7 Creative Chicken Cooking Techniques to Try

Chicken is one of the most popular, versatile meats around — in fact, Americans eat about 8 billion chickens a year (via Vox). Chicken is a healthier white meat to consume than red meats like beef or lamb, considering it has less saturated fat, making it an easy everyday protein source for many people in the U.S. and beyond. 

When faced with what to cook for dinner, chicken provides a solution and myriad additional questions. Endlessly alterable, chicken works in pretty much any cuisine, using any cooking method. From curried chicken to fast food classic KFC fried chicken, you could spend a lifetime exploring chicken recipes from every corner of the globe.

So, if you just want to learn more about cooking chicken, where to start? The following list describes 12 different cooking methods to try with chicken, and each process can be tweaked slightly to better match the dish you’re making. If you already consider yourself a grill master, we recommend trying your hand at something new, like poached chicken or sous vide. Or if you’ve mastered the stove, you might want to learn how to roast instead — there’s something for everyone amid these tips on how to cook the perfect chicken.

Roasted whole chicken

Roasted chicken with herbs and lemon on a board with knife

Roasted chicken is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and everyone has their own particular method of preparing it. According to The New York Times, there is no right way to ready your chicken for roasting — sometimes a little salt and a preheated oven is all you need. If you want to experiment with different preparation methods, then spatchcocking, splaying, or trussing make subtle differences in the way the chicken cooks. 

Seasoning chicken is a must for pretty much any cooking method, but roasted chicken is often defined by the spices and aromatics that permeate the meat in the roasting process. Some of the most popular recipes include ingredients like rosemary, lemon, and garlic — and one classic, the famous roast chicken from Costco, can be replicated with a simple blend of paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper.

The cooking temperature for roasted chicken can vary widely based on personal preference. As The New York Times explains, cooking at a low temperature for a longer period of time will yield softer, more tender meat; whereas a hotter oven will result in crispy crust with meat that’s a bit more chewy. Regardless, you’ll want to be sure the meat is 165 degrees Fahrenheit at its thickest point to ensure it’s safe to eat.

Braised chicken

Braised chicken with lemon and olives in a pot with wooden spoons

Braised chicken is essentially two cooking methods combined to create ultimate tastiness. If you’re looking for melt-in-your-mouth meat, braising is the way to go. First, you’ll sear the meat to start bringing out flavors, and then, the meat finishes cooking over low heat in a little broth or wine, like with the French classic coq au vin. The second step can be made using the oven or the stovetop, depending on which you prefer (via Delish). 

Braised chicken can take on any number of flavors, and cooking the chicken in some liquid allows it to soak up a ton of that flavor. For even more intensity, The Spruce Eats recommends buying chicken that includes the backbone — similar in theory to a bone broth, the backbone adds another level of tastiness to the meat.

Many classic braised chicken recipes include flavors like lemon, onion, and wine (red or white), but you can easily incorporate other flavors into this dish, making it the perfect protein for any cuisine.

Poached chicken

Chicken poaching in water

Poaching chicken can yield some of the softest, most tender meat you’ve ever tasted — or it can result in a chewy, dry slab. It’s an easy process in theory — boil chicken breasts in a pot of liquid (water is most common, but wine, milk, or oil work too) — but it’s easy to get it wrong and find yourself chewing each bite for a full five minutes before swallowing. 

According to Bon Appétit, one of the most important factors to consider when poaching is the ratio of water to meat. Smaller breasts are easy to overcook, and larger breasts take a bit longer — in order to avoid over or undercooking, stick to four cups of water to two large chicken breasts.

It’s also essential that you season the water and make sure it is cold when you add the chicken and put it on the stove. This makes the chicken cook gradually, which helps get that silky texture.

When the water starts boiling, it doesn’t take long to cook. Bon Appétit recommends flipping the breasts as soon as the water comes to a boil and then removing the pot from the heat. With the lid on, the chicken will continue to cook. It should only take five to 10 minutes for the meat to reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit. After a quick five-minute rest on the cutting board, you’ve got yourself a meal.

