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Cooking Chicken Just Right with Chris Kimball

While cooking pan-roasted chicken breasts, Chris Kimball points out to Renee Montagne one of the most important tools in the kitchen: a digital thermometer.
Ben Bergman/NPR
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While cooking pan-roasted chicken breasts, Chris Kimball points out to Renee Montagne one of the most important tools in the kitchen: a digital thermometer.

Americans eat more chicken than any other kind of meat — on average 87 pounds a year per person. But they often do a terrible job of preparing it.

"Most of the time, people are over-cooking it," says Chris Kimball, host of America's Test Kitchen on PBS. We're a nation eating "bad, overcooked chicken," he says — but it doesn't have to be that way.

Kimball has tested hundreds of recipes for his new cookbook, The Best Chicken Recipes, devoted exclusively to the bird.

The key to a good chicken dish begins with selecting the chicken, he says.

Visiting the poultry section of a Santa Monica, Calif., supermarket, Kimball says store-bought chickens generally are "grown to have small legs and large breasts — everyone likes white meat. So this is just average chicken."

For an above-average bird, Kimball recommends searching out a kosher brand. That's because they're individually slaughtered by hand, their salt flavor helps the meat retain water for a juicier taste, and the salt tends to make chicken more tender.

He says bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts are more flavorful than the boneless, skinless kind.

Before you get started, Kimball says, don't be afraid to make mistakes — he says that's the best way to learn.

"Making bad food is the beginning of becoming a good cook," he says.

With the chicken and a digital thermometer in hand, Kimball walks Renee Montagne through preparing one of the recipes, for pan-roasted chicken breasts with vermouth, leek and tarragon pan sauce.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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