Mastering the basics of chicken Part 1: Pan frying and poaching

I don’t cook amazingly crazy and awesome dishes like Boozy Bunchers Yee Gan, Andrew and Grant. If you’re looking for a homemade, michelin star experience, it’s a better bet if you ask them about that! However, I do stumble on super easy hits that makes the boring basics absolutely awesome. Chicken quite often has a bad rep for being boring and blah but if you master these super basic techniques, your chicken salads and sandwiches and weeknight dinners are essentially elevated from mediocre to pretty exciting.

This fried chicken on laksa is pretty exciting, right?

First thing first though- always pay as much as you can for your meat. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with a really cheap chicken that has been grown super fast on a hormonal/anti-biotics cocktail with crap feed, no room to develop its muscles and was depressed its entire life. Coz I can’t imagine being stuck in a tiny cage is conducive to making friends and having fun times in general. Happy chicken = yummy chicken in my books (that’s why wagyu is so tasty- the cow gets beer and massages every day, ditto for non-homo full fat organic milk and not-force-fed duck/goose livers). I personally prefer chicken thighs (skin and bone on) since I’m asian and getting a pound of chicken thigh from your butchers isn’t that much more than breast from the supermarket- it’s totally worth it. I mean- if you really want to buy sad value chicken it’s your prerogative- these methods will make it better, but you know, I’m not a magician.

Step 1: Debone those thighs

Great! You listened and got a whole bunch of thighs! Now lots of people don’t like them because they are bony and hard to eat, but with a pair of scissors, deboning is a doodle and by throwing the bones in a ziplock in the freezer soon you’ll have enough for chicken soup (Bones, some extra thighs, carrots, leeks, celery, salt and boil). If you ask nicely your butcher would probably debone them for you anyways.

Method: With the bony bit facing up and the joint (knobbly bit) facing you, cut along the bone to the end of the thigh and make a slit. Little feather cuts from slit around the bone either side to free it and a giant swipe at the end to free the bone. Done.

Tip: For frying it doesn’t really matter how much fat you leave on- this will render anyways and become the oil the chicken fries itself in.  However, if you are poaching it, you might want to cut any excess off as the low temp cooking won’t render the fat at all and you’ll end up with bits of fat hanging off the meat (ick).

Step 2: Brine the chicken

Brining is AWESOME! It pumps flavourfulness into your meat so it is tasty (i.e. marinated) and juicy (i.e. not dry) at the end of it.  It means that the chicken is ever so helpful in the goal of transforming it to the best chicken it could be.

I’ve included 2 brines for you to play with but basically you can brine with ANYTHING. If you are adding a load of herbs/ spices to it, it’s best to heat about 1/2 the brining liquid up with the “fillings”, infuse for a few minutes, then cool it down with some ice cubes to make up the other 1/2 of the brining liquid.

Basic salt brine (I like it with fried chicken): 1 tablespoon of sea salt in 500ml water.

Asian brine (I like it with poached chicken): 75ml soy, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 tablespoon honey, 5 smashed cloves of garlic and a handful of shiitake mushroom (you get to eat these so as many as you want) in 250ml warm water. Leave to infuse for 5 minutes then add cold water/ice up to 500ml.

Yeah, look at those thighs making friends with the ‘shrooms and garlic…

This will be enough for around a pound of chicken thighs, but as long as everything is submerged and not squished you can fit as many as you want in the ziplock bag/ bowl. Leave the chicken in the brine for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 day.

That’s done.

Step 3a: Fry that chicken

Heat a super clean and fantastic frying pan dry on the stove at medium-high heat. I’m talking about one of those that nothing would stick on. If you have any doubt about your frying pan’s non-stick capability, fling some ghee in as starter fat (otherwise that skin will burn and not crisp up and you’ll be sad). While that heats up (to shimmer/ almost smoking if dry), pat the chicken very dry. Put them skin side down and flatten slightly with spatular to make good contact with pan. Flip after 4-5 minutes or when skin is golden and cook for a further 2-3.

Feel free to reach over and grab some perfectly fried chicken!


Variation: You can make pan roasted chicken if you wanted to with this method- simply use bone-in chicken bits and follow the instructions.  After cooking the ‘non-skinned’ side, flip the pieces over again and bung in 200c oven for around 20 minutes (or until juice run clear) to finish. The only downside is you won’t get so much fond with this method so the gravy will be on the slightly anemic side/ non existent.

Step 3b: Poach that chicken

Strain the chicken (and mushrooms) out (reserving the brine) and arrange nicely in a pan steamer net/thing. Put brine then steamer in pot (so you don’t eat the garlic) and add enough water to just cover the chicken. Put the lid on and heat water to 80c and turn off the heat. Leave chicken until it it registers 70c (about 10-15 minutes). Take steamer out and sit for 5 minutes before carving. I like to remove the skin at this point (but keep the skin on during poaching to retain maximum moistness).

Steamer is packed and ready for poaching.

Done! Now, wasn’t that the easiest way to elevate the most blah chicken to something much more appealing?

Please feel free to share your brining solutions and experiences!

 

 

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