BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS – How To Cook Them Nice and Juicy!


Lots of people complain about boneless chicken breasts as being dry and tasteless. But they don’t have to be. You can make them easily to turn out juicy and delicious with this little cooking trick I’ve come up with for them described below.

Boneless breasts can quickly go from moist and juicy to dry with just a half a minute of overcooking. So you have to be very careful with your cook time and technique. Over the years I’ve experimented plenty cooking them, and figured out a method that really works and you should try the next time you make chicken. Here’s my my not-so-secret, secret way of cooking chicken breasts so they are never dry and tasteless.

Chicken breast meat, especially off the bone and with the skin removed, is naturally very lean. It just doesn’t have enough intra-muscular fat, as dark meat does, which makes boneless chicken thighs much easier to cook, without overcooking until they dry out. Therefore the trick with cooking boneless breasts is basically to get a very nice sear on both sides, then let them finish in the pan with the cover on and the heat off using residual heat and internal steam to let them finish cooking. Thats the secret. Details follow.

Chicken breasts – Fresh or Frozen. During Covid-19, I started buying frozen breasts instead of fresh at Trader Joe’s. Sure I usually would prefer fresh over frozen but I don’t want to go to a store as often. So having frozen chicken breasts in the freezer is very practical. TJ’s sells them prepped and quick frozen in 2.5 lb bags, either “whole breasts with rib section” which are a big whole breasts, or you can get portioned, trimmed up ones which are one half a breast and make a perfect portion per person. They run about 7 or 8 dollars a bag. And there is an Organic option which doesn’t cost much more than the regular ones. If I get them frozen, I let them do an overnight defrost (full day) in the fridge (how long will depend a bit on thickness). I always use a slow defrost as I have mentioned many times before, as this is best method for defrosting most things. If you rush the defrosting and say leave it out on the counter you will see juice run out of the meat and your breasts will be dry no matter how you cook them. Naturally if you prefer to use fresh boneless chicken breasts, this same cooking method works equally well with fresh breasts. Fresh of course is the “normal” way I would buy chicken pre-Covid-19 and have also at times bought fresh breasts on sale, trim them up and freeze them myself. It’s just a little more work, but when they are $1.99 /lb on sale at my supermarket, its worth it.

Here’s the general outline of this method for juicy chicken: Season/Marinate. Sear on both sides. Turn off the heat. COVER THE PAN. WAIT. Details follow:

JUICY CHICKEN BREASTS COOKING METHOD: Prep / trim up the breasts. Season and/or marinate the meat. In the picture above I used some TJ TACO SEASONING all over the breasts. Its a convenient spice blend I find and actually works well with chicken as well as beef. Its a cumin and chile “mexican” spice blend. Of course any mix or blend of spices of your choosing will work. Smoked Spanish Paprika is great in the mix as it helps browning and is very flavorful (TJ carries it). I almost always add fresh garlic. Let the seasoned chicken marinate/sit for 20-30 minutes on the counter to warm up from the fridge. TIP: Rub Olive oil all over the chicken before adding the spices and they will stick better. Some people like a sprinkle of some coating (a bit of flour, or breadcrumbs or Panko). What we are going for is a nice golden brown color on both sides of the chicken.

Put a tablespoon of olive oil (or oil and butter) in your pan (Non-stick or Cast Iron). Cast iron is terrific. Get the pan nice and hot. Throw in the chicken and let it sear on one side. DO NOT TOUCH or move the breasts in the pan for 3-5 minutes until you see a good “Golden Brown and Delicious” sear on the bottom. A good sear is crucial for great flavor (aka the Maillard effect). When one side is done, flip the breasts over and do the other side. You need to check them and make sure the middle is not completely cooked (opaque). Now turn off the fire and immediately put a tight fitting lid on your pan to cover them. Do not peek or open the cover. If you do you will let the precious steam that will finish cooking them escape. TIP: (optional) Squeeze a quarter lemon in the pan and throw it in before closing the lid.

Set your timer for 7-10 minutes to let the breasts finish cooking in the covered pan. Thats the whole trick, letting residual steam and heat finish them, a bit slowly. Voila! Juicy Breasts with a ton of flavor.

SO again its: “Season, Sear, Heat Off, Lid On. Just wait till done”.

