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Over the past few months my go-to meal prep has been to bake a bunch of skin-on, bone-in chicken, typically breast but occasionally leg (wing+thigh). My technique has been:

  1. Season the chicken (mostly skin, but not exclusively) heavily with salt/pepper, leave sitting in the fridge for 20 minutes, then pat dry excess moisture.
  2. Brown the skin on medium (or medium high) heat (gotta love the Maillard reaction), while basting the chicken in it's own juices + some butter, thyme, garlic (either in a cast-iron or stainless steel skillet).
  3. Throw in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 425F.

This works great with chicken legs, but recently I've been getting these absolutely gigantic chicken breasts, which take way longer to get to temperature in the oven (~35 minutes). The skin is always fine and tasty, but the inside is often drier and tougher.

How can I adapt my technique to cook juicier thick chicken breast, preferably without brining? I find brining skin-on chicken ruins the texture of the skin, unless you leave the skin to dry for a few hours in the fridge, but I'd prefer not to do that. Could a different oven temp achieve better results?

By the way, I typically take my chicken out either when it's >160F internal temp, or when I'm sure it's been at >150F for more than 10 minutes (the latter gives a juicier result, and from what I've researched it doesn't seem like this poses any health risks).

Edit: Maybe I should clarify that by no means are the chicken inedible. They're merely "fine". I'm wondering if there are any secret pro techniques that could help here.

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    It's not an adaptation of your current method, which is why I'm putting it as a comment, but if you feel like getting a sous vide setup it would be very well suited for what you want I think.
    – dbmag9
    Aug 1 at 16:58
  • @dbmag9 I will look into it, thanks for the suggestion! Aug 1 at 18:49
  • I don't have personal experience sous viding but this video could be a good starting point: youtube.com/watch?v=gYy9Qj3HJls
    – dbmag9
    Aug 1 at 19:01
  • How are you measuring internal temperature? Are you sure the thermometer is accurate? Have you calibrated it?
    – moscafj
    Aug 1 at 19:10
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    @user3002473 lowering the oven temp...350 to 375 will help large items cook more evenly.
    – moscafj
    Aug 2 at 11:05
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Since you sear the meat first you could probably lower the oven temp, but that will probably take longer to cook... You'd need to experiment with times and temps. I'd cover the chicken with aluminium foil to avoid losing too much moisture and uncovering it on the last few minutes to avoid a soggy skin.

You could also try reverse searing (oven first then sear), that would give you more control of the internal temperature before you can get the outside crispy (and the fact that the oven helps drying out the skin should help you get it crispy more easily, Serious eats has a great article on that technique).

The other alternative is to use sous-vide: find a temperature you like your meat (150F sounds good to start) and fine tune it up or down until you achieve the desired meat texture. In this case I'd advice to sear it after cooking - you can pre-cook in bulk and quickly sear it just before serving.

The downside of sous-vide is that it won't be any faster than in the oven (it will take you at least 1h). The upsides:

  • you'll never overcook if you leave it too long (and circulators have a timer)
  • you'll get the exact same texture every time
  • it's great for meal prepping (I typically cook a batch of chicken each in separate bags, freeze most of it and just thaw + sear whenever I want to eat one)
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  • Actually I haven't tried reverse searing the meat, I bake after searing, but I'll experiment with the alternative. Thanks, also, for the suggestions to experiment with times/temps/aluminum foil, certainly good places to start looking! Aug 2 at 17:01
  • @user3002473 good luck! I also fixed what I said about reverse searing.
    – Luciano
    Aug 3 at 8:40
  • +1 for the upsides of sous-vide. We use an Anova circulator and the displacement method with ziploc freezer bags. Takes 5 minutes to set up and comes out perfect every time. Aug 3 at 19:57
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    @DaveKanter I had to mention, it's just so convenient and precise! In fact, I gotta go put some chicken in a bath :D
    – Luciano
    Aug 4 at 8:08
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You could try cutting your chicken breast into smaller pieces (or buy smaller pieces from the get-go). Cutting might be a bit more difficult for bone-in chicken, but with poultry shears or a suitable heavy duty knife it should be possible. At worst, you get one slightly worse chicken breast when trying it out. Otherwise I see no problem with your current technique.

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