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Chicken du jour

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
With so much information available online, I thought it was going to be easy to learn how to cook — ha. Yesterday, I tried to fry a skinless, boneless chicken breast. I have tiles that don't stick to my floor as well as that chicken stuck to my frying pan. I had to boil a half inch of water in the pan to loosen it.

I am an adult male with only peanut butter sandwich skills – please keep that in mind if you opt to help me. All I want to do at this time is learn how to fry a piece of chicken without doing it violence. I don't want to know from sauces, mushrooms, herbs, or erotica — an edible piece of chicken is the height of my ambition. I have several sizes of old iron pans I can devote to this enterprise. My principle aim is to avoid oil splatter all over the place, and of course, I'd love to get the chicken out of the pan without an axe.

Ideas anyone?
post #2 of 10
Pat the chicken dry first. Water is giving you the splatter. Nice hot dry pan, then add a little oil. If it smokes alot, it's too hot, if it has a nice rippled, "thin" look, with a whisp of smoke, add the DRY, seasoned chicken pieces. They still might stick a little, but when it browns enough over moderate heat it will release.
Keep those fires burnin'
Keep those fires burnin'
post #3 of 10
The term "fry" is a little confusing in this context. What, exactly, did you try and do? Skinless, boneless chicken breast in a dry pan with no oil, some oil, or lots of oil? Seasoning or no seasoning? Did the pan start hot? Or did it start cold?

The more you can tell us about your "learning experience," the more specific we/I can be.

Psycho chef covered two very important items. Let's see if we can't expand a little.

A chicken breast meat is mostly protein and water. When the breast hits the bottom of the pan -- even if the pan is full of oil, some of the water starts to move through the breast away from the heat; and, the protein molecules -- and some of the meat juices -- begin to undergo a chemical change which converts them to sugar like molecules. The proteins and juices brown and crystallize in something often referred to as the Maillard reaction. During the period of crystallization, the meat will stick to the pan. After the change, the meat will "release." This doesn't necessarily mean it will slide off easily, but it will move more easily. When it does move, the meat will leave a little of the crystallized juices behind in a little ring on the pan. The juices left behind are called fond.

In the meantime, it sounds like you're having trouble with the pan. If you're "sauteeing" or pan-frying (two similar but not identical techniques), you need to preheat the pan before putting the oil in it. After the pan is hot, add the oil. Then let the oil come to temp before adding the meat. In this way you maximize the lubricating effect of the oil and hasten the Maillard reaction.

As the oil heats it will become thinner and less viscuous, and move around the pan more easily. It will also heat the air immediately above it which will seem to shimmer. These are two signs the oil is ready: 1) A little bit moves around the pan very easily, like water. 2) The oil shimmers.

If the oil is too hot it will smoke. That's a bad thing. If you see dark smoke coming off your oil, let the pan cool down, throw the oil away, and start over with new oil. Oil which has been overheated will not lubricate, will taste bad, will color your food, and is actually very unhealthy. To help prevent this from happening, lift the pan off the flame for a few seconds before adding the oil, then put it back.

Breading your chicken will help keep it from sticking too. The breading acts like ball bearings -- but it's not necessary. Better for most applications, though. A different cooking lesson perhaps.

As psycho implied, splattering is almost entirely an effect of water in the pan. The hot oil floats on the water, the water boils and forms steam bubbles, the bubbles rise to the surface and burst, kicking hot oil everywhere. Most meats and foods bring some moisture to the oil and splatter happens -- which is why you shouldn't pan-fry naked.

So ... hot pan, hot oil (you don't need much), dry chicken, wear underwear, and let the chicken brown before you try and move it.

post #4 of 10
boar_d_laze gave an excellent explanation for how this all works.

Let me try another way. Forgive me if I'm oversimplifying, but hey- I'm an old teacher. Now, keep your eyes on the front board and listen carefully:

1. Go out and buy yourself a decent non-stick pan. This doesn't have to cost you a lot of money. Try places like Bed Bath and Beyond or Linens and Things. An 8" skillet will do for one or two chicken breast halves. After you've been successful with a non-stick pan, you can move on to your cast iron beauties or a lovely, sleek stainless steel model.

2. Pat the breasts dry. (No snickering, now, or I'll have to phone your mama!) Season as you like, but please do use at least salt and pepper.

3. Let the pan warm up over a medium heat. Add a little oil - no more than a couple of teaspoons (your choice of oil, but I can't stand canola; olive oil works fine, or a little vegetable oil) and let it get to a "shimmer".

