Most of the recipes I've seen for Chicken Salad simply call for "cooked chicken". ...okay, but how? Should I bake it? Blanch it? Sautee it? Grill it?

What is the preferred way to cook Chicken Breasts prior to use in Chicken Salad?

  • 1
    will the chicken be chopped? Cubed? Shredded?
    – justkt
    Dec 1, 2010 at 16:56
  • Cubed I believe. Dec 1, 2010 at 16:57

5 Answers 5


It really depends on the texture you are looking for in your finished product. If you want a chunky chicken salad then bake your chicken breasts seasoned or not, I season mine, and then cube them. If you want something a little more exciting pan grill the breasts to the point of a little char and then dice. If you want your chicken to be flavorless and get all of your flavor from the mix you are tossing your chicken into, boil it or put it in a slow cooker if you are cooking up a big batch.

It all really comes down to how you like to eat your chicken salad, and more importantly how pretty you want it to look in your serving method, because a cajun blackened chicken salad sandwich can look down right homely. I say try them all until you fall in love with one temporarily and when that has lost its passion try a different version.

Also as a side note if I am preparing it for me and not for someone else, so it doesn't have to be all white and pretty, I use thighs instead of breasts since they are more forgiving and generally cheaper. If I am not just breaking down a whole chicken and using the leftovers.

  • 4
    +1 for frugality. Using thighs is a great idea. The dark meat is more flavorful and moist, too! Dec 1, 2010 at 18:39
  • re: boiling & slow cooker -- the slow cooker isn't hot enough to kill surface bacteria, and with boiling you risk overcooking. I explain an alternative in How do you poach chicken?. You can then strip the bones out, let it cook, and then dice up. (if you skip the cooking, it'll shread)
    – Joe
    Dec 2, 2010 at 14:27
  • I always boil my chicken when I am making bbq chicken for sandwiches. I will have to check out your article. Good advice on the slow cooker but a query since I cook a lot of other meats in the slow cooker why would that not also be problematic?
    – Varuuknahl
    Dec 2, 2010 at 16:41
  • Re: "blackened chicken...homely" and "all white and pretty" -- Actually, I prefer a little blackening in my chicken. In my mind, plain white (i.e. when boiled) means "no flavor". Mar 2, 2011 at 21:59

I prefer simmering a whole bird to get shredded chicken, like Satanicpuppy. That should take an hour or two to accomplish.

For a chicken salad that has cubed pieces, I would saute or grill a whole breast, then cut it up afterwards. You can bake it, but it takes longer than the former methods. You can also slice it up beforehand and saute it- that is a much faster option than any other. Just make sure you season the breasts; they will be virtually flavorless otherwise, and make your salad dull. I'd use garlic powder, salt, freshly-ground pepper, and saute it in butter.


I usually do a whole small chicken in a pot with the traditional herbs, onions, celery, etc. Cook it slow until it falls off the bone, strain it, and let it cool before picking the meat off.

That being said, I've gotten perfectly decent results using store bought rotisserie chickens.


Roasting and pan-frying provide the most intense chicken flavor and make the tastiest chicken salad. Both have the added advantage of some browned scrapings to add to the savory flavor of the salad.


There are many ways to cook chicken AKA: apply heat to chicken to bring it up to a safe 160 degrees. Most old school recipes have you boiling the chicken. This is wrong on many levels with the biggest reason you are dumping most of the flavor down the drain when they are done. I wash then bake my skin-on rib-attached chicken breasts at 350 until they reach 159 degrees. I then take them out and let them cool where carry over heat will take above 160 degrees. Let rest covered and unrefrigerated (OK for up to 2 hours) with plastic wrap for 90 min. Throw away the bone and skin and chop. YUM.

  • Translation problem @Dong Nippano, what are you dumping down the drain??
    – user57361
    Jul 3, 2019 at 17:45
  • 1
    Probably flavour
    – user34961
    Jul 4, 2019 at 7:27
  • washing raw chicken is also a safety concern because you're just splashing bacteria and germs all over the sink. It's better to not wash it at all.
    – Luciano
    Jul 4, 2019 at 8:29
  • I'm not sure I understand the question but let me help clarify. "Most old school recipes have you boiling the chicken . . you are dumping most of the flavor down the drain when they are done." So here you go: The chicken sits in the water until it reaches 160 degrees. Then remove the chicken. MOST people pour the water down the drain. This is the same water that has not only cooked your chicken but extracted many of the fat and water soluble compounds. These compounds are no longer in the chicken; they are in the water. I'm not sure how better to explain this. I hope this helps, George. Jul 12, 2019 at 13:43
  • Luciano - I always wash chicken. Always. I once toured a chicken processing plant and this is why. I don't splash all over kitchen. I have a deep sink and use a very low pressure of water over a longer period of time - about a minute of washing. No splashing at all. Jul 12, 2019 at 13:47

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