Baking chicken at home is a simple way to prepare a delicious healthy meal for you and your family. However, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether or not you should cover chicken while it’s in the oven.
You do not have to cover chicken when baking to achieve a moister result, nor will it make it cook faster. However, some cuts, like chicken breasts, are more prone to dry out and may do better with aluminum foil or parchment. Ultimately, the correct temperature and time are the most critical factors.
The rest of the article will cover some common questions people have when it comes to making tender, delicious chicken.
When Should You Cover Your Chicken?
I mentioned that coverage in the oven is unnecessary for a tasty meal. Still, the ultimate choice comes down to your preferences. If you want to be more sophisticated with your chicken and create different flavors and textures, foil coverage can help you.
Really it comes down to “do you like moister or crispier?”
As a rule of thumb, covering chicken will help maintain moisture. However, that also means that skin won’t become crispy. So if you like the contrast between tender meat and crunchy skin, you should avoid using any coverage while baking.
It might be helpful to highlight that covering chicken is not only about wrapping it in aluminum foil. It might also mean placing a lid on the shallow or adding a parchment.
Placing a lid on your skillet or shallow keeps in the steam and increases moisture. If you are baking your chicken to get a stew-like texture, covering it is your best strategy. However, such a cooking method is best to follow on the stove.
For stewed chicken, you need to cover the meat with liquid and bring the whole pot to a boil. There should be a lid on the entire time. Once boiling, reduce the heat and let the liquid simmer. Slide the cover to the side to allow the liquid to reduce while keeping the steam inside.
Do Not Cover Breaded Chicken
The chicken breast is the part that tends to dry more. Especially when skinless and boneless. If you decide to bread it, do not cover it. However, if you want to achieve tenderness, you might want to use parchment will help you retain the moisture. However, aluminum foil has a downside: the skin will be soggy and not crunchy.
Baking is about surrounding food with dry heat. If you notice the meat getting brown too fast, a coverage will allow the internal parts to cook without burning.
Does Covering Chicken Mean It Will Cook Faster?
While cooking or baking, being in a hurry might not give you the best results. After all, things turn out better when you are calm and follow the guidelines. While you might want to consider raising the temperature of your oven for quicker preparation, you’ll notice the meat will dry out fast.
Wrapping your chicken in aluminum foil will not make it cook faster. While aluminum coverage reduces the probability that your meat will dry out in the oven, it is not the optimal way to achieve the best result. If you use the right time and temperature, you don’t have to cover your chicken.
This is especially when baking thighs or other juicy parts of the bird.
One of the best things about baking chicken is that it’s hands-free until it comes the time to check the temperature. Then, you only need to add some spices and sprinkle the meat with olive oil or butter.
That’s all you need to do.
So, why try to make things more complicated than that? No flipping or turning is required. Here, the only thing you have to pay attention to is the temperature and time.
Is Aluminum of Any Use When Baking Chicken?
Do not just assume coverage is of no use when baking chicken.
You don’t need to cover your chicken while in the oven, but foil is of good use once the meat is ready. When the meat reaches the “safe” internal temperature, you should turn off the oven. At this stage, cover the bird with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.
This suggestion is something not everybody follows but is a passage that will make the difference. Indeed, you’ll notice a considerable increase in the moisture as the foil will retain all juices and let them redistribute throughout the meat after baking.
Preventing Dryness in Baked Chicken
The question cover vs. uncover has to do with the fact that we all like tender chicken. One of the best tips to maintain its natural tenderness even before baking your meat is to brine it.
All you have to do is place the chicken in a mixture of water and a couple of tablespoons of salts and let it soak for half an hour. You may even want to add some spices and herbs. This technique is supposed to boost the meat’s natural flavor and moisture.
Also, before cooking, you should bring the meat to room temperature. That means that you might have to leave it on the counter for about 30 minutes if coming from the fridge. The same applies to thawed meat. For frozen chicken, the options are two. You can directly toss it in the oven (but it might dry out) or let it reach room temperature naturally, without using the microwave.
What Can I Do if the Chicken I Baked Is Too Dry?
It’s common to overcook chicken meat despite being a relatively simple thing to cook correctly. A couple of minutes can make the difference. If you happen to bake the chicken for too long, don’t despair.
The good news is that you can solve the issue by topping it with some liquid when serving. Home-made pesto sauce, hot sauce, salsa, or even a marinade work wonderfully.
If you do not like the idea of adding salsa, you might want to consider some melted cheese on top of the chicken to give the impression of a moister piece of meat. Aside from making the meat more tender, adding salsa or cheese is a great way to make the chicken more flavorful and unique.
To avoid dryness being an issue in the future, you can consider seasoning your chicken with some sauces before baking it. For instance, adding balsamic vinegar and red wine to your pepper, salt, and olive oil combination will create a unique flavor and build up the moisture. Also, you can make your chicken glazed or even in lemon sauce.
4 Tips for Moist Baked Chicken
Foil does play a role in chicken preparation. However, it is not the only advice we would give you to have moist baked chicken in the oven. As mentioned, it will not make the skin crispy.
