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When I cook chicken breasts in a pan, a lot of water comes out of them.

I've seen this answer: My chicken breasts release a lot of fluid when cooked. How do I prevent this?

where some people suggest that this has to do with the quality of the chicken and that certain producers/supermarkets will actually "pump" their chickens full of water.

However, what i don't understand is that I'm buying those from Whole Foods and that they are supposedly air chilled (which someone in the above-quoted answer suggests getting), so shouldn't they be high quality?

Is the reality that even WF is scamming its customers by pumping chickens full of water? Is their chicken just not that high quality?

If that's the case, where can you possibly get good chicken? (Serious question if you know a place, I live in Cambridge MA, US)

  • 1
    If an excessive amount of water has been added to the meat then it should appear on the ingredients list. In the UK a manufacturer has to declare anything over 10% added water. But the chemicals -- phosphates -- that are used to get the meat to retain so much water must be listed if any non-negligible amount is used. What does the ingredients list say? – Borodin Aug 1 '15 at 23:35
  • @Borodin, thanks for the info. There is unfortunately no ingredient list in this case, because I'm buying directly from a meat counter within the market and not in a package, so it just says "chicken breasts, air chilled". This is in the US. – jeremy radcliff Aug 1 '15 at 23:56
  • Are they boneless/skinless? I have noticed these are "plumper" than those with bone and skin (or cut from a whole chicken). – user3169 Aug 2 '15 at 4:09
  • @user3169, yes they are both boneless and skinless but I'm not sure why there would be more water in these... – jeremy radcliff Aug 3 '15 at 18:55
  • hey I was looking actually for this. funny enough I live in cambridge nd bought my chicken breast at WFM (air chilled, organic, etc) The point is that in Europe cooked in the same way the don't release water... which is why I am concerned – raffaele Jan 20 '17 at 1:55
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Liquid naturally comes out of all meats as they cook. If you're using high heat and a frying pan, you don't really notice it because it evaporates quickly. That brown stuff you see in a frying pan after cooking meat on high heat are the evaporated juices.

If you're baking them at around 350 F, you'll also notice water being released. This is amplified if you overcrowd the cooking vessel. You don't see it in a whole roasted chicken or roast beef for example because the liquid coming out caramelizes and creates those lovely browned bits to make a sauce or gravy.

I doubt that WF is selling water and phosphate tumbled chicken breasts.

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There is no way to completely prevent the chicken breasts from releasing water. However, you can minimize it by the way you cook. Not crowding the number of pieces in the pan is the most effective, followed by searing the meat when you first put it into the pan, then turning down the heat to complete the cooking. Searing to lock in a lot of the water will result in a cooked meat that is moister and retains more taste than one in which the water is allowed to stew itself out during cooking. Finally, cook with the lid on the pan only for five minutes at most. After that, cook the chicken in an open pan to encourage evaporation or water and to help prevent over-cooking.

  • Searing locking in moisture is a thoroughly debunked myth. – Sobachatina Dec 17 '18 at 5:06
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Yes, Whole Foods (much like other supermarkets) is now selling chicken loaded with water. It did not used to be this way. One result -- beyond the overcharging -- is that it has become impossible to sauté chicken in the United States. When you think you're sauté-ing, you're actually steaming.

  • Welcome. Can you add a source? – Erica Dec 16 '18 at 21:41
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all meats contain water. but it is not in the best interest of supermarkets to advertise dud meat. most meats are sold per kg and if the phosphate/water content is say 7% in a $10 chicken then there is a "healthy" profit to be made. most chicken in the western world is high volume poor care chicken where the consumer is of low to middle income, on the run, barely meeting bills and an easy target for businesses to make massive profits. I will not start with injected pork, beef and mutton. the price of meat is inversely proportional to the amount of contaminants.

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