Whether you’re cooking at home, eating out at a fancy restaurant, or picking up something from the local drive-thru, there's a decent chance that you've run into tough, rubbery, or even chewy chicken at some point. Why does this happen and what can we do avoid it?
Generally speaking, there are two ways to cook food; dry heat or moist heat. Dry heat being more conventional through baking or grilling while moist heat employs water or water-based cooking liquid through a slow cooker (Crockpot) or pressure cooker (InstantPot).
Though our freezer meals are flexible enough for dry heat, the meals have been primarily designed for slow cookers. This is so that the meats can be easily shredded and mixed with the sauce. Plus the “set it and forgot it” aspect of slow cooking is extremely convenient!
Slow cooking is great for certain cuts of meats that have a lot of connective tissue and that can be a little tougher (beef, pork, and chicken). Through the cooking process, the connective tissue turns to a gelatin allowing the meat to become easily shreddable or “fork tender.” In comparison to beef and pork, chicken breast has little connective tissue; which means the necessary cooking time isn’t as long to soften the connective tissue. In addition, chicken breast has less fat and can become dry (chewy or rubbery) if cooked for too long. Without moisture, the protein fibers in the chicken become elastic.
Included with each meal is a set of instructions to help you cook the meals. With that said, it is extremely important to understand your slow cooker as there are many variables (brand, size, age, etc.) that can influence the outcome of your meal.
Tips to avoid overcooking chicken:
1) Get to know your crockpot
If you haven’t, I recommend following our Instagram page and watching our stories as we try to frequently teach best practices for cooking our meals. In most stories, I mention that my Crockpot cooks hot so I adjust the cooking time down by 30-60 minutes depending on the meal.
It's worth taking the time to understand your slow cooker and adjust as needed. In a previous post, I give 5 Tips to Help get to know your Slow Cooker that would be worth the read.
2) Use the right Crockpot size
Aside from accidentally overcooking the meals, the most common reason we see for tough, rubbery, or overdone chicken is customers using a Crockpot that is far too big.
Each of our meals comes with a recommended slow cooker size. This is important to note as cooking in a bigger or smaller slow cooker than recommended may influence cooking results.
Compare this to baking brownies, if the recipes calls for an 8x8 inch baking pan but you only have a 9x13 inch baking pan, you’ll need to adjust the cooking time as the extra surface space will cause the brownies to cook much more quickly than instructed.
This is the same with slow cookers. If the recipe calls for a 3-quart slow cooker but is cooked in a 6-quart slow cooker, you’ll need to adjust for the extra surface space or the meal may become overcooked.
3) Experiment with cooking times
Throughout the month, I would recommend paying close attentions to cooking times and how the meals turn out. Make adjustments as needed from meal to meal and in time, you’ll have the perfect sense of how long a meal should be cooked within your slow cooker.
4) Follow our social accounts for more cooking tips and tricks
Follow us on Instagram at @beehivemeals and Facebook at facebook.com/beehivemeals to watch our stories for more tips and tricks on how to cook our meals. We are frequently showcasing different meals allowing customers to see how things turn out.