You’ve made dinner. It’s a chicken recipe you’ve cooked dozens of times. You followed the recipe to a “t,” and 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. 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!
Jump Ahead To
What Causes Rubbery Chicken?
One of the leading causes of rubbery chicken is overcooking the meat. Chicken is to be cooked quickly with relatively high heat. Since most boneless skinless breasts aren’t the same thickness, it isn’t easy to cook them evenly.
The best way to avoid overcooking is to make the chicken the same thickness all around. To do this, you place the chicken breast between two pieces of plastic wrap and hit it with a meat mallet to an even thickness. A rolling pin or heavy pan can undoubtedly substitute in a pinch.
From there, you can cook the chicken as the recipe suggests. 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. Once the chicken reaches 165 degrees, it is fully cooked. This cooking chart from the US Gover
Lack of Moisture
The next cause of rubbery chicken is a lack of moisture. Dry chicken happens when we overcook it, yes, but chicken can undoubtedly dry out on its own. Chicken is very lean, and that lack of fat can cause it to be dry.
Moisture can escape from chicken at any time, so it’s best to keep it covered with plastic wrap until you are ready to cook as well as when you are marinading it. I like to use a large plastic bag for this.
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!
Say you have brined it, cooked it to 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. Retailers still sell chickens with moderate cases of woody chicken despite various inspections. The disease affects 5-10% of chickens in the United States.
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. White stripes looking similar to wood grain seen across chicken 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 the taste and nutritional value of chicken, resulting in less tender meat, doesn’t absorb marinade easily, and contains more fat.
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 more robust 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.”
So to grow bigger, faster chickens, these issues have come about. Both Woody Chicken Breast and White Striping are believed to be genetic issues. The breeds of chickens that grow the best are selected to be bred more often. These quick-growing, giant chickens are developing woody breasts and white striping. The breeds the grow the fastest are selected to breed the mostSo to grow bigger, faster chickens; these issues have come about. Both Woody Chicken Breast and White Striping are believed to be genetic issues. The breeds of chickens that grow the best are selected to be bred more often. These quick-growing, giant chickens are developing woody breasts and white striping.
There are several theories on how to avoid white striped and woody chicken breast.
Let’s evaluate them.
Recent studies have found that only a small 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 present. Kosher procedures won’t prevent woody chicken or white striping because they are caused by genetics, not bacteria.
This article provides further detail about whether Kosher Foods are safer.
What about organic chicken? There are certainly benefits to eating organic foods, but will that prevent these issues?
Organic chickens have the same issues. Natural and non-organic chickens are being bred quickly, and both types of chicken can have woody breasts or white striping.
The CIWF recommends that you “be sure to look for labels that clearly 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 products that are “Animal Welfare Certified” 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
Regardless of which type of chicken you buy, look it over for any signs of these issues before purchasing.
So you have learned all of this info, and you think I have dry, rubbery chicken on my hands now! What do I do?
What to do with Dry, Rubbery Chicken?
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. Some water and a few pats of butter, and there you go. Place some liquid (water, wine, broth) in the hot pan over med-high heat, scrape up the pan’s bits, and then 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.
So there you have it, all about rubbery chicken!
Now 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.