to take the temperature close to the bone - this will be the last area to finish cooking.

    Air drying meat can help dry out the exterior and produce a crispier crust or skin. Let smaller pieces of meat (steaks, chops, skin-on chicken breasts) sit in the fridge for at least 45 minutes, larger roasts should sit overnight.

    Good luck! Best, Lynn C.

  • Jennie, 1st to clarify, I'm referring to bone-in, skin-on "split" chicken breasts. After brining, rinse, pat dry and place them on a smallish rack on a similar-sized pan (like what you get in a toaster oven).

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