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Challenges with Pan Seared Chicken Breast

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Greetings all,

 

I'm curious of everybody's take on what has over time, become my nemesis. 

 

I make pan seared and roast skin-on, boneless chicken breasts on a fairly regular basis. I use a well used, seasoned, and cared for cast iron skillet (flat bottom), and roast in a 400 degree oven, and while the skin is crispy and perfect going into the oven, it becomes flabby with what seems to be a thin layer of fat underneath by the time the chicken reaches the correct temperature.

 

I take the chicken breast out of the fridge and pat dry with paper towel, and put it on a rack, skin side up, in a freezer for ten minutes to remove any excess moisture. Then I season it with salt and pepper and let sit in the fridge for approximately an hour. I take it out as I prepare the pan.

 

I allow the cast iron to preheat for about 8-10 minutes on the stovetop on high and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Once the skillet is almost smoking, I add a bit of olive oil and spread it around the pan, and immediately add the chicken, skin side down. 

 

I let it cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes and flip it skin side up. The skin is usually almost perfectly carmelized and crispy at this point, and I let it continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes, reducing the heat slightly to medium-high. Then I toss it in the oven, skin side up, until it's reached the proper temperature. 

 

Once it does, the skin is now soggy and seems to get worse when I cover it to sit. I loosely cover it with one piece of alum foil with two small holes cut in the top of it to permit steam from leaving. I let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

 

Any suggestions? When it's done, the meat itself is perfect - juicy and tender. But I just cannot get the skin perfect, save for roasting a whole bird.

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 10

Go the other way. Roast in the oven, finish in the pan. Figure a 10-15 degree jump in the breast center for the pan sear. So roast chix to 145 to 150, Then pan sear to finish. You may have to experiment a few times to find the target temp in the oven that works for your preferred pan sear times. It will probably need a bit less sear time at the end than at the start so maybe 150 will work better? 

 

Most here would recommend letting the chicken come to room temperature before cooking it. You have an easier time of getting the center cooked without overcooking the outside. 

 

This is also what you do with sous vide chicken breast. An hour or so at 140 in the sous vide, then pan sear for color and flavor.  140 for an hour is considered food safe so you don't have to worry about the core temp with this method as you do with the reverse sear method. 

 

Past member Boar_d_laze here often recommended using a cooking torch to touch up skin on roasted chicken after resting. Crisped the skin quickly without overcooking the bird. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 10

I would put a weight on it and finish cooking in the oven.  Don't turn it.

 

That's what I would try.

post #4 of 10

Freezing your chix will not dry it (unless it is freezer burned and that is for a different thread lol).

Whatever moisture happens to be hanging around will only freeze into tiny crystals which will melt and cause the flesh to steam which rises and wets everything above it.

Another cause for soft skin is using a baking dish with sides (yes even cast iron).

Lose the foil..chicken pieces are small enuf to rest without a cover.

 

mimi

post #5 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nauticus View Post
 

...while the skin is crispy and perfect going into the oven, it becomes flabby with what seems to be a thin layer of fat underneath by the time the chicken reaches the correct temperature.

 

 

Welcome to cheftalk, all of us here are just as interested in the nitty gritty details of making a perfect meal!

 

First off, there IS a thin layer of fat under the chicken skin.  That's the deliciousness that is keeping your skin moist and flavorful.  Your chicken skin doesn't go from perfect to suddenly having a layer of fat, it was always there to begin with.  What has happened is that along the process of cooking it in the oven it steamed enough to uncrisp the skin.  This is not something that bothers me, but since it's not your desired result I would agree with phatch on this one, crisp the skin after you've cooked it in the oven.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #6 of 10
Why flip it? Why not just put it skin-side down in the hot pan and stick it in the oven? By the time the meat is cooked through nicely you should have crisp skin.
post #7 of 10

Agree with Mimi. Lose the foil. Unnecessary. You can use a torch to crisp the skin, but a broiler will do the same thing. If you crisped the skin on in the pan on the stove top, and then flipped it for another 3-4 minutes, you don't need much more time in the oven (at 400 - 450 f), depending on the thickness. Putting it under the broiler for an additional 2 minutes will probably be enough to finish, but I'd regulate the distance to the burner so as not to burn the skin. 

post #8 of 10
Thread Starter 

Many thanks for the advice! 

 

I tried a number of the ways you all recommended (including not putting the chicken in the freezer to dry out the breast...thanks!). I tried the reverse sear, with good results. Not spot on to what I was looking for, but good.

 

I also tried pan frying from start to finish in the pan (mostly skin side down) and while I got flawlessly rendered fat and crispy skin, and the meat was good, the meat wasn't quite as moist and tender as when I usually sear and oven roast it.

 

What worked, for me, was a pan sear and oven roast until done, and finishing the skin with a torch. That did achieve the perfect meat that I've already been cooking, with the sought-after sear on the skin that I love. So, thanks for that.

 

I did want to share one that I did that, I think, was a bit on the creative side and produced decent results. Prior to cooking, I carefully removed the skin on the chicken breast and pan sear-oven baked until done. I made a very gelatinous red wine glaze until reduced to a syrup, and torched the seasoned skin separately immediately before serving. Once the chicken had rested, I glazed the top of the chicken, and added the seared chicken skin on top. Besides the skin shrinking during the searing process (due to lost moisture?) and no longer matching the exact size/shape of the chicken breast, it looked like it hadn't been removed in the first place and the very subtle glaze was very good with the chicken. 

 

Thoughts on that one?

post #9 of 10

I just made some yesterday.  Spilt breasts were 0.88/lb. so I got a four pack and removed the bones.  Then I removed the tenderloins for another purpose, seasoned and let come to room temp.  I placed them skin side down in a cold skillet and turned the heat to medium.  A cold pan doesn't shock-shrink the skin as much IMO and it starts rendering as the temp comes up.  When they released I turned them and this time I removed the skin, seasoned the now bare meat and reserved the skins for cracklin.  The pan never went in the oven - when the tail ends were 160 I propped them up and brought the thick ends to 160 then removed to rest.  Carry over brought them to 168 and when I sliced them they were perfectly juicy and tender.  I do the same thing with thighs and they turn out perfect.

post #10 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nauticus View Post
 

 Prior to cooking, I carefully removed the skin on the chicken breast and pan sear-oven baked until done. I made a very gelatinous red wine glaze until reduced to a syrup, and torched the seasoned skin separately immediately before serving. Once the chicken had rested, I glazed the top of the chicken, and added the seared chicken skin on top. Besides the skin shrinking during the searing process (due to lost moisture?) and no longer matching the exact size/shape of the chicken breast, it looked like it hadn't been removed in the first place and the very subtle glaze was very good with the chicken. 

 

Thoughts on that one?

 

You are correct re the loss of moisture and rendering of fat will shrink the skin.

Kinda lol as last season had a Top Chef episode challenge had the chefs cooking for some of the industry's best and brightest.

Someone had the same idea and instead of thinking on his (was the guy from NOLA .... almost positive) feet and saucing (a chutney would have been my choice) his chix  and using that delish morsel of heaven as a garnish he went with his plan and received a poor score....

 

mimi

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