This Is Why You Should Tenderize Your Chicken Before Cooking It

Everyone loves finding shortcuts in the kitchen, but there are some steps you definitely shouldn't skip, even in the interest of saving time. Tenderizing chicken, especially chicken breasts, is one of them, and if you haven't been tenderizing your chicken before now, you should definitely start. There are multiple benefits, including making cooking easier and making your meal a lot juicier and tastier.

According to The Kitchn, the best time to pound and tenderize chicken breasts is any time you're using a cooking method that evenly applies heat, like pan-searing or oven-baking. It's easiest if you put your chicken breast in a sealable plastic bag, then use a flat, heavy object (a meat mallet works, but so does a rolling pin or even a wine bottle) to pound the breast to even thickness.

According to Tasting Table, tenderizing chicken breasts is an easy way to make sure they cook evenly, especially if you're cooking multiple pieces of chicken at once. If the breasts are uneven in spots, or if some are thicker than others, they won't cook in the same amount of time. That could leave you with some pieces of chicken that are overcooked and dry, some that are undercooked, and maybe a few that are perfect.

How to tenderize chicken (and avoid over-tenderizing it)

There is such a thing as going overboard when it comes to tenderizing chicken. According to My Domaine, pounding chicken also helps break down the fibers in the meat so it cooks quicker, but you don't necessarily want to pound it within an inch of its afterlife. Instead, just tenderize it until it's the thickness you want; once the chicken is even, pounding it more won't help improve the flavor or texture.

Another tip to make tenderizing chicken a little easier is to start from the middle, or the thickest part of the breast, then work your way out to the parts that are naturally a little thinner. According to Lifehacker, you should check on the chicken after every few whacks to make sure it's not getting too thin (over-pounding can also tear the meat). If you're not sure how thick the chicken should be before cooking, aim for about 3/4-inch. You might also see some classic recipes that specify pounding or tenderizing chicken before cooking, like chicken piccata. With just a little extra work beforehand, tenderizing will make your chicken easier to cook and even more delicious.