Thursday, February 21, 2013

Quest 1.7: Pan-Seared Chicken!

Welcome back, Apprentices! Today, we're making pan-seared chicken. This is the easiest, most versatile and delicious chicken recipe you will ever make. It's also an excellent way to prepare chicken that fools people into thinking you're a really, really good cook. So, get out your skillet and prepare those humble-brag speeches because this chicken is sure to please!


Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
onion powder
2 Tbs vegetable oil


Cast iron skillet
2 Pairs of tongs (or a sturdy fork & 1 pair of tongs)
Splatter screen

Choose your chicken! If you're going to be a carnivore, be a responsible one! Look for cage-free, organic chicken whenever possible. I understand that not everyone has access to a Whole Foods or a farmer's market in their area but it's always a good idea to be conscious of what you're eating. It's good for your health and it's good for your Karma! It also appeases those nightmare ghost chickens that hunt you in the night for buying chickens raised in inhumane conditions.

Pre-Heat your skillet! Add the two tablespoons of oil to your cast-iron skillet and turn the stove on medium-high. You might be tempted to use a non-stick pan for this quest. I would not recommend it. Remember a few posts ago when we talked about pots and pans? We discussed non-stick pans and the dangers of heating those pans to temperatures to and exceeding 500ºF. This quest will quickly and for an extended period of time raise your skillet to that temperature. If you're not using cast-iron, use stainless steel. The clean-up will be a little more high maintenance but stainless steel can reach 500ºF without posing any health risks to you or your pets.

Season your chicken! Sprinkle one side of your uncooked chicken with salt, pepper and onion powder. Feel free to use a dash of garlic powder as well. I didn't give any precise measurements for the seasoning because, frankly, it's not really necessary. The interesting thing about chicken is that it has no real flavor until you season it; which is why seasoning is SO important when cooking chicken! Don't be afraid of it! Embrace it!

*TIP Know the difference between onion powder and onion salt (and garlic powder & garlic salt). If you see "salt" in the name, that means it's onion powder with salt added to it. Make sure you do not substitute onion salt for onion powder and then add extra salt. The result would be bad, bad, bad.

Place your seasoned chicken in the pre-heated skillet - seasoned side DOWN. Why, you ask? Well, because you need to season the other side, of course! Chicken tastes better if you season both sides. Fact! So season the other side just like you seasoned the bottom.  

Cover with a splatter screen and let it do its thing! Splatter screens are super-handy and not just because you'll save your stove from a big, fat mess but you'll also save yourself from a sh*t-ton of awful little burns from the hot oil. Also, fight the urge to push the chicken around in the skillet because the goal with this recipe is to create a nice, brown crust. Remember when we caramelized onion? Essentially, we're doing the same thing to this chicken. By searing the chicken at a relatively high temperature for an extended period of time, we're bringing out the natural sweetness of the meat and trapping all those delicious juices at the same time!

Check your chicken! When the tips begin to turn white, use a fork or tongs and gently check the bottom of the meat. You're looking for a nice, dark brown, crusty surface. The goal is to only flip the meat once. In my experience, the chicken is juicier and more tender if you just let it rest in the pan and cook. Try not to repeatedly flip the meat from one side to another.

Your chicken is ready to flip when you have that gorgeous, golden brown crust. If you see any pink on the meat, let your chicken cook a little longer. Remember, chicken is NOT like beef! Beef is perfectly safe to eat when it's prepared rare or pink in the middle; chicken is not! Poultry, when not cooked thoroughly can make you violently ill. Salmonella poses a very real threat to your health and the health of your loved ones (...not to mention possible death and dismemberment if you get the wrong member of your party or clan sick).  When preparing chicken, it's not only important to cook the meat completely, but you must also be sure to thoroughly clean your prep surfaces. Never use the same knives or cutting boards to prep other foods after prepping raw chicken. A good idea is to fill your sink with hot, soapy water before prepping your chicken and then move the knife and cutting board directly to the sink as soon as you finish with the chicken or immediately transfer your tools to the dishwasher.

Let your chicken cook until both sides have that gorgeous, golden brown crust. With a CLEAN pair of tongs or fork (never use any tool with cooked chicken that you used on raw chicken - SALMONELLA, people!!), immediately remove from the pan to avoid over cooking and let the meat rest for about five minutes before cutting to preserve the juiciness. Serve with steamed vegetables and a baked potato for a delicious and *COUGHhealthyCOUGH* meal!

Other easy meal ideas for this chicken recipe:

Chicken Alfredo: Simply cut into strips or cubes and serve over pasta with your favorite alfredo sauce.

Chicken Fajitas: Drizzle with lime, cut into strips and serve with sautéed bell peppers, onion and flour tortillas for quick and easy fajitas.

Chicken Salad Sandwich: Cut chilled chicken into small cubes and toss with diced apple, celery, mayo, onion, salt & pepper. Serve on your favorite bread.

Bacon Chicken Avocado Sandwich: Remove from skillet and serve on a toasted bun with bacon, sliced avocado, mozzarella cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Cajun Chicken Pasta with Andouille Sausage: When cooking your chicken, sprinkle liberally with cayenne pepper. Remove from heat, cut into strips & toss with sautéed andouille sausage, angel hair pasta and your favorite marinara sauce.

Chicken Pasta Salad: Cut chilled chicken into cubes and toss with cooked bow-tie pasta, cold italian salami, black olives, chick peas, roasted red peppers, cherry tomatoes and drizzle with vinaigrette dressing. Serve cold.

Spinach Chicken Salad (pictured below): Cut chilled chicken into cubes. Toss with fresh spinach or spring mix salad, sliced strawberries, dried cranberries, diced tomatoes, crushed walnuts, crumbled feta cheese (or blue cheese) & drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.  Crumbled bacon is also wonderful with this salad.

Have fun and get creative with this recipe! The great thing about any recipe is that you have the ability to change it to make it your own. Never be afraid to deviate from the recipe. What's the worst that could happen? Something might burn or taste awful... but every dish is a learning experience and every failure is just an opportunity to make something delicious!


+10 Sautéing

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