Chicken, by nature, is quick. Even when it comes to slow-cooking methods like braising, chicken is much faster to cook relative to a meat cut like, say, brisket. But we want to help you cook your chicken even quicker. We chatted with senior food editor Dawn Perryand senior associate food editor Alison Roman to get the scoop on quick chicken dishes.
Go Boneless and Skinless
The chicken’s flesh will cook much quicker with no skin or bone to leach heat. We prefer boneless, skinless chicken thighs to breasts—we find that the thigh has so much more flavor. In fact, senior associate editor Alison Roman finds that thighs actually cook more quickly than breasts do when they’re boneless and skinless. But go breast if you want to (and we know you want to).
Pound It Thinly
Whether it’s a thigh or a breast, chicken will cook more quickly when it’s thinner. It’s all about increasing the surface-to-volume ratio. The heat will penetrate the cut a lot faster that way.
For Whole Birds, Go Spatchcock
As we said in our July 2013 issue, spatchcocking is “the speediest, easiest way to grill a whole bird. Also known as butterflying, it exposes lots of skin directly to the heat, guaranteeing thorough browning and crisping.” Here’s how to do it: Using kitchen shears, cut chicken along both sides of the backbone to remove it. Flip chicken over. Press down on the breastbone until you hear it crack. If you don’t want to do all of this yourself, ask your butcher to do it for you.
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Cook It Under a Brick
It helps that chicken under a brick is spatchcocked; but when it’s under the pressure of a heavy object—like a brick!—the chicken gets firmly pressed onto the hot grill. The brick also gets hot, cooking the chicken from above, too.
Cut It Into Smaller Pieces
Again, increasing the surface-area-to-volume ratio helps heat penetrate the chicken’s flesh faster. Cook small pieces of chicken on high heat for a killer stir-fry, or skewer them and set them on the grill for kebabs.
Don’t Forget About Ground Chicken!
Just like any ground meat, ground chicken only takes a couple minutes to cook. You can form it into patties, roll it into meatballs, or make it into a Thai larb.
Any kind of fat—like butter and oil—is a heat conductor, so it’ll help the chicken cook faster. Plus, fat helps give flavor to cuts like chicken breasts. So go H.A.M. on that butter.