Why You're Cutting Chicken Wrong, According To Science

There comes a time in every home cook's life when they're faced with the following quandary: to adapt a recipe based on the latest tips and tricks relayed on the internet, or to ignore them and go with what feels right? That is the question. 

Take fried chicken. If we had a penny for every time we saw a recipe that touted its method or secret ingredient as the path to "the crispiest, best fried chicken" in all the land, we might have enough money to spearhead our own fried chicken franchise. Don't get us wrong; there's absolutely nothing bad about wanting to perfect a dish, and some find pleasure in it. Other cooks, like food celeb J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, frequently espouse the belief that there's no right or wrong way to prepare something (unless, of course, you want to authentically replicate a particular culture's culinary tradition). 

That said, sometimes the cold hard facts of science do reveal the most effective way to prepare a dish. According to cookbook author and New York Times recipe developer Eric Kim, there's a right and a wrong way to slice chicken breasts. 

It's all about evening out the cooking time

While the secret to juicy chicken thighs is to cook them longer than you think you should, per America's Test Kitchen, it's all too easy to overcook chicken breasts. If yours tend to come out dry and rubbery, it's not your fault; according to the NYT's Eric Kim, the flaw is in the design. "Its thickness varies significantly from end to end," Kim writes. "This makes for vexingly uneven cooking — especially when the meat comes boneless and skinless."

Luckily, the only thing standing between you and the juiciest chicken breast of your life is a good, sharp knife. Kim lays out a few ways to "alter the anatomy" of your chicken breast, including slicing "the breast in half crosswise where the thicker end meets the thinner end." These differently sized pieces have different cooking times, so separating them allows you to cook the bigger piece for longer without overcooking the small one.

The outlet also suggests bathing your chicken breasts in a marinade to help lock in the meat's natural moisture and keep it from drying out. Certain marinade ingredients will tenderize your meat, which is why add-ins like pineapple juice yield an extra juicy bite. Brining your chicken will also keep dryness at bay while adding flavor, to boot. It's no wonder Samin Nosrat's buttermilk chicken is so popular.