Fried chicken

Bucket of KFC chicken with mashed potatoes and cole slaw

Moses Robinson/Getty Images

There’s nothing quite like fried chicken. We’d be lying if we said it wasn’t our favorite method of cooking — and who wouldn’t agree? There’s nothing like that hot, crispy crust and the juicy meat within it. It’s much easier to buy fried chicken than make it, and chances are, your go-to spot makes it just to your liking, so why ruin a good thing?

But if you’re interested in testing out your cooking chops or are trying to save a few dollars, making fried chicken at home can be an experience all on its own. According to The Kitchn, an essential step in getting your homemade fried chicken to the next level is dry brining it, which means salting the chicken and leaving it in the fridge for 30 minutes to overnight.

From there it’s a matter of creating a strong spice mixture in which to coat the chicken, and heating the oil — this recipe recommends using two thermometers to ensure the oil is hot enough (between 325 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, according to The Spruce Eats) before adding the chicken. When frying food at home, you’ll want to make sure you follow the instructions carefully so as to avoid injuring yourself or ruining your meal.

But if homemade fried chicken is still out of the question, we wholeheartedly endorse buying it at your favorite restaurant or drive-thru.

Grilled chicken

Grilled chicken on grill with tomatoes and beans

There’s nothing quite like firing up the barbeque for the first time after a long winter. One of the best and most popular items to grill is chicken, which can be altered to fit any flavor profile depending on marinade and sauce — grilling gives chicken a tasty, caramelized crust with those charred grill marks emblematic of long summer evenings spent with friends.

Grilled chicken is wonderfully versatile: from Tunisian kebabs to jerk chicken, you can make grilled chicken work with any flavor.

Additionally, there are many different ways of cooking chicken on a grill. Depending on the cut of meat you’re working with, you can skewer pieces of thigh meat or slap a whole breast on the barbeque. Chef Chris Lilly of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q butterflies a whole chicken for Food & Wine (butterflying is another word for spatchcocking) and puts it all on the grill, but the outlet recommends home chefs just buy pieces of chicken and grill them until crispy. But if you’re interested in trying out the spatchcock method, it only takes about 30 minutes to cook on the grill, Food & Wine reports.

Spatchcocked chicken

Spatchcocked chicken with spice rub and lime

Spatchcocking isn’t exactly a cooking method — it describes the process of breaking down a whole chicken in order to shorten the cooking time while retaining the meaty flavor that comes from working with a whole, bone-in chicken. This technique also allows for a crispier skin and a more evenly-cooked meat, Saveur reports. 

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According to Saveur, the term “spatchcock” has been around since the 17th century, when it became shorthand for “dispatching the cock,” which meant opening up a chicken before cooking. Spatchcocked chicken is easy to grill on the barbeque or roast in the oven, and since the bird gets flattened, making the meat a bit thinner, it cooks much faster than a regular whole chicken.

To spatchcock a chicken, basically all you need to do is remove the backbone. To do this, lay the raw chicken down on its belly so the backbone is facing up. Using a knife or kitchen shears, you’ll cut along both sides of the backbone to remove it from the bird entirely. Then, flip the chicken over and flatten it out with your hand, so that it’s all about the same thickness. Now it’s ready to cook!

Pan fried and oven baked chicken

Chicken in pan with seasoning, romatoes and basil

Similar to braising, this method is a two-step process that gives you all the benefits of both pan frying and baking, resulting in juicy meat with seared, crispy skin. Even though this is a hybrid cooking method, it’s one of the easiest recipes to master. All you need is a cast iron pan, a little oil, and a preheated oven.

Using chicken thighs, you’ll first want to let the meat get to room temperature to ensure it will cook evenly. Next come your spices. You can experiment here, depending on what kind of cuisine you’re making — Flavcity recommends using salt, cayenne, and smoked paprika. Then, heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat — make sure not to rush this step! Your pan should be nice and hot before adding the chicken.

From there, you’ll cook the chicken on the stove for a few minutes, then transfer it to the oven for a few minutes more, and voila! Though this method combines two kinds of cooking, it probably contains less steps than most other cooking processes — most importantly, it tastes just as good.

Rotisserie chicken

Rotisserie chicken in a commercial oven

If your favorite kind of chicken is the kind that comes with a plastic handle, you’re speaking our language. Rotisserie chicken, popularized by grocery store delis and plastic totes, is basically another method of roasting chicken. Rotisserie means that the chicken is skewered and rotated over a flame, resulting in evenly cooked meat, no matter which part is your favorite. 

