5 Key Steps to Perfectly Season and Oil Chicken

Key steps for perfectly seasoned and oiled chicken: choose quality chicken, pat dry thoroughly, select the right seasonings, season evenly, let it marinate, use high smoke point oil, preheat cooking surface, cook to perfection, and rest before serving.

Chicken fillet breast with spices and herbs at craft wooden board at black slate table. Top view.

Creating the perfect seasoned and oiled chicken starts with a blend of technique and choice ingredients. By following these key steps, you’ll ensure your poultry is flavorful, juicy, and cooked to perfection every time.

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Step 1: Choose Your Chicken Wisely

When selecting chicken, opt for quality. Look for organic, free-range chickens if possible, as they tend to have better flavor and texture. The freshness of the chicken is also crucial; fresh chicken should have a pinkish hue, and there should be no off-putting smell. If you have specific dietary preferences or are looking for a particular flavor profile, consider the different cuts of chicken available, as each cut will offer a different taste and texture when cooked.

Step 2: Pat the Chicken Dry Thoroughly

Before seasoning, it’s essential to pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Removing excess moisture ensures that the seasonings adhere properly and helps achieve a crisper skin when cooked. This step is crucial because any extra water on the surface of the chicken can cause the oil to splatter during cooking and may steam the chicken instead of searing it, leading to a less flavorful result. Southern Living says to –

  1. Brining chicken in a saltwater solution can help prevent it from drying out and becoming rubbery when grilling.
  2. The brine solution should contain water, salt, brown sugar, smashed garlic, cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, black pepper, rosemary, and thyme.
  3. The salt in the brine tenderizes the chicken so it doesn’t tighten up as much during cooking.
  4. The salt also helps the chicken better absorb and retain moisture as it cooks.
  5. After stirring to dissolve, the brine should cool completely in the fridge before adding raw chicken.
  6. Chicken should marinate in the cooled brine for 1-3 hours before grilling.
  7. Don’t overcook the brined chicken on the grill. The brine helps ensure it stays moist and tender.
  8. The brine acts as an insurance policy against overcooking, keeping chicken juicy.
  9. Smashed garlic, vinegar, herbs and spices add extra flavor to the brined chicken.
Southern Living

Step 3: Selecting the Right Seasonings

McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Chicken Seasoning, 8 Oz

The seasonings you choose will define the flavor profile of your dish. Start with the basics: salt and black pepper. Salt is a critical seasoning that enhances the chicken’s natural flavors, while pepper adds a subtle heat. From there, consider what type of cuisine you’re aiming for—herbs like rosemary and thyme for a classic roast, or spices like paprika and cumin for a more exotic touch. Always taste and adjust your seasonings as needed.

Step 4: The Art of Even Seasoning

Seasoning the chicken evenly is paramount. Sprinkle your chosen spices and herbs over the chicken from a height to distribute them uniformly. Make sure to season inside any cavities as well as under the skin where possible. Massaging the seasonings into the chicken can help to distribute the flavors throughout the meat and encourages deeper penetration of the flavors.

Step 5: Letting the Chicken Marinate

Uncooked chicken wings and marinade in a ziplock bag

Marination is not always necessary, but it can enhance the flavor and tenderness of your chicken. If time allows, let your seasoned chicken sit in the refrigerator for a few hours or even overnight. The salt in your seasoning will act as a brine, helping to keep the chicken moist during cooking. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap or place it in a sealed container to prevent it from absorbing other flavors in the fridge.

Step 6: Choosing Your Oil

The type of oil you use for cooking your chicken is important for both flavor and cooking performance. Use an oil with a high smoke point, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, or refined olive oil, to prevent burning and unwanted smoke. Each oil imparts a different flavor, so consider this when making your selection. For instance, extra virgin olive oil will add a distinct taste that complements Mediterranean dishes well.

Step 7: Oiling with Technique

After seasoning, it’s time to oil the chicken. Lightly coat the chicken with oil using a brush or your hands to ensure an even layer. This will help the skin to crisp up and prevent sticking to the cooking surface. Avoid using too much oil, as this can cause flare-ups and excess smoke when cooking, especially on a grill or in a high-heat pan.

Step 8: Preheat Your Cooking Surface

Preheating your pan, oven, or grill is vital for achieving the perfect sear and cooking the chicken evenly. For pan-searing, a hot pan will help the skin of the chicken to crisp up nicely. If you’re using an oven, preheating ensures that the chicken starts cooking immediately, sealing in the juices. The same goes for grilling; a hot grill will create those beautiful char marks and help prevent