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Are you frustrated with dry chicken breasts no matter how long you marinate them or or which method you use to cook them? This is a quick easy way to make sure that never happens again no matter what cooking method you use.
Chicken breasts tend to be dry because they have almost no fat. Cooking them in fat doesn’t solve the issue because the fat won’t penetrate the tissue. What you want is moisture without greasiness. Especially if you eat chicken breasts to keep calories low, cooking in extra fat defeats the purpose!
Method for moist chicken breasts
How to achieve that coveted restaurant juicy style chicken breast? Help the meat maintain its moisture level and that can be done very simply – with salt.
The process is a style of dry brining. Dry brine the chicken 1+ hours before you cook it (up to 8 hours) by using 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per pound. When in doubt use less salt rather than too much . More is not better in this instance.
I salt my steaks before I cook them too. It does the same thing for beef!
How salt works to tenderize chicken and other meat
Why is this method so effective?
When applying kosher salt to the outside of chicken, beef or any land animal protein you like, it initially will draw moisture out. The salt melds with that moisture which turns into a natural brine that is reabsorbed back into the meat. This process breaks down the muscle fibers creating a more tender and flavorful cooked protein.
In this video I demonstrate how I dry brine my chicken breasts to prep them for dinner. I happen to be cooking it for dinner salads.
How to make chicken in the air fryer (or anywhere else)
After the dry brine time has passed, I generally do a pan sear in a cast iron skillet or use pop up foil sheets as a liner and put them in the air fryer for 15- 20 mins on 350 depending on the size of the breast. I like the pop up sheets because they keep the air fryer clean and it’s easier to transfer them in and out of the basket.
You can cook the brined breasts on the grill, bake in the oven, pan sear or make kebabs with good result. If you are making kebabs, keep the same process of brining the whole breast. Then cut up the chicken into smaller kebab sized pieces after treating with kosher salt otherwise the smaller pieces will be too salty.
Read how to season a cast iron skillet.
If you are doing this with steaks a good hour or two is all you need for flavorful tender meat.
When to add other seasonings to brined chicken or steak
Of course you can add herbs and spices to your meat but wait until after the dry salt brine process has finished. Then you can introduce lemon, herbs, dried spices, garlic, etc. Because black pepper can easily burn I recommend you add it as a finishing flavor post-cooking.
If you like food and cooking content you may enjoy my series on the favorite dishes of the rich and famous that I prepared for as their private chef over the course of a decade. It’s not low cal or budget friendly but why would it be?