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Burned chicken, uncooked inside?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hey all. I have been trying to find a way to cook chicken breasts in a skillet for a long time. Most recipes I find say to put the stove on medium heat ( I have an electric range btw ), put some olive oil in the pan and wait for it to warm, and cook the chicken on each side for 6-8 minutes. If I do this, the chicken is slightly brown on the outside and still has a pink center. If I cook it until the outside is a nice golden-brown, the chicken still has pinkish-white parts and is VERY chewy. I have to keep cooking it until the outside is partially burned before the chicken is no longer pinkish and chewy on the inside.

This also tends to happen with things like italian sausages also. What am I doing wrong?
post #2 of 14
First off: if the chicken is just slightly pink, there's nothing wrong with that. It won't kill you, and it will be moister. That's a lot better than cooking it until it's dry all the way through.

I don't have any experience with electric stoves, but here's something else you might try: heat your oven to 350F or so. Get your pan (one that you can put in the oven) very hot, then add a little oil. When the oil is just shimmering, put in the chicken. Let it sit for a minute or so, then look underneath; if it's golden, turn it over and then stick the pan in the oven. That will give you a more even heat.

Whether you cook the chicken only on the stove top, or finish it in the oven, don't be afraid to touch it to determine if it's done. Press very lightly on the top -- if it still feels very bouncy, it's not done; if it doesn't give at all, it's overdone; if it just feels a little springy, it's just right.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #3 of 14
Thread Starter 
Hm, I will try that. I am not too worried about think pink, but it seems like if there is a hint of pink, then my chicken is very chewy. Is being underdone causing the chewiness?
post #4 of 14
Suzanne, as usual, gives excellent advice. I use this method now for pan-grilled pork chops and steaks as well as chicken breasts. I use an instant-read thermometer and remove the items from the oven about 5 degrees below the target temperature for doneness. Then I cover them loosely with foil and let them rest 15 minutes or so. You don't want all the juices to end up on the plate rather than inside your food!

My biggest difficulty with this is remembering to use a hot pad to take the pan from the oven!!! I use a stainless steel All-Clad fry pan which has a metal handle. I finally learned the painful lesson to stick my silicone mitt in the oven doorhandle so I'll grab it before I sizzle my hands!!! :eek:
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post #5 of 14
I agree with finishing meats in the oven rather than trying to completely cook them on the rangetop. This works SOOOO well for steaks that until you try it you won't believe how easy and good this method is. Use a ridged alum nonstick griddle and you'll get perfect grill marks too. Preheat oven to 375, heat griddle, 2 mins and flip the meat then put immediately into the oven. The hold over heat from the griddle will put the grill marks into the flipped side while it bakes. The meat will be moister and more tender than ANYTHING you've made at home before.

However, if you have to pan fry (like for fried chicken) then put a lid on the pan. The lid will trap heat and moisture and help cook the meat faster before it burns on the outside. Lower the temp a bit to reduce the potential for scorching but not too low or the meat will be greasy. There's a balance between just enough heat and the requirement for the oil to be hot enough so that the evaporating moisture from the meat "pushes" the oil away from the meat surface (which is what causes the bubbles when deep frying).
post #6 of 14
Just one thing to add to Rob P.'s point: if you have a coating on the food you're pan-frying, just before it's done be sure to remove the cover so it can crisp up again.

As for the chewiness -- is it chewy all the way through, or just the outside? Because it's possible for the outside to be overcooked before the inside is cooked enough.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #7 of 14
So first off, I assume you are not pounding your chicken breasts flat? You might try putting them between two sheets of plastic wrap and beating them to just less than a 1/4 inch thick. anything flat and heavy will work, even the base o your hand. This will ensure even cooking throughout the meat and will probably take less time than 8 min per side.

I you're already doing this I am confused because what you are describing should not happen...

Good luck.
post #8 of 14
I learned rather quickly after I used my side towel to remove a pan from the oven, set it down... then somehow had a brain fart and promptly grabbed the screaming hot pan with my bare hand.

I've never lost fingerprints to a hot pan since... ;)
post #9 of 14
I was going to ask the thickness of your chicken? A whole chicken breast will take quite awhile to cook through- I usually split mine in 2-3 pieces and cook in a covered pan on the stovetop. They cook in several minutes. And the suggestion of a thermometer is right on- I wonder how I ever cooked w/o one?
Bon Vive' !
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Bon Vive' !
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post #10 of 14
Thread Starter 
Well, the chicken is just as you would get from any supermarket...about 1/2 inch thick. I did get the thermometer like someone suggested tho :). I am about to try the suggestion of finishing it off in the oven. I will post back here if it is still pink or chewy.
post #11 of 14
I do the same as Jzone. Pound the chicken breast so that it will all be the same thickness.. You should not have any problem with uneven cooking doing that..
post #12 of 14
This all has to do with heat and the variations on stoves. Your electric range might be hotter than the medium that your recipes call for. You need to play with the temperature. Also, you can crank the heat up, sear your meat and then turn the heat back for a slower cooking once the meat is seared. Finishing in the oven is always a great option and one that we in professional kitchens love because it cooks evenly - and more importantly frees up precious burner space. If you do not have an oven or are really committed to using the range top try this. Sear your meat, add some garlic to the pan and deglaze with white wine. Cook your meat in the wine which will keep it moist and will give you a nice pan sauce when you are done.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
So, I bought some more chicken, tried the oven trick on half of it, and with the other half I browned the chicken, then added diced tomatoes and spices and let it simmer until my thermometer said 170F. Both turned out very yummy! I suppose I was just assuming that recipes are correct on any stove with any chicken breast. Now I know better, and thanks guys!
post #14 of 14
AHA!!!!

You have just been enlightened about the true nature of cooking. If all you had to do was follow the recipe (written by someone else, for their taste, with their gear and their ingredients) then we'd all be replaced by robots.

The key is to understand what you're doing to your ingredients and take control of the process. Even if your stove doesn't have variations between burners (it does, I'm willing to bet), you'll find that your chicken breasts are different sizes and different shapes and different varieties and different levels of fat and moisture content, etc. However, if you know what you're trying to achieve, then you'll figure out how to overcome these variations and imprecisions.
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