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I have a recipe where I cut chicken breasts into 0.5" cubes and cook them on a medium low gas flame for 15-20 minutes in a stew. When I cook the chicken, it comes out a bit tough and chewy. So I was curious if people had tips on how to properly stew chicken. Specifically, how do you get your chicken cooked so it "falls apart" nicely and doesn't taste--to put it bluntly--rubbery.

Thanks.

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You can't stew chicken breasts. Wherever you got the recipe, throw it away and don't trust the source any more. –  rumtscho Nov 10 '11 at 12:10
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Rumtscho is correct, but if you have to use chicken breast, it's probably better to stir fry it in a separate pan and add to the rest of the stew at the last minute. –  ElendilTheTall Nov 10 '11 at 17:17
    
Thanks. I just used breasts because that's what I had lying around, but I did not know it even mattered. –  novicecook Nov 11 '11 at 4:00

1 Answer 1

Rumtscho pretty much summed it up in his comment above: You can't really stew chicken breasts (at least not from the young chickens that are found in most supermarkets). The reason is that what makes a meat "fall apart" tender is its fat and collagen content. Collagen is connective tissue that is usually found in muscles that do a lot of work for the animal. When collagen cooks in a moist environment at a low temperature for a long time (i.e., a stew), it converts into gelatin, which is soft (causing the meat to fall apart) and is interpreted by the mouth to be moist and delicious.

The problem is that the breasts don't do much work on today's factory farmed chickens. Even if you were able to find an old rooster that has lived long enough to build up some collagen, there still wouldn't be much in its breasts.

Legs and thighs, on the other hand, do have a bit more collagen and could benefit from a short stew.

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Thighs work beautifully in a stew - take coq au vin or chicken cacciatore for example. –  ElendilTheTall Nov 10 '11 at 17:16
    
True, but more so if you can find an older bird. Here in the US, the majority of supermarket chicken thighs are from ~2 month old chickens, which isn't going to have nearly as much connective tissue as a 5 to 10 year old cock (which, as its name implies, is traditionally what is used for coq au vin). –  ESultanik Nov 10 '11 at 18:42

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