We can’t all be master chefs, which is why your main course just came out of the oven with the texture of an actual rubber chicken. But that doesn’t mean you have to chicken out on cooking poultry — there are simple ways to fix your chicken’s rubbery texture.
We tucked into the truth behind why your chicken gets rubbery. Find out how to keep your tenders tender.
There’s more than one reason your chicken came out rubbery.
Overcooking might play a role in your chicken’s tire-like texture. Leaving chicken in a pan, oven, or grill for just a little too long can suck the moisture right out and leave you with a dry, rubbery bird. Without moisture, the protein fibers in the chicken become elastic.
The types of chicken you buy at the store can also make a difference. “Woody breast” and “white striping” are two conditions farmed poultry can experience that affect the texture of the meat. (Oh, how selfish — birds going and getting diseases that make them harder to eat. Poor widdle humans.)
According to a 2016 review, woody breasts occur when the chicken has a tougher consistency due to bulging muscles. These are harder to chew than non-woody chicken in the same way The Rock is tricky to eat without at least mayo.
White striping is a condition that creates white fatty stripes that run parallel to the chicken muscle fibers on the breast, thigh, and tender muscles.
Both can affect the overall quality of your chicken.
Is rubbery chicken undercooked?
Just like overcooked chicken, its undercooked counterpart can turn out rubbery. Undercooked chicken usually has a shiny appearance and a jiggly consistency.
If you’ve recently chowed down on undercooked chicken and you experience any of the following symptoms, be sure to contact a healthcare pro:
- a high fever
- diarrhea for more than 3 days with no improvement
- bloody stools
- prolonged vomiting
Is rubbery chicken safe to eat?
As long as the rubbery texture comes from overcooking and not undercooking, the chicken is still edible (although not the best eating experience).
To compensate for the dry, rubbery texture, make a sauce that you can serve on your chicken to add moisture and flavor. Go with a creamy Alfredo sauce, BBQ sauce, or soy-based sauce, and — *chef’s kiss* — you won’t even notice the rubbery consistency.
What makes chicken rubbery?
We know that certain conditions can cause probs with the consistency of chicken, but why? Why do these conditions mess with the meat? And why did the chicken cross the road? Chickens bring up all kinds of questions.
According to a 2020 study, woody chicken breast has higher amounts of connective tissue than normal breast meat, which can make the meat tough. The increased growth rate of chickens may be the cause of both this and white striping.
A 2019 study on broiler chickens found that the severity of woody breast increased as the chickens aged and grew, with a significant correlation between woody breast and body weight. The study also suggests that damage to blood vessels is likely an important piece of the puzzle in the development of woody breast.
The good news is that you’re not stuck with rubbery chicken for life. Next time you go shopping and cook up your bird, keep these suggestions in mind.
Best cooking methods to prevent rubbery chicken
When cooking up a chicken, your best bet is to cook with moisture rather than dry heat. That means using methods like:
- slow cooking (with liquid)
- sous vide (a combination of dry/moist cooking)
These strategies involve cooking with either liquid or steam, which can soften tough fibers in the chicken.
If you want to fire up the grill or oven, you can still cook up a tender piece of meat. Just make a brine or marinade and let your chicken sit in there for 20 to 30 minutes before cooking.
Mistakes to avoid
When it comes to cooking your chicken, avoiding these mistakes can help you turn out a tender, juicy bird that even Gordon Ramsay would (begrudgingly) approve of:
- Cooking in a cold pan or oven. Don’t lay your chicken down in a pan that hasn’t warmed up on the stove. It’s important that chicken is cooked at a high temperature for a short time so it doesn’t dry out. Same goes for the oven — be patient while it preheats!
- Skipping the marinade or brine. Chicken is naturally a lean meat with very little fat, so letting it soak in a marinade or brine not only adds flavor but also keeps it moist.
- Using skinless chicken breast. Keeping the skin on chicken can prevent the loss of moisture. If you prefer it skinless, just remove the skin after cooking.
- Not pounding it out. Grab your meat mallet and go to town (calm down, we’re still talking chickens here 😉). Not only does this tenderize the meat by breaking down the protein, but having an even layer of chicken breast can also help reduce cooking time and temperature discrepancies.
What to cock-a-doodle-do at the store
If you feel your chicken breast comes out rubbery regardless of how you cook it, you may need to buy slow-growing chicken. This type of chicken is often labeled “slower-growing” or “heritage.”
The downside is that slow-growing chickens tend to cost more than your typical chicken breast — 30 to 50 percent more, in fact. That’s because these chickens require more food, water, and land to grow.
But it may be worth the extra cash if your budget extends that far. A survey of consumers found that 67 percent preferred meat products made from slow-growing chickens.
Now that you have the tips and tricks to avoid a chewy chicken, try out these tasty recipes:
- Easy healthy chicken piccata. The combination of lemon, capers, and garlic makes this chicken dish super flavorful and a perfect companion to any side dish you prefer.
- Honey garlic chicken breast. All it takes is 12 minutes and a short list of ingredients, and you wind up with perfectly saucy chicken.
- Healthy chicken salad. Skip the tuna this time and whip up a batch of chicken salad. This recipe comes with a protein boost thanks to the addition of Greek yogurt and cottage cheese in place of mayonnaise.
- Stuffed chicken divan with a sherry Dijon sauce. If you want to get a bit more creative with your chicken breast, try stuffing it! This recipe calls for stuffing the chicken with a broccoli mixture and then topping it with a creamy sauce.
- The best chicken soup you’ll ever eat. There’s nothing like a comforting bowl of chicken soup, especially when you’re feeling under the weather. This recipe hits the spot by using fresh herbs and spices and replacing noodles with couscous. And it’s pretty difficult to end up with chewy soup.
Rubbery chicken can result from a cooking error or the overall quality of the chicken you buy.
Fortunately, strategies such as moist cooking and buying slow-grown chickens can prevent you from having a chewy meal.
And always make sure your chicken isn’t undercooked! Undercooked rubbery chicken is a health risk and an unpleasant eating experience.