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Dry chicken?

Ah, life's big question. How to get moist chicken without poisoning everyone around you?

I found the answer to this one year, preparing turkey for about 50 people, at an annual Thanksgiving/Christmas party. Turkey was my worst enemy, but when service 50 plus, I figured out through trial and error, I needed to make ham and turkey to keep everyone satisfied, and some years, that wasn't enough! I wanted to make sure that my turkey came out moist, and that I was able to not only use leftovers (in the instance that they were available) for sandwhiches, but microwave it! Everyone knows there is nothing worse than dried out meat, and it only gets worse in the microwave.

So I did some research.

I found that the best way to keep any type of poultry moist, on the grill, in the oven, or pan fried, is to brine it!

Brine is a water based, seasoned, and heavily salted marinade, that you can leave meat sit in for basically, as long as it would hold in the refrigerator to begin with. I give mine AT LEAST 24 hours, but try to shoot for 48! The only problem is, when you are cooking to this magnitude, finding a Tupperware or bucket that fits in the fridge with your other supplies, can be rather difficult, as the chicken has to be submerged in the liquid. Luckily for me, it was winter, so I could leave it outside for some time, and it stayed the temp I wanted it to, however, I did find that you can easily get a "brine bag" or sealed bag to make this much easier if you wanted to. I used a clear, perfectly sized, Tupperware.

The space saving bag would have been nice at the time, as I did have 50 peoples worth of side items, both cold, and ready to bake, along side it.

The only warning label I put on this process is that it has to be below other items in the fridge, as the water becomes contaminated immediately.

There are different variations of brine, but my favorite includes lemon zest, whole garlic cloves, and fresh rosemary sprigs. You can google search "baked chicken brine" or "turkey brine" and find several variations until you get the gist and can make your own variations!

Another warning, please make sure that if you are intent on frying the chicken, you pat it dry before breading, or coating, because the extra moisture will cause popping. Always test your oil first either with a thermometer or other method, to ensure that you are up to temp, so that the chicken cooks through.

Another tip, when frying, since that tends to dry out meat worse than other methods, is to use bone in pieces. They not only cook faster, dropping the cook time and saving moisture, but they produce a little extra marrow that helps keep chicken moist.

Some people will create an oil barrier, or butter the skin and just underneath to keep moisture in the bird. Others will keep it in a baking bag, or covered until the last 15-20 minutes, using a little butter or oil at the end to brown the skin quickly, so it doesn't dry out. I prefer doing a mixture, with the brine as #1 preventative method. Followed by Irish Butter (the best) softened and coating the skin towards the end. I typically leave the butter on a disk, and set it on the stove top (providing I don't have any other items cooking up there) where it can soften with the slight heat from my oven, the last 10 minutes before application. I've even cheated a bit, and left a chicken in the crockpot, with potatoes, canned carrot juice (makes the potatoes sweeter) and fresh vegies, with a few red pepper flakes, and then popped that in the oven at a broil just long enough to brown the top skin.

There are a lot of different ways to cook a bird, but the brine is the secrete to making sure it stays moist, and doesn't have to be undercooked, no matter how you swing it.

Click here for a good recipe to get an idea of what you are looking for.

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