You’ve made dinner. It’s a chicken recipe you’ve cooked dozens of times. You followed the recipe to a “t,” yet the chicken is rubbery.
It’s so frustrating!
There are several causes of rubbery chicken, and a few of them may have nothing to do with how you cooked it. Perhaps the chicken is to blame.
Want to find out what causes rubbery chicken breast and how to fix rubbery chicken once it happens?
Let’s go to
Boneless skinless chicken breasts are on many tables. And for a good reason, they are convenient, easy to cook, and can be prepared in no time. But recently, there have been some issues with chicken breasts that are rubbery in texture. It’s happened to me, and it is frustrating.
Several things can cause chicken breasts to become rubbery. Some are within our control; some are outside of it. So let’s get to the bottom of it and never cook rubbery chicken again!
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What Causes Rubbery Chicken? Why Is My Chicken Breast Rubbery?
Is Rubbery Chicken Over Or Undercooked?
One of the leading causes of rubbery chicken is overcooking the meat. Chicken is best when cooked quickly with relatively high heat.
Most boneless skinless breasts aren’t the same thickness, making cooking them evenly tricky.
The best way to avoid overcooking is to make the chicken an even thickness. To do this, place the chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and hit it with a meat mallet to a consistent thickness. A rolling pin or heavy pan also works well.
Unfortunately, you cannot tell if the meat is fully cooked just by looking at it. The best way to determine this is to use a meat thermometer. The chicken is cooked once it reaches 165 degrees.
This cooking chart from the US Government lists the safe cooking temperatures for different foods.
Lack of Moisture
The next cause of rubbery chicken is lack of moisture. Dry chicken happens when we overcook it, but chicken can also dry out on its own. It’s very lean meat, and that lack of fat causes it to dry out quickly.
Moisture can escape from chicken before cooking, so keep it covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to use it and when you are marinading. Freezer bags are great at keeping the air out.
Since lack of moisture can cause dry, rubbery chicken, the best way to prevent it is to give it some more by soaking it in heavily salted water before cooking.
This process helps to break down some of the muscle fibers of the meat and tenderize them. Some of the brine is absorbed into the meat, further preventing dryness. My personal favorite is to soak the chicken in pickle juice before cooking.
It May Not Be Your Fault – Natural Causes of Rubbery Chicken
Say you have brined it, cooked it to a safe cooking temperature, and it’s still rubbery. Now we blame the chicken.
Woody Chicken Breast
Woody Chicken Breast is a condition where the muscle fibers are tight and knotted. The disease affects 5-10% of chickens in the United States. Retailers sell chickens with moderate cases of woody chicken.
White Striping in Chicken
It’s not just woody chicken breasts that may cause rubbery results. Another issue affecting chicken is called White Striping, which is precisely what the name implies.
Meat with this issue has white stripes looking similar to wood grain across the breasts running parallel to the muscle. The website, Wide Open Eats has a great picture of white striping.
White striping, a meat quality issue, degrades chicken’s taste and nutritional value, resulting in less tender meat, which doesn’t absorb marinade easily, and contains more fat.
Is Rubbery Chicken Safe To Eat?
Yes! Rubbery chicken is perfectly safe to eat. It will just have an unpleasant texture and less flavor.
How to Avoid White Striping and Woody Chicken Breast
The exact causes of this issue are unknown, but it’s thought that the efforts to create bigger chickens have caused the muscle density to increase.
A report by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), an animal welfare group, links these conditions to breeding chickens that grow too fast.
“While the specific causes of muscular disorders like [white striping] are still being researched, the vast majority of studies conducted thus far have found a correlation between fast growth, heavier weights, higher breast yield, and the development of myopathies in broilers.”
When the chickens grow too quickly, the muscle fibers become rigid, and woody chicken and white striping occur.
Both Woody Chicken Breast and White Striping are believed to be genetic issues. These issues continue because breeds that grow best are bred more often.
