Chicken is a versatile meat that can be cooked in a variety of ways to bring out its delicious flavor and texture. Whether you prefer it crispy and golden, juicy and tender, or succulent and flavorful, there’s a cooking method that will suit your taste. In this post, we’ll explore 11 different ways to make chicken, from roasting and baking to sautéing and pan frying, grilling, poaching, and slow cooking. Each method has its own unique characteristics and results in a delicious dish, perfect for any occasion. Whether you’re a seasoned cook or just starting out in the kitchen, this guide will give you the knowledge and inspiration you need to create mouthwatering chicken dishes at home.
11 Different Ways to Cook Chicken
Roast (or Bake)
Roasting chicken is a method of cooking in which the chicken is placed in an oven and cooked, uncovered, for a specific amount or time, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Chicken can be roasted either at a high temperature (around 400°F) to ensure the skin is crispy, or at a lower temperature for more a more tender texture. Roasting is my preferred method for cooking bone-in, skin-on whole chicken or pieces.
Braising is a two-step cooking method that involves first searing chicken in a pan over high heat, and then simmering it in liquid (such as broth or wine) and seasonings over low heat until the meat is tender and flavorful. When a recipe calls for cooked chicken, my preferred method for cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts is braising. I find this method results in tender, moist, flavorful chicken.
Sauté (or Pan Sear)
Sautéing is a cooking technique in which chicken is cooked quickly in a hot pan with a small amount of oil. The high heat sears the outside of the chicken, creating a crispy texture, while keeping the inside moist and tender. I often sauté chicken and then finish it with another method like roasting or braising.
Pan frying is similar to sautéing, but the chicken is cooked in more oil and over a slightly lower heat. The oil helps cook the chicken evenly and adds flavor. Often the chicken is dredged (coated) with flour before frying, to ensure a crispy exterior and moist interior.
Stir frying is a cooking technique in which small pieces of chicken, often together with chopped vegetables, are quickly cooked in a hot wok or pan with a small amount of oil. The chicken is continually stirred, ensuring that all sides are cooked evenly. Stir fry is considered a healthy way to cook, given the small amount of oil needed. And, the flavor combinations are endless!
Air frying is a cooking method that uses hot air to cook food. Chicken pieces are placed in an air fryer basket and cooked at a high temperature until crispy on the outside and fully cooked on the inside. While air frying is a considered a new technique, it actually leverages the well-established technology of induction heat, but within a smaller space, resulting in faster cooking times compared to a conventional oven.
Poaching is a gentle cooking method in which chicken is simmered in liquid (such as water or broth) until fully cooked. According to Bon Appétit, it’s important to season the liquid with salt and place the chicken in cold water, to ensure a gradual cooking process, resulting in tender and not chewy chicken.
Grilling is a cooking method that involves cooking chicken on a hot grill or over an open flame. This method creates a crispy exterior and juicy interior. Grilled chicken is typically marinated, seasoned and/or basted with a sauce. I adore grilling chicken, not only for the smoky flavor it imparts, but also because it results in a bolder flavor – and the grill marks add visual appeal.
Slow cooking is a method in which chicken is cooked in a slow cooker or crockpot for several hours on low heat. This method results in tender and flavorful chicken that falls off the bone. If you want the chicken to hold together for serving, then use bone-in, skin-on breasts or thighs. When using boneless, the meat tends to fall apart – which is fine in some dishes.
Sous vide is a cooking method in which chicken is placed in a vacuum-sealed bag and cooked in a temperature-controlled water bath for a precise amount of time. The meat is then removed from the bag and seared (or grilled) over high heat on both sides for a few minutes just before serving. This method results in perfectly cooked chicken that is evenly cooked from edge to edge. I find sous vide is an excellent make ahead method when entertaining, because you can’t overcook the chicken (you can leave it in the water bath for 2 hours and it will stay at 165 degrees). And, it just takes minutes to sear the chicken right before you serve it.
Stewing is a cooking method in which chicken is simmered in a liquid (such as broth or sauce) with vegetables and spices for a long period of time. This method results in tender chicken and flavorful broth.
Example: Coq au Vin (in my cookbook “Fresh Tastes”)
Best Methods to Thaw Frozen Chicken
If you’re like me and you eat a lot of chicken, chances are you store chicken in your freezer. There are several safe methods to thaw frozen chicken; here are two I recommend:
1. Refrigerator thawing: This is the safest and most recommended method for thawing chicken. Simply place frozen chicken in the refrigerator and allow it to thaw slowly over 24 to 48 hours, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. This method ensures the chicken will thaw evenly and will not reach temperatures that are high enough to promote bacterial growth.
2. Cold water thawing: This method is faster than refrigerator thawing but requires more attention. Place the frozen chicken in a sealed plastic bag and immerse it in cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes, and cook the chicken immediately after it has thawed.
I don’t recommend thawing chicken in the microwave, as it can result in uneven cooking and partially cook the chicken in the process.
How to Cook a Chicken FAQs
The USDA and other food health and safety agencies recommend against washing or rinsing chicken before cooking, due to the risk of cross-contamination. When raw chicken is washed, its juices can splash onto counters, cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces, potentially contaminating them with harmful bacteria that can lead to illness.
Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Cooking frozen chicken is possible, but it takes longer and can result in uneven cooking. Additionally, some parts of the chicken may start to cook and become dry before other parts have thawed, which can result in a less desirable texture. If you do need to cook frozen chicken, I think the best methods are braising, poaching or baking. Keep in mind that frozen chicken can take up to 50% longer to cook.