How to Tenderize Chicken for A Perfectly Even Cook (3 Expert Tips)

Do you find chicken breasts hard to cook? 

Even with a good smoker or grill, chicken breasts can turn out dry, rubbery and tough.

Don’t worry though you are not alone.

If you cook chicken breasts past 165°F or 73°c they tend to taste somewhat dry cardboard. 

But on the other hand, if you undercook chicken you will find yourself in the danger zone. 

So, how do we stay away from butchering our chicken? Can’t there be an easy-to-cook delicious tender chicken? 

Yes, there is! You need to learn how to tenderize chicken breasts like a professional cook.

Tenderized chicken marinating

Should You Tenderize Chicken Breast?

100% yes! Tenderizing your chicken breasts will give you a piece of meat that is tender, juicer, and tastier.

Another bonus to tenderizing your breasts is that they will flatten out and become even throughout the whole breast.

Having evenly sized breasts will evenly cook. No more half dry – half perfect chicken breasts!

Why is Chicken Breast Sometimes Tough?

If you have tough chicken breasts you are not alone. There is a phenomenon called ‘Woody Breast‘.

Woody Breast has had the poultry industry as well as poultry eaters stumped for years.

Woody Breast affects around 10% of chickens worldwide.

Exactly what causes the chicken to become chewy, grainy, and unpleasant. It is not known exactly what causes this phenomenon.

There are theories that the way we breed bigger chickens fast nowadays is a contributor.

What is The Best Way to Tenderize Chicken Breast?

The best way to tenderize chicken at home is to use a mallet.

Using a mallet to tenderize your chicken is the easiest way to get nice even, tender chicken. The other methods below can be used, however, I find I get the best results using a mallet.

Tenderizing Chicken Breasts At Home

Tenderizing chicken breasts is a great way to ensure that you get a delicious tender cook every time.

To tenderize chicken breasts you have a couple of different options: you can try adding some moisture by injecting the breast with a liquid, pounding, and you can also try marinating or brining them overnight.

However, when marinating or brining the thicker part of the breast can be hard for the moisture to penetrate.

Depending on what are you doing with your chicken will play a big role in how you should tenderize it and cook it.

If you are making a sandwich or a burger marinating a whole breast and cooking it whole is a bad idea.

The thick part of the chicken will bulge out and make it awkward to eat (not to mention cook).

You will also probably end up with a half overcooked half undercooked breast. 

Below are 3 different ways of tenderizing chicken breasts. These 3 cooking methods are typically what I use when cooking chicken breasts. 

1. Pounding Chicken Breasts

  1. First, decide if you want the skin on or off. If you like chicken skins, remove it. Once removed sprinkle the skins with salt and pepper and cut them into 1/2” squares. Cook them slowly in a hot pan until they are crispy. These work well as a garnish.

  2. Cover the chicken breast before you pound it. Wrap the meat in plastic wrap or a ziplock bag. This keeps all the juices in the meat. Don’t use waxed paper or foil as this can tear. A ziplock bag can be handy if you are going to brine or marinate the meat.
  3. Get your mallet and pound your chicken. The key here is to not pound it too hard, this can damage the internal structure of the chicken breast. Pound your chicken until it is an even thickness the whole way through.

  4. Unwrap and cook!

How to Pound Chicken Without a Mallet

How do you tenderize chicken breast without a mallet? Try using a pot, saucepan or skillet. Rolling pin and metal mallets can tend to tear the meat.

When pounding your meat always remember you shouldn’t hit it like a hammer just gently hit the thicker part of the breast outwards with your pan.

To use a pan, saucepan or skillet just follow the same steps as above. It can be a strange feeling to start with but you will get there.

Always remember: If you do decide to tenderize your chicken breast make sure you adjust your cook timing.

You will find it cooks much faster once you have tenderized it using one of these methods!

2. Slicing Chicken Breasts (or Butterflying)

When making sandwiches or burgers, slicing or butterflying the chicken breasts is very important. This will allow you to get a tender, even cook.

To slice a chicken breast:

  1. Place the chicken breast flat on a chopping board.
  2. Then place your hand on the top of the breast and cut with a sharp knife through the middle of the breast. The goal here is to produce two even pieces of chicken.
  3. Once you have two even pieces the best way to slice is across the width of each breast to your size & thickness preference.
  4. Enjoy! 
Tenderizing chicken without a mallet
Pots and pans perfect for tenderizing chicken breasts

Final Thoughts

No one likes a dry piece of chicken, even my boys who are like human garbage cans, gave me a look when I served up dry chicken breasts. 

They knew I could do better and so did I. 

I set off on the never-ending portal that is the internet and discovered the way to the juicy chicken breasts out there.

The above is what I learnt and it has worked for me ever since. 

Happy Smoking!


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