4. Gently lay the breast(s) in the pan and don't move them for a bit. When the edges turn a bit white you can take a peek. If it's golden brown, turn it over and finish cooking. If not, let it lie there and take your time.

5. Let the chicken sit on a plate after you remove it from the pan. Cover it with a dish or some foil, and let it stay there at least 10 minutes. That way the juices will stay in the meat and not end up on the plate, and you'll be able to chew the finished chicken.

6. Enjoy! Try a little warmed salsa on it, or anything else that you think would make a bit of a sauce.

7. Class dismissed! Let us know when you're ready for the next lesson.
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***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
Moderator Emerita, Welcome Forum
***It is better to ask forgiveness than beg permission.***
post #5 of 10
This has got to be the absolute best justification for anything I have ever read on the internet:D Thank you BDL!!!! That little gem made my day.
post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 
I'm stunned by quality of advice I've received here. Had I not a conscience, I would have edited the pearls of wisdom into a stylish syllabus, sold a community college on its efficacy and taught the course myself. For two days I've practiced the insights I've learned and fried enough chicken to insure Tyson a very big year. If Marie Antoinette had said, "Let them eat chicken" instead of "let them eat cake," she might not have been guillotined. Last night, I put it all together and provided myself a symphony of fowl art.

I declined the sissy nonstick fry pan dodge solution and went for broke with an ancient 8" Griswold. From that point, I followed my forum's advice like the gospel. I introduced the chicken breast to a paper towel, and dried it thoroughly. Using a half cup of liberally salted and peppered flour, I flopped the chicken around in it until it looked it had been scared to death. Back to the rack while my Griswold was heating until drops of water went up in puffs of smoke. I measured out two tsps of olive oil (the only oil I had) and it looked so lonely in the pan that I primed slightly more. I also lowered the heat to med-hi and when the oil looked thinned and watery, I gingerly lowered the chicken into the pan with tongs. There was a very puny sizzle, but it subsided immediately. I had to resist mightily the powerful urge to push the chicken around to see if it was sticking. I saw the edges turn white, and still afraid to test the chicken a spatula, I jiggled the Griswold. I couldn't believe my eyes, the chicken moved a little. Throwing caution to the wind, I boldly flipped it over. I'll never forget that beautiful shade of brown for the rest of my life.

I did the other side, and confess that by now eating it was anticlimactic — I had overcome all my impediments. I checked the newspaper on the floor — no splatter. I checked the bottom of my pan and there were only delicious specks of crusts that had not become part of my Griswold — I loosened them with my spatula and ate the lot on a crust of bread.

I'm sated with chicken for a while, but next time I'm going to try beating the chicken flat with a mallet to make it crunchier still. I'm feeling pretty cocky, I may try fish filets next — and who knows, I may open a restaurant.

I thank all of you for raising my game. My only fear now is my ex-wife will be clamoring to come back when she finds out I'm not as stupid as she had thought.
post #7 of 10
Very well done BigFoot!! I enjoyed reading the description of your success. Next time you do chicken, make it chicken picatta!!
post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 
You wouldn't believe my confidence, I'm taking your advice. Found a great recipe at: http://www.parshift.com/ovens/Secrets/secrets019.htm
post #9 of 10
Chicken piccata is a good thing, but that recipe is not. I'm sure the people who wrote it make it work every time, but it's loaded with forks in the road where all sorts of things can go wrong. On top of that, it relies on clarified butter which won't brown -- and that's a big part of the charm of the dish.

Better, I think is the Food Network recipe from Giada DeLaurentis (whom I usually don't like) : Recipes : Chicken Piccata : Food Network

For one thing, the FN recipe relies on techniques that work like a proper deglaze and liason to structure the sauce, rather than luck. I'm afraid the "Secrets" recipe can turn into oil soup. For another, the "Secrets" instructions, pretty much guaranty overcooked chicken. Unfortunately, neither recipe gives good instructions for butterflying a breast. If this is something you don't already know how to do, and want to learn, I'll be happy to explain.

post #10 of 10
Mr. laze is on the money. Not only will the family secret recipe probably break your sauce into a grease slick but it ignores all the advice you've been given about not moving the chicken until it's done on one side (which indeed you found works spectacularly) and asks you to jiggle early (which also inhibits the formation of a nice brown crust on the pan with which to deglaze).
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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