There are several theories on how to avoid white striped and woody chicken breast.
Let’s evaluate them.
How To Avoid White Striped And Woody Chicken Breast – Kosher Chicken
Recent studies have found that only a tiny percentage of people eat kosher meat due to religious reasons.
The production of Kosher foods follows strict religious dietary laws at specialized facilities under rabbinical supervision. The process includes heavily salting the meat to draw out the blood.
Many believe that woody breast and white striping are avoidable because the salt kills any bacteria. Kosher procedures won’t prevent woody chicken or white striping because genetics are the cause, not bacteria.
Kosher chickens are not raised any differently.
This article provides further detail about whether Kosher Foods are safer.
What about organic chicken? There are benefits to eating organic foods, but will that prevent these issues?
Organic chickens have the same problems. Buying organic won’t prevent rubbery chicken.
Natural and non-organic chickens are being bred quickly, and both types of chicken can have woody breasts or white striping.
A great way to prevent rubbery chicken is to look for chickens grown at a natural pace.
The CIWF recommends that you “look for labels that indicate the use of slower-growing or “heritage” breeds. Specifically, the Animal Welfare Approved certification label requires slower-growing breeds.” More and more companies are committing to using heritage breed chickens.
By 2024 all “Animal Welfare Certified” products will be of these breeds. If you are shopping today, look for the Certified GAP 4 rating on chickens — this means that they have already fully transitioned to the better varieties. You can read more about the certification and see label pictures here.
Chickens from Bell and Evans do not have the Animal Welfare label on them, but they have transitioned to slower-growing breeds. The Das Klassenbester breed replaced all their chickens with higher welfare and slower growth.
Regardless of which type of chicken you buy, look it over for signs of these issues before purchasing.
What to do with Dry, Rubbery Chicken? How To Fix Rubbery Chicken
So you have learned all of this info, and you think I have dry, rubbery chicken on my hands now! What do I do?
Make A Pan Sauce
Unfortunately, you cannot change the texture of the chicken, nor can you inject moisture back into it. The best option is to make a quick pan sauce to add some moisture and flavor to the chicken.
A pan sauce takes the flavor from the bits of chicken in the pan. All you need is a liquid to draw it out. It doesn’t need to be fancy, either.
Place some liquid (water, wine, broth) in the hot pan over med-high heat, scrape up the pan’s bits, and add some butter. Serious Eats has a great tutorial on how to make a pan sauce. Check out our Chicken Pan Sauce Pinterest Board for even more ideas.
Rubbery Chicken In Soup
Never one to waste food, you can put the rubbery chicken in almost any soup. The broth will give it moisture, and the texture won’t be as noticeable.
What Do You Think?
So there you have it, all about rubbery chicken!
You can add all of those chicken dinners to back your meal plans. Comment below and let me know if you have experienced any issues and how you fixed them.
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Julie Robinson-Tingue says
This was incredibly helpful advice! Thank you for publishing this blog – I’ll definitely be spreading the word!
Julie M says
Thank you for all the good information here!
Regretfully for me, even though my chicken breast filets were cooked in my slow cooker with all the makin’s for white bean chicken chili,, which includes a whole lot of liquid, they still came out rubbery. In this instance, adding liquid didn’t fix the problem for me.
The only thing I know to do at this point is cut up the filets into bite-sized pieces, which essentially cuts across the grain. That makes the bite a little more palatable. However, I still found myself eating all the chicken pieces out of my bowl so I could enjoy the rest of the meal without them.
I’ll be watching for the Animal Welfare Approved certification labels from now on, though!
First of all, white bean chicken chili is my son’s favorite meal!
It’s such a bummer when the meat is rubbery! You can also look for the chicken tenderloins. They have the same taste and texture without the white striping and woody breast issues. Good luck.
Jimena Villafuerte says
Also when you cook frozen chicken into a soup instead of de freezing before, the result will be a tasteless rubbery chicken.