This little trick to cook juicy boneless breasts is that easy. With this method, the seared breasts are not cooked all the way through the middle but the the “closed, moist environment” inside the pan, lets them finish using steam slowly, basically like a poach. Now you may have to play around with your own timing, and adjust a little bit either way based on thickness of chicken and what type of pan. What we are aiming for in the cooking is getting them just over the line of seeing any pink. After they are just past the point of not looking pink and done, you get them out of the pan and rest them on a plate or cutting board for about 4-5 minutes (some foil over them will help keep them warm). Resting meat keeps juices in. The breasts should be cooked through (don’t slice before resting them, but once rested you can “peek” in a thick section). Remember meats continue cooking a bit from residual heat inside. Again why you rest them for a few minutes.

In my picture the bigger piece needed another 30-60 seconds to finish completely so I just put it back with the cover on with a lowish flame. Its way easier if they are a bit underdone to cook them a little bit more then overcook them if you want to be sure they don’t come out dry. You can also make shallow slashes in the thicker part of a breast prior to seasoning them to help even things out with the thinner parts as heat will penetrate the slashed part easier. Or you can pound the thick part flat with a pan a bit which will even them out. Anyway give this method a few tries and you will figure out your exact timings depending on a few factors (chicken thickness, heat source, pan thickness, etc). Electric stoves of course have a great deal of residual heat after they are shut off so Wait Time would really need to be much less (or just move the pan to a cool burner). If your chicken is still coming out “dry” with this Sear & Cover Method, you will need to deduct a minute of the outside browning time especially after you turn them. Conversely if its pink in the thickest part add a tiny bit more time. You can also try it with the lid on for the second side browning, but deduct a minute or two as the steaming effect inside the pan will be more intense. Now that you know this sear and cover method, you can experiment. If you like the results please let us know in the COMMENTS section.

Naturally serving these with a tasty sauce is great for flavor plus keeping things moist too. Try yogurt and Green Dragon or Zhoug -or- yogurt and lemon, or just deglaze the pan with a tiny bit of stock, wine or even just water and using the scrapings, and a bit of butter to make a few tablespoons of pan sauce. If you want a slightly thick sauce, add a pinch of cornstarch slurry.

Hope you enjoy this basic technique. If you want to explore cooking boneless breasts by poaching them instead of grilling, the Kitchn has a detailed explanation and good cooking technique for POACHED BREASTS (LINK BELOW) Poaching is great for moistness, but you don’t get the intense flavor of grilling.

THE KITCHN

Argentinian Red Shrimp (frozen)


(from the package) Trader Joe’s Argentinian Red Shrimp are caught off the southern coast of Argentina. They have a sweet lobster like flavor and texture. Grill, barbecue or sauté…”.

I now regularly buy these frozen shrimp at Trader Joe’s. These are very good shrimp. They’re wild, raw Red Shrimp (aka Patagonian Red Shrimp) that have been de-shelled, cleaned, deveined and flash frozen, seperately.

If you are interested in learning more, here’s info about “Patagonian Red Shrimp”

If I am not using the whole bag, I just take out as many shrimp as I need, then put them back in the freezer double bagged inside another ziplock freezer bag.

One can cook these Red Shrimp any way that you would normally use fresh shrimp after defrosting them of course. So first things first, best ways to defrost these. First off, leaving them to slowly thaw in the fridge overnight or the day before. If you have less time, you can put them in a zip lock bag, and submerge the bag in a bowl under a trickle of cold running water. In a pinch I have put some shrimp right in a bowl and covered them with 2-4 inches of cold salted water, stirring them even 5 minutes or so. I confess also in a pinch I have done an fast “emergency defrost” where I run the frozen shrimp under cold water in a colander till they are de-iced and mostly defrosted and then very SLOWLY warmed them on the lowest fire possible in liquid (salted water or some broth or whatever sauce I am cooking them in). If you are say using a sauce, you can simmer your defrosted shrimp slowly in the sauce at the very end cooking them maybe 2-3 minutes (turning them over once).

Whatever method you use, be sure not to overcook them. These Red Shrimp actually cook faster than other shrimp. I sometimes cook them, remove them when nearly done and then add them back in at the very end. These cook quite quickly, basically in a 1-3 minutes. As soon as they are no longer translucent and firm, to me they are done, or at least should be removed at that point and then added back to your dish at the end as mentioned. Cooking them just so will keep them tender and juicy and plump, which you want. If you over cook shrimp, they shrink up and become tougher. These shrimp are great in pasta, or sautéed in garlic and butter, or any shrimp dish. I made a nice curry with veggies and Thai Red Curry sauce and added the shrimp at the very last few minutes.

