Tricks of the trade: cooking a perfect chicken

Chicken is the most commonly used protein for muscle building, and a favourite among people watching what they eat when training. To take your chicken to the next level in both quality and flavour try these tips by professional chef Ali Bahmad. 

The cut

ThinkstockPhotos-183995484For starters, getting the right cut of chicken for the way you want to cook is important to making a delicious and mouth watering meal. Here’s a breakdown of the popular cuts of chicken and what method of cookery is best for them:

  • Whole chicken → roasting
  • Breast → grilling, panfrying and oven baking
  • Thigh → braising, grilling and stewing
  • Drumstick → braising, grilling, stewing and roasting
  • Whole leg eg. Maryland → roasting, stewing and braising

Brining

Brining poultry in a salt-water solution is a great way of helping drier cuts (such as the ever popular breast meat) to stay moist and juicy during grilling and roasting. It works by helping the proteins in the meat to relax, which allows for more liquid to be absorbed and retained during cooking, and ultimately keeping your roast moist and juicy.

The ratio of salt to water that works best for me is 60g of salt to 1 litre of cold water. In my kitchens I use sea salt for this task. Whisk the salt into the water til it completely dissolves and submerge the chicken into the brine solution overnight in the fridge. You can brine a whole chicken for added moisture before roasting it, just make sure you completely dry it off before roasting.

Storing

Chicken is one of those great products that can be prepared well in advance and still keeps when stored in the right conditions. Always store your chicken products in the fridge in a sealed container to keep them from drying out. If ever you have excess cooked chicken that you want to freeze to use at a later date, I suggest shredding it up before freezing it. It’ll be much faster and easier to defrost and can be used tossed in salads or pastas.

IMG_1957Pot roasting

Skinless chicken breast has next to no fat on it, so keeping it moist can sometimes be a challenge. Next time you cook chicken breast in the oven, cover it with baking paper that’s been brushed with a little oil or butter — this is called “pot roasting”. Some chefs refer to it as “dry poaching” also. The baking paper traps in the moisture before it evaporates, returning it to the pan and the meat. Add some lemon wedges, fresh thyme and ginger around your chicken for added flavour.

Seasoning

When I’m feeling ambitious or trying to impress someone in the kitchen I’ll often make a ricotta, lemon zest, Parmesan, pine nut and chopped basil stuffing. Once I’m happy with the flavour and seasoning of the stuffing I carefully put it between the skin and meat of the chicken breasts. Then I’ll seal them in a pan before finishing them off in the oven. Always seal it skin side first in a medium heated pan, then place them skin side up on an oven tray for baking. You can add some sautéed spinach or fresh chopped chili to the ricotta mix for added flavour.


Born and raised in Sydney, Ali grew up surrounded by Middle Eastern cooking. Having worked at the award-winning Aqua Luna Bar & Restaurant, La Sala and the iconic Sydney Cove Oyster Bar — winning several awards for his culinary genius in the process — he now trains future chefs in New Zealand as a commercial cookery trainer.

Ali is passionate about food and cooking, but also loves training hard at the gym, and not only knows what workout fuel tastes great, but the best way to cook it too. We’re excited to have him on our team! For more from Ali, check him out on Instagram and Twitter