Though rotisserie chicken is famously found in grocery stores or spinning slowly in public view in restaurants, you can also make it at home if you have a grill with a rotisserie set — some grills include the rotisserie hardware, and you just have to set it up, which isn’t too difficult, according to The Spruce Eats, as long as you have a screwdriver and about 10 minutes.

What’s more difficult is setting up the chicken on the rotisserie rod. The chicken needs to be snugly wrapped around the tines of the rod, otherwise a wing or a leg could come loose and dangle into the flame. There’s a reason rotisserie is most common in grocery stores, but more power to you if you want to take this culinary challenge for a spin (pun intended)!

Sous vide chicken

Chicken in sous vide bag

Sous vide translates to “under vacuum,” and this cooking method is one of the trickier ones, though it involves neither space vacuums or vacuum cleaners. The “vide” of sous vide refers to the vacuum-sealed bag in which the meat is cooked. 

Sous vide is a somewhat complex process of cooking that involves a temperature-controlled pot of water and an airtight container. The meat is cooked inside the bag (other containers can be used, but plastic bags are typical) that is set inside the pot of water, which is kept at a specific temperature under boiling point (via Bon Appétit). 

Since the water is kept at a low temperature, the idea is to cook the meat for a longer period of time than you may be used to. As Serious Eats explains, while most experts recommend that chicken be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, the amount of time meat is cooking affects the amount of bacteria as much as temperature, so even if chicken never gets past 150 degrees Fahrenheit during the sous vide process, so long as you cook it for enough time, it’s still safe to eat.

Air fried chicken

Man putting chicken into air fryer

Air fryers have gained popularity just in the last few years, as appliance companies made the dreams of home cooks and health fanatics come true by creating a machine that gives you crispy, fried food with no oil required. 

Air fryers work by blowing hot air around food in an enclosed container fast enough and hot enough that it makes the food crisp, as though it just came out of the deep fryer. But instead of oil, all this machine needs to produce that crunchy layer is air (via Taste of Home).

To make fried chicken in an air fryer is similar to the process of deep frying — except, of course, the frying part. When you air fry chicken, you still want to coat the chicken in flour to achieve the breaded crust you’d get on regular fried chicken. The Food Network recommends a mixture of flour, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder. From there, you can pretty much let the air fryer take over.

Beer can chicken

Chicken roasted on beer can

Beer can chicken seems almost too good to be true — chicken and beer come together on the grill for the ultimate summer cookout experience? Sounds like something out of a movie, really. But this cooking method is as simple as it is delicious, so the next time you fire up the grill, arm yourself with a chicken and a can of beer and watch as fantasy becomes reality. 

To make beer can chicken, you’ll need a few spices, a can of beer (Bon Appétit recommends a light lager), and a whole chicken. The chicken gets seasoned and then placed on top of the half-full beer can, so the can is supporting the upright bird. Then the whole thing, along with a drip pan, gets thrown on the grill.

As the beer heats up, it releases steam into the cavity of the chicken, saturating the meat with flavor and moisture. To get even more from the brew, try removing the entire top of the beer can with a can opener — more steam will be able to escape, thus suffusing your meat with more of that tasty goodness.

Smoked chicken

Smoker grill with fumes coming out

Smoked chicken is a simple process that makes for a flavorful meal. While many people default to cooking chicken on the grill, using a smoker gives the meat an extra kick that pushes it over the edge of deliciousness. The trick to smoking, according to Salt Pepper Skillet, is that the meat gets cooked at a low temperature with indirect heat, so the chicken gets nice and tender without becoming chewy or charred. 

To properly smoke meat of all kinds, you’ll want to invest in a smoker, which makes the whole process simple and straightforward. To achieve extra levels of flavor, you can add flavored wood chips to the smoker. As the wood burns, the smoke infuses the meat with hints of apple or cherry, depending on the tree the wood was cut from (via Epicurious).

Smoked chicken can be used in tacos or sandwiches, or of course, it’s also good on its own. For best results, you’ll want to brine the chicken before smoking it or smother it with spices that complement the rest of your meal.

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