TJ’s Wild Red Shrimp cost $10 for a 1 lb. bag (20/25 count). They are a good size (aka Large). If you find these Patagonia Red Shrimp frozen or fresh they are usually double that price elsewhere. (UPDATE : TJ recently raised the price $1 not long after I posted this; they are now $10.99 – Feb 2021)

These Wild Red Shrimp are well worth trying.

RAVE

Below is a picture of a tasty curry dish I made with these shrimp plus lots of veggies using TJ’s Thai Red Curry sauce. I added the shrimp at the very last few minutes and served it with Jasmine Rice. Shrimp curry is yummy, and worth trying (a basic recipe is at the end)

Another dish: You can see I used these shrimp in a bowl of ramen (Roy Choi style instant ramen with a slice of cheese and butter. Sounds crazy but works, see video below). For this dish, which was a dinner I made a veggie stock instead of using the packet of seasoning* and added some fresh mushrooms. I added the shrimp at the very end of cooking, and only cooked them about a minute. You can see they look juicy and are not shriveled up from being overcooked. TIP: * Be careful with that little flavor packet in instant ramen bag. Read the label; they are just loaded with Sodium! Better is if you use some stock of your own and just a bit of the flavor packet. Worst case, use only half the packet and if it taste too flat, add something (a dash of low sodium soy sauce or a drop of Nam Pla (fish sauce)

ROY CHOI’S INSTANT RAMEN WITH CHEESE

There are so many ways you might use shrimp, so here’s one more idea: Why not Shrimp Rolls (like a lobster roll)? These shrimp are “lobster-y” so would be perfect in a a shrimp roll. Gently poach them then, put some on some lightly toasted buttered Brioche bread or aloha buns, with cut up shrimp, a little mayo, some Old Bay seasoning or dried dill… I bet this would be great, and you can pretend it’s lobster!

Another idea? Vietnamese style rice paper shrimp rolls (search Asian markets for the rice wrappers) https://justasdelish.com/vietnamese-shrimp-rolls-peanut-hoisin-sauce/

Want one more idea? Fried rice using some shrimp

THAI STYLE SHRIMP CURRY – Sauté onions and garlic in oil for 5 minutes, throw in chopped carrots, celery, potatoes (mushrooms, peas, sweet potatoes, scallions) …saute 5 minutes, throw in 1/4 cup liquid (water or broth) simmer for 10 minutes, toss in a jar of Thai Red Curry, simmer about 10 more minutes till tender. The last 2 minutes add shrimp and cook gently in the sauce, stirring occasionally. Serve with jasmine rice.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups


Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups are one of the best products TJ sells. These chocolate goodies frequently show up on “Best Things At Trader Joe’s” lists, and for good reason, they’re fantastic, not too mention dangerously addictive. I think of these as “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups For GrownUps”. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy Reese’s cups on occasion but not like these peanut butter cups, because, let’s face it, these things are FAR, far better quality. These are the “adult” version of Reese’s. For one, these have better chocolate (and its real chocolate, the dark kind! Everyone knows Dark is the only chocolate if you are a real chocolate lovers (count me in). These have better peanut butter stuff inside too.

These cups are irresistible. I have an internal fight all the time, (eating one) Oh, that was really good. I need one more…” (I usually can stop at 2 or 3….or god help me, 4)… But its not easy, they are that delicious.

Sometimes you need a treat. Especially these days?

A one pound tub is $4.29.

Would I buy them again?

Just try and stop me!

Envy Apples


I never heard of this apple before I saw them at Trader Joe’s. A hybrid developed in New Zealand, “Envy” apples are a hybrid of Royal Gala and Braeburn varieties. Both of those are excellent apples, and this hybrid, Envy, is well, just a terrific tasting apple. When I first tasted this Envy, my taste buds went pretty wild with “this must be one of the best apples I ever had”. Seriously this is just a great apple. Nice crunch, firm texture, sweet but with a hint of sour underneath? It’s a complex flavor, way more complex than just “sweet” like say a Honey Crisp apple or Red Delicious (yuck). Envy are a favorite pick of the Trader Joe’s crew, who I imagine taste everything they sell. I kind of trust those “crew picks”.

INFO

https://envyapple.com/en/about-envy#tab-1

These apples go great with just about everything. What about Envy with cheese? Yes, please. I knew they would match well with most any cheese, and frankly there is absolutely nothing better than to slice up these apples and put them on a plate with the Unexpected Cheddar. What a combo these make together. Seriously. Try either that or Cabot cheddar with these apples. I would imagine Brie would be great, or let’s face it any cheese you like. I love these just eaten out of hand on their own of course. I like them in the morning, diced up for my breakfast cereal. Your kids will love these paired up with some peanut butter. I know I do. Envy sell for $1.29 each. A bit more than the apples TJ sells for 79 cents but worth the little splurge every now and then. So if you haven’t ever tried these, try one for yourselves. You may get hooked on them. I know I have. I always buy one when I’m at TJ’s.

