Why You Should Pound Chicken Breasts Before Cooking Them

Top Categories

Our most popular recipes in our most popular foods. Pasta Our best pasta recipes & techniques will have you cooking like an Italian Grandma. Chicken The best chicken recipe, is the well-cooked chicken recipe. Learn our secrets now… Pork Tired of dull, dry pork? So are we! Learn how to make the best chops on the block. Steak Fear not! The grill, the pan, the oven, we’ve got you covered with the recipes and techniques to get the perfect steak…


Do you sell any items you mentioned on your reference for Why Pound Chicken​?

Of course not, we offer our suggestions, tips,… only, and we don’t sell or exchange any items on our site. You can refer to the Amazon site to buy the items we mentioned.

How To Poach a Chicken Breast

Poaching chicken in water is the hardest technique of the three we have talked about. Most people overcook the chicken breast while poaching, but I am going to show you how to avoid that.

Chicken breasts are lean and don’t have a lot of fat, so they need as much love as they can get in the flavor department. Instead of poaching the chicken in bland water, you first need to add some lemon slices, 1 teaspoon of peppercorns, 1 bay leaf, some fresh thyme, rosemary, sage, smashed garlic cloves, sliced red onions, and a couple generous pinches of salt.

The goal while poaching chicken to infuse the cooking liquid with as much flavor as you can, which will season the chicken while it is gently poaching. To poach the chicken breast, and all of the aromatics to a shallow pot along with the chicken, and enough cold water to just cover the breasts.

Turn the heat on medium-high and wait for the water to come to a simmer and then immediately turn the heat down to right below a simmer. The goal is to gently poach the chicken so it cooks evenly and does not dry out. A simmer or boiling water is too much heat for the chicken breasts.

Juicy poached chicken breast recipe
Juicy poached chicken breast recipe

Once you turn down the heat, set a timer for 10 minutes and then take the temperature of the chicken breast by removing it from the water and sticking the probe thermometer into the deepest part of the breast. Once it reaches 155 degrees F, the chicken breast is done.

Poached chicken can overcook very quickly, which is why you need to regulate the heat and use a thermometer. It takes the guessing out.

Goal #3: Thin Breasts Moister Meat

Huh? How's that work? Wouldn't a thinner breast be more likely to lose its internal moisture faster? Well yes, that's true. If you cooked a pounded breast for the same length of time that you cook a naturally shaped breast, it'd be far dryer in the end. However, that's not what we do now, is it?

Because a pounded chicken breast is so thin, there is not much space to build up a temperature differential gradient within the meat, meaning that the temperature at the center is pretty close to the temperature on the outer layers. To demonstrate this, think of a whole, unpounded chicken breast being seared in a skillet. When you first put it in the hot pan, the entire thing is at about fridge temperature, say, 40°F. As it cooks, the very center will rise in temperature slowly, while the exterior and the layers closest to the exterior will increase in temperature far more rapidly. By the time the middle is at the requisite 150 to 160°F, the outer layers may be closer to around 200°F, leading to some amount of desiccated meat.**

With a thin paillard or cutlet, on the other hand, the breast spends so little time cooking that there is only a very very thin layer of overcooked meat on the very exterior. Most of the interior meat is cooked relatively evenly through and through. If you've ever been served a dry paillard at a restaurant, rest easy knowing that the chef had to put a lot of work into drying that sucker out. It's not an easy feat to accomplish.

Of course, thinner, more evenly shaped breasts are also easier to wrap around a filling, if that's your end goal.

** Low and slow cooking methods can help mitigate this effect.

How do restaurants make chicken so tender?

It’s because they tenderise chicken using a simple method called Velveting Chicken using baking soda. It’s a quick and easy method that any home cook can do, and can also be used for beef.

Why Pound Chicken?

Pounding chicken, or tenderizing chicken, results in many practical benefits, including:

  • More balanced seasoning: An even thickness enables the ingredients of your marinade or other seasonings to penetrate the meat to the same degree across the whole piece of chicken. For example, sprinkling salt over an uneven surface area will result in the thinnest part of the chicken tasting more seasoned than the thickest part since the same amount of seasoning must penetrate more meat in the latter case.
  • More even cooking: Pounding chicken results in an even thickness, which helps ensure every section cooks all the way through without overcooking. All parts of your chicken breast should cook to the same temperature at the same rate, no matter the cooking method—for example, pan-searing, poaching, or baking. There’s an even greater risk of overcooking oven-baked chicken if you start with an uneven chicken breast since the meat spends a longer time in the heat.
  • Shorter cooking times: Chicken breasts are naturally thinner at one end and thicker at the other. Unless you pound the chicken, the thicker end will take longer to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Pounding chicken produces a thinner breast, shortening the overall cooking time.
  • Shorter freezing times: Thinner chicken breasts take about an hour to freeze, whereas uneven chicken breasts require additional time. To facilitate weeknight meals, prepare a batch in advance. Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts and add them in a single layer to parchment paper atop a baking sheet. Place the entire sheet in the freezer. Once the chicken has frozen, move the breasts to a plastic freezer bag and return them to the freezer.
  • Tenderer meat: Pounding chicken breaks down the fibers between the flesh, making the chicken extra tender. Chicken cutlets, fried chicken, and many other chicken breast recipes benefit from the meat being as tender as possible.

Why Are Chicken Breasts Dry and Tough?

Make sure to rest chicken breasts for 3-5 minutes once they are done cooking. If you slice into the breast right away, the juices inside are boiling and they will leak out of the breast and make it tough. You also have to make sure to allow the chicken breast to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before cooking. This will take the chill off and allow the chicken breast to cook more evenly.

How to bake a chicken breast in the oven
How to bake a chicken breast in the oven

Related posts

How to Cook Boneless Chicken Breasts How to Stuff a Chicken Breast How to Cook Chicken Breast: A One Minute Cooking Class Southwestern Spiced Chicken Breast Chicken Picatta

Gordon Ramsay

Take your cooking to the next level in Gordon’s first MasterClass on essential methods, ingredients, and recipes.

Explore the Class