General Chicken Questions and All-Clad cookware

Hi All,

I've been a vegetarian most of my life, only started to eat chicken a couple years ago and actually started to make it at home in the last few years because buying it ready-made was getting too expensive, concerns about quality and food safety prep, and since I love to cook in general, I wanted to master the only animal protein I do eat at home. Apologies in advance for the novice questions below but thank you in advance!

1. When buying at Whole Foods, etc. what should I look for when buying raw chicken? I veer towards boneless breast and no-bone thighs (bones freak me out). Always pick one thats Light pink in colour?
2. How can you tell when the raw meat is not fresh/good? I know it gets a slimy texture and takes on a weird smell... anything else I should be aware of when purchasing and cooking?
3. Those strings of white fat - I usually trim because I hate when it oozes while cooking and then burns quickly.... do I keep it on, does it enhance the flavor?
4. I've read a few different methods online in terms of marinating dry vs wet. When I've used a dry rub, do you add oil to the chicken also for coating purposes? I noticed when I don't use oil, the rub sticks to the pan, burns quickly, and then only 1 side is seasoned. Always use olive oil than?
5. In wet marinades, what can you do with the extra marination liquid? I hate to waste the ingredients and flavour! I understand it depends on what the marinade is made of, but can you make it into a pan sauce?
6. I recently got a steal on a huge All-Clad Stainless Steel Heavy Duty D5 sauté pan at TjMaxx ($150 pan for $20) I've made a few chicken dishes in there already but I feel I'm still learning how to use it. Any tips/tricks/things I should be aware when cooking with meat in stainless steel pans? I've a nonstick Calphalon grill pan - love the grill marks but hate the cleanup with nonstick!
7. Why is skin-on, boneless chicken breasts so hard to find! Crispy skin is amazing!
8. Thoughts on prepping boneless thighs? All the cartilage and extra blood, etc grosses me out during prep so I try to avoid touching unless necessary.



Lost_in_NYC March 1, 2018
Hi Nancy & Half-Pint!

Thank You so much so for the feedback and the information! Much appreciated and I will definitely look into the recommendations you both provided!
HalfPint February 26, 2018
Sorry for the novel, but you asked some great questions...

1, 2, 3 & 7: Color is only an indication of what the chicken was fed. If the meat looks dried out and/or it smells, it's not fresh. The strings of fat don't ooze during cooking; that white stuff that you are seeing is just protein (& water) from the meat. Fat will mostly render out (melt) when the meat is cooked. So the strings of fat will disappear, mostly. You can't find skin-on boneless chicken because a lot of people eat chicken for weight loss (primarily) and the skin has a quite a bit of fat, so chicken producers/butchers have been stripping off the skin to meet this demand. Sheer lunacy, I know, but I can't seem to find a grocer that leaves on the skins for boneless. I always find the skin is still on for bone-in, but I understand your feelings about bones. Totally agree with you the skin is OMG-good. I recommend trying crispy chicken skin in tacos :)

4 & 5 marinades: I don't usually use oil for making dry rubs stick to the meat. I find that as long as the meat is damp, most of the spices/seasonings will adhere to it. For wet marinades, I like to have a little oil in the marinade. You'll find that a lot of spices are more soluble in fat than in water. So to get maximum flavor out of your marinade and into the chicken, add a little oil.
Yes, I would add add oil to cook the chicken (since you are using boneless/skinless, especially for breast meat which has little to zero fat), to keep the marinate from sticking to the pan.
Extra marinade that you haven't added to the chicken can be used like a thin sauce or vinaigrette (most marinades are vinegar and oil mixtures). If you are talking about the leftover marinade, you can probably boil it for about 5-10 minutes and use as a sauce.

Marinades with any form of sweetener will burn, no matter how carefully you cook it. So marinade without sweetener (sugar, honey, molasses, etc) and then you can make a glaze separately to brush on the chicken when it's cooked or close to cooked (last 10 minutes or so).

6. Good job on the All Clad score! I've never seen any All-Clad pans for $20. D5 is pretty non-stick too. I think for cooking with stainless steel, use plenty of oil/fat and heat the pan well. Yes, it's supposed to be non-stick but proteins love to stick to metal, even Teflon-coated. I think most cooks heat until the oil shimmers and almost smokes. Medium to high heat. Gently transfer in the chicken and don't even attempt to move it for a good 3-5 minutes. Then lightly nudge the chicken with a spatula. If it's stuck, leave it alone for another 2 minutes and try again. Repeat as needed. The chicken (any meat protein, really) needs to develop a crust before it will un-stick from the pan. If you see the meat is burning, lower the heat a little, and wait a few minutes before nudging. Crust formation is key, whether you are pan-frying or grilling. Your meat will not move until it's good and ready. Done right, you'll get a good fond on your pan which you can deglaze probably with the leftover marinade to make a sauce. Scrap up those bits when you deglaze. That fond is good flavor, unless it's burnt.

8. Boneless thighs are my favorite. Thighs have more fat than breasts and are thus a little more forgiving. If there's excess blood, just give it a good rinse and pat dry. Invest in some latex gloves for kitchen use and then you don't have to worry about touching the meat (clean up is a breeze with gloves). You can cut out the cartilage (it's kind of a pain to remove) or ignore it altogether since it's edible (I personally like the crunchiness of cartilage).

Let us know if you have any other questions.
Nancy February 26, 2018
Too many for me to answer. But a few.
All clad. Use lower than usual temps. Let meat cook a few minutes to create a sear/crust which easily releases. Look up online tips for using all-clad.
Merchants sell most breast meat w/o skin to appeal to weight-watching users. If you want breast meat with skin, but a whole chicken.
Marinades supposed to be unsafe after sitting hours with raw meat.
As former many-years vegetarian who went back to meat, recognize & sympathize with your difficulties.
Sounds a bit like learning to make bread...lots of visual and sensory clues. Maybe invite a friend experienced in chicken over for a joint prep session and meal...dun and educational.
Nancy February 26, 2018
Should read: "buy a whole chicken"
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