RAVE

EDAMAME (Soy Beans, frozen)


Trader Joe’s sells two versions of EDAMAME (Soy Beans) in both in the shell and unshelled versions.

Both kinds are excellent, tasty and super healthy veggies for you to add to your menu if they are not already on it.

You may have first seen Edamame typically in a Japanese restaurant or in the Sushi section somewhere, where they are served in the shell with a sprinkle of salt for you to nibble on and suck out the beans in the shells. In the shell these are very typical “bar snacks” in Japan in a restaurant or Izakaya (pub). Edamame is Japanese for “Soy Beans”. Very healthy and good for you of course as well as very being quite DELICIOUS, with a taste a bit like peas but nuttier and earthier. I like them both ways, in the shell and out of the shell, so I usually buy a bag of both versions. TJ’s frozen Shelled Edamame are very convenient, as you don’t have to peel them of course if you just want the beans ready to use. Useful as a side dish, the same way you would serve some peas, or for adding to a dish, such as a rice dish*, again, the same way you might add green peas. When I add edamame, say to rice in the last 3 minutes, I don’t cook them first as the bag suggests (they are already cooked in fact). I just put some in a colander, rinse under the faucet in a colander the till they are no longer frozen, and then toss them in the pot of rice (or anything) for maybe 3-4 minutes. As a side dish you can’t go wrong with Edamame with a pinch of salt and some butter. Yummy! Or use them, as an addition to your favorite recipe. Soy Beans contain Lots of protein (9 gr in a half a cup!), lots of fiber, vitamins and basically everything that is Soy Good for you. Maybe one of the healthiest things you can eat.

A 12 oz. bag of the shelled version is $1.99 which is less than in a Asian specialty store where you normally find these goodies. And about $1.69 (1 lb) in the shell, which are of course great to serve people to nibble on and suck out of the shells in the traditional style. Maybe the kids would like those, as they are very hands on, play with your food.

  • RANT: Re: rice. We’re a rant I have about Trader Joe’s. They carry Basmati rice , Jasmine rice, Brown rice varieties… but they don’t carry SHORT GRAIN (Japanese) Rice! Why oh why Mr. Trader Joe’s?! Short grain rice is called for, for Asian dishes. I have to buy it at Asian groceries. It would be so convenient if you carried short grain rice. Any one else second this? Arghh!

More:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/what-is-edamame-3376830

RAVE

 

Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS


In the Dried Fruit section at TJs, I’ve always liked a package of dried bananas that Trader Joe’s has sold. A few days ago, this bright yellow package caught my eye. Trader Joe’s DRIED BABY BANANAS. Not sure if product is new, replaced those, or I just never noticed them before but they stoked my curiousity to review for the site so got a bag. DRIED BABY BANANAS are tasty! Some people might think they look a little scary, almost like little dried cut off fingers. Taste-wise they are just what they sound like, baby bananas, which I am guessing are sun or air dried.  They are a bit moist, a bit chewy and have an intense banana taste as the flavors are concentrated. And “baby bananas” are a different variety than your normal banana. So did I like them? Here’s the answer. After I tasted one, then another, I basically couldn’t stop eating them! Delicious. They were quite tasty as-is right out of the bag. But then I had a bright idea, “Hmm, I wonder if they would be good match if I dipped them in peanut butter!?” Needless to say, great combination…  of course if you put some out with a little bit of PB to dip them in on the side I have a feeling kids would love these like that as a snack. Though when they first see them no doubt they will say something like, “ewww gross, these look like dried fingers off a dead monkey” – which they do to some extant, though they look exactly like what they sound like, dried baby bananas all shrunken up. The package says they come from Thailand. INGREDIENTS: “DRIED BANANAS”. So I call that a pretty “Natural” product. A package costs $1.99. The bag I got yesterday seems to have only 4 little bananas left when I just checked them…. so you could say they went down easy and way too fast. Next time I better buy 2 bags. In short, another very good dried fruit snack from TJ, well worth trying so check them out.

RAVE

Advent Calendar for Cats (!?)


Dec. 15 2020 – I saw this at TJ’s yesterday. Your humble reporter (nice Jewish boy) just couldn’t resist getting one for our two cats, Aspen (L) and Kuro (R).

