Chicken breasts

Many of the salad and frittata recipes call for chicken. This will almost always be boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Some recipes will require uncooked chicken breasts while other will use chicken that has been previously cooked. I’ll make a few comments on both.

Uncooked chicken breast

These recipes will most often just call for a chicken breast. I remember years ago I could regularly buy packages of 4 boneless chicken breasts that weighed 1–1/4 pounds or so. I considered each breast to be a nice, moderate single portion. But chicken breasts seem to be getting ever larger and larger. I have seen packages with only 2 chicken breasts that weighed close to 2 pounds!

One of these monster chicken breasts is certainly a lot more than I would want for a single portion, say for a salad. So when a recipe calls for a chicken breast, I really mean a boneless breast or a part of a breast of a reasonable size. For me, a piece that is 5–6 ounces seems to be about right, but obviously adjust down or up to suit your preferences.

When I buy a package for uncooked chicken breasts, I immediately trim the breasts and cut them into pieces the size I want to use for meals. Some are whole pieces shaped nicely that catn be used when I want a “whole” chicken breast. Other packages may contain oddly shaped pieces, possibly multiple pieces, that I will use for recipes where I want to cut up the chicken breast before cooking anyway. I package these in small ziploc plastic bags and toss them in the freezer, ready to take out and defrost when needed.

Cooked chicken

Other recipes will call for cooked chicken. This will be the case for virtually all frittata recipes using chicken and for some of the salads. If you have your preferred method for cooking boneless chicken breasts, continue using it and ignore what I have to say here.

In our previous house, we had an indoor grill. I would usually grill the chicken breasts. I would pound them fairly thin and uniform, lightly coat them will oil (using the oil in a spray can), and grill them 4–5 minutes per side.

Another option is to bake the chicken breasts in the oven. With any cooking of boneless breasts, there is the potential problem that the cooked meat can be on the dry side because the breasts have so little fat. Any overcooking will exacerbate the problem. And the dry heat of an oven doesn’t help. I’ve seen some suggest covering the pan of chicken breasts with foil while baking, but this produces breasts than are more steamed than roasted.

I recently read a suggestion for a different approach to baking chicken breasts to address the problem–covering them with parchment paper. So this is the approach I am now using:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Trim the chicken breasts and pound them to a more uniform thickness. I am not trying to get them thin, just make them so they cook more evenly, so the thinner parts are not overcooked by the time the thicker parts are completely done.

I spray the pay with oil. I spray the breasts with oil on both sides and put them in the pan, separated a little. I take a piece of parchment paper about the size of the pan and spray it with oil as well. Place the paper over the chicken and press it down on the chicken and the pan.

Place the pan in the oven. It takes about 25 minutes or so to bake the chicken breasts, obviously less for thinner, smaller breasts and more for larger, thicker pieces. Use an instant-read thermometer to check the temperature in the middle of the thickest part. It should be up to 165 degrees. Double-check when the internal temperature reads this to make sure the chicken is completely cooked by slicing into the thickest part–the meat should be white, not pink (but if you are getting it in time, it should still be nice and moist). Take the chicken out and let it cool.

I slice the chicken breasts crossways into pieces about 1/4-inch wide. For a lot of salads, this is the way I will use then. For frittatas, you will cut the strips into small pieces, closer to little cubes. As with the uncooked breasts, I separate into portions the size I want for a single meal, around 5 ounces or so, package these in small ziploc plastic bags, and toss them in the freezer. Because the chicken is in the smaller pieces, it will defrost more quickly than the uncooked breasts.