Here are 4 tips to help you achieve the moistest baked chicken possible:
- In general, bone pieces are juicier. Still, making skinless and boneless breasts tender and delicious is possible. Lower temperatures are best than higher ones for moisture and flavor. It is best to bake the chicken for longer at a low temperature than overcook it at high temperatures.
- Favor olive oil over butter if you can. Olive oil will maintain the natural moistness of the meat and add extra flavor while enhancing the chicken’s natural taste.
- As a rule of thumb, when selecting a baking time, check the thickness of your meat. Larger pieces require more time to cook. If you are running short on time, you may want to consider cutting larger pieces in half to make them less thick and thus reduce cooking times.
- For increased flavor, you can roast chicken on a bed of vegetables. This way, the juices of the meat will drip to the veggies and provide them with a unique and delicious taste. However, you’ll need to pick vegetables that will stand up to the chicken’s long cooking time requirements. Root vegetables as potatoes or squash do very well, but so do celery and onion (cut into large pieces).
How to Bake Tender Chicken
No one likes overcooked chicken. Those dry pieces of meat are just not pleasant to eat. So after brining, you should pay attention to how you bake your chicken.
As you would expect, the key to perfectly cooked juicy chicken lies in the temperature and baking time. However, those two factors depend on the condition of the meat you are going to cook. For example, not everyone knows fresh chicken requires different baking settings than thawed meat. Also, if you bake thighs, breasts, or drumsticks, the preparation will not be the same as cooking a whole bird.
Brush chicken pieces with oil, salt, pepper, and season to add more flavor and maintain juiciness. If you like that, you might even want to sprinkle some dried herbs. Thyme, rosemary, and oregano are some of the best spices, but it all depends on your personal preferences.
In general, you should warm the oven to 375 °F. But should you cover the chicken, or should you leave it just like that?
If you are baking drumsticks and thighs, leave it uncovered, but make sure you sprinkle enough oil and seasoning. Let chicken pieces without any coverage in the oven for about 45 to 55 minutes. If you have a thermometer, a more precise way to check the meat is to test its internal temperature.
- Boneless thighs and chicken breast with bones are ready at 170 °F, while bone-in drumsticks and thighs are good to go at 175 °F.
- Skinless and boneless breasts are perfect at 165 °F.
The thermometer can become your best friend in preventing overcooking, as long as you use it wisely. Don’t open the oven every ten minutes. Instead, be loyal to the 45 to 55 minutes guideline and use the thermometer for the final say.
Baking A Whole Chicken
As mentioned, baking a whole chicken is a bit different than dealing with chicken pieces. Don’t worry about it: it’s no rocket science. It is one of the most delicious dishes you can bring to your table when done correctly.
When dealing with a whole, the first thing you need to do is remove the internal organs, if present. Next, preheat your oven to 375 °F. Then, place the chicken with the best up in your shallow and brush with olive oil, seasoning, and add salt and pepper.
The choice of spices and herbs also applies here. If you like them, sprinkle them over the meat. Remember to coat the chicken without leaving hidden spots. Add oil underneath the wings, between the thighs, and even in the back to increase flavor. Olive oil will also contribute to making the skin even crispier.
Depending on the size of the chicken, the baking times will differ. In general, meat weighing between 2 and a half and 3 pounds roasts in about one hour. Between 3 and a half and 4 pounds, a whole bird will probably require 1 hour and 20 minutes. While up to 5 pounds, you might have to wait 2 hours.
It might sound complex, but it isn’t. Also, there are a couple of clues that will help you understand when the chicken is ready.
For instance, when the meat is ready and not overcooked, the chicken is no longer pink, its juices are clear, and the drumsticks move easily in their sockets.
Again, one of the best ways to check readiness and avoid overcooking (or undercooking) is to use your friend the thermometer. Just insert it into the thickest part of the meat without having it touch the bone. When the inside temperature is 175 °F, you should take the chicken from the oven.
Storing Baked Chicken
Chicken makes for a great meal, and freshly baked meat can be irresistible. So if you have some leftovers, don’t worry. You can refrigerate the chicken for a couple of days.
You can add cold chicken to salads, sandwiches, or even pasta if you like it that way. Place your cooked meat in an airtight container or a zip-lock bag. You are looking to reduce exposure to air to the minimum for optimal storage.
You can also, of course, freeze cooked chicken. The best way to do it is to chop or shred the meat and place it in an airtight container for up to 4 months. Then, to simplify the thawing process, freeze the chicken in separate bags for individual portions so that you don’t have to heat the entire container of leftovers.
I hope this article has been helpful. Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss When To Brine Chicken (And When Not To).
Anne James has a wealth of expertise in a wide array of interests, including quilting, cooking, gardening, camping, and making jelly.
She has a professional canning business and has been featured in the local newspaper, and has been her family canner for decades. Anyone growing up in the South knows that there is always a person in the family who has knowledge of the “old ways,” and this is exactly what Anne is.
With over 55 years of experience in these endeavors, she brings a level of hands-on knowledge that is hard to surpass.
Lovingly known as “Jelly Grandma” by her grandkids, Anne hopes your visit here has been a sweet one.