$5.99

Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp Cheddar


My review for TJ’s Unexpected Cheddar seems to get a good deal of interest, so next up for review in the Cheese Department is an absolute classic cheddar which I mentioned in that earlier post.

For my money the well known, long established, classic cheese, Cabot Cheddar, is the very definition and Gold Standard for what an “East Coast” Extra Sharp Cheddar tastes like. Its terrifically convenient that Trader Joe’s carries it under Cabot’s own well known brand.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is my personal go-to cheese to pretty much always have in the house. Labeled an “Extra sharp” cheddar, it’s got a slight tangy taste to it. “Intense, rich cheddar flavor with an “East Coast” bite” is how they describe it on the package and I would say that description is spot on. Cabot is made in Vermont, and is a bit unique as a company, as its a Farmer’s Collective. Cabot has been around for almost 100 years and has won many many “best” awards.

Cabot extra sharp cheddar is both great just sliced as is out of the package. It’s also great to cook with. It melts wonderfully well and I think makes one of the most fantastic melted cheese sandwiches you will ever try. Also terrific melted into an omelet. Do I need to say, melted on top of a burger is good? It’s not, its freaking amazing.

Eaten as is slice up and paired with some fruit, that is a perfect, heavenly match especially paired with an apple, grapes or a pear. Put a piece of this cheese in front of me with a knife and a good apple (like TJ’s Envy (!) and I am one happy camper eating that delicious salty sweet combo. Ending a dinner with this is a divine dessert.

Trader Joe’s sells Cabot cheddar for an excellent price ($6/lb) in a block. If you have never tried this cheese, you may want to give this a Try. I think you will love it (even though the kids may want something a bit tamer)? You can give them the New Zealand cheddar, also excellent, or TJ’s sliced cheddar. The adults can enjoy the Cabot Extra Sharp.

RAVE

 

TRADER JOE’S PESTO ALLA GENOVESE


TRADER GIOTTO’S (TRADER JOE’S) PESTO ALLA GENOVESE

Mentioned in an earlier post, Trader Joe’s Pesto Genovese (basil pesto) comes in glass jar which makes it a great pantry item so extremely convenient to always have on hand. You can open up a jar of this pesto and add to some pasta and bingo, a hot dinner or a side dish is on your table in under 15 minutes with little effort and for very little dough ($3-4)! What’s not to like?

Now if you have ever made pesto yourself, you know it takes a bunch of ingredients and some effort but in the end its truly worth it as the smell when you open up your blender, when the pungent aroma of fresh basil, cheese and garlic permeates your kitchen. The smell is so heavenly it may knock you off your feet.

So having said that, I won’t tell you this jar of pesto is as good as if you made your own pesto. How could it be? Still TJ’s Pesto is actually very tasty and the convenience of having it in your pantry is fantastic, for whenever you get a craving for pesto. This is a great TJ value at only $2.50! Though you can tell by the fact that is says Sunflower Oil as the first ingredient and not olive oil, they skimped a bit on the most expensive ingredients. But even so, TJ’s jarred Pesto Genovese is good and believe it or not, I prefer this one they sell to the “fresh” one TJ sells in the refrigerated section which costs a bit more. I was pretty surprised that I tried both and liked this one better!

Now you can, and should absolutely, tweak and improve your plated past with a nice splash of very good quality EVOO plus a nice sprinkle of extra freshly grated Parmigiano and / or Pecorino cheese plus freshly ground black pepper on top of your finished pasta dish.

For $2.50, this is a good buy and good value and worth keeping a jar or two in your pantry as a go-to item to always have on hand. I certainly do, its made us a dinner a few times when I “had nothing to eat” around!

Sriracha Ranch, GONE !?! Say it isn’t so, Joe!


Reported Discontinued during the Summer of Covid-19, Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing. The one and only super versatile stuff, which I just adore, well…make that adored (sigh!)

This is one of Trader Joe’s best products which I previously reviewed with a RAVE– so I find this particularly shocking! WTF, Trader Joe’s?! Just to make sure it was not just out of stock for a long time, I when to my store’s Captain to ask him to check the status. Unfortunately he only confirmed my worst fear – “Disco’ed”! (discontinued)

Other than start a campaign to bring it back (has this ever worked?) I will be stingy using the little bit left of the bottle in my fridge now. I may experiment with a DIY version. Some TJ’s RANCH DRESSING mixed with Sriracha or Green Dragon sauce. I won’t be as good but maybe better than nothing

If you are as shocked or mad, please leave your opinions about this in COMMENTS. Things like this were the reason I started this site in the first place.

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