The best chicken breasts I have ever made

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By: Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

Matthew Mead/AP

A chicken breast is a wonderful protein source to cook on the grill. As the price of beef and pork continue to increase, more of us will choose to prepare chicken breast on the grill. I am sure I am not the only one that has experienced over-cooked, dried out, tasteless chicken breast in restaurants — in all honesty I don’t order them. I figure the problem for the cook in most restaurants is that they have precooked breast to prepare, so they receive them over cooked and then re-heat them for speed in serving. For those of us who cook at home, we have some wonderful opportunities to prepare some great tasting chicken breast.

Chicken is a mild flavored meat and lends itself readily to variation. In fact, chicken is compatible with almost every herb, spice, and vegetable in the marketplace. When you consider the hundreds of ways Americans prepare chicken, and then add to that the thousands of dishes common to the rest of the world, it is clear that chicken recipe options are virtually unlimited. As a lean, low cholesterol meat, chicken is welcome in the healthy eating plan of many of us who are trying to reduce the intake of fat and cholesterol.

Chicken figures in the cuisine of almost every country in the world. In this country a favorite of many is fried and or broasted, roasted and all the dishes we prepare with cooked chicken. Chicken is made into pot pies, cooked or baked for countless soups, and chopped or sliced for a cold salad or sandwich filling.

When working with poultry, remember that the raw meat carries potential harmful bacteria, so you need to be smart. Always wash hands before and be sure to thoroughly wash your hands and all surfaces that the poultry has touched following preparation in hot soapy water. This means counter tops, cooking utensils, cutting boards and everything that comes in contact with the poultry. Try to avoid letting juices from raw poultry touch other foods. They should never come in contact with food that is not going to be thoroughly cooked.

Just last week I prepared some of the best chicken breasts that I have ever made. They were simple: I used a paring knife and lightly scored both sides of the breast with vertical and horizontal narrow cuts. Then I rubbed some light balsamic Italian salad dressing into both sides. After that I applied my favorite meat rub to both sides and let the breast set 15 minutes. This could have been done a day or two head of time and refrigerated and would have been better but the short time also worked.

While you are preparing the chicken you should have the grill on hot or, in our case, we had a wood fire going in a fire pit that has a cooking grill. Once the fire was going, the cooking grate was oiled and put in place and then over a medium to high heat, the chicken placed on the grate. I placed the nice smooth side down first as I wanted it to cook first and get some great golden brown color. The grate was lowered and raised during the grilling process. Once the chicken breast had achieved the color I wanted, the tongs were used and the chicken breast turned so now the back side where the bones had been were to the wood fire and we could sit back, enjoy the fire and watch the cooking process.

We used a meat thermometer to determine doneness so the breasts were not overcooked, the temperature was 165 degrees. The grilled breasts were teamed with corn black bean salsa, crusty bread and fresh green beans. For my cooking friends you can’t get much better for a great meal quickly prepared and enjoyed outdoors. The extra prepared breasts were moist and tender sliced on a green leaf salad with some of the corn and black bean salsa. So, prepare food together and enjoy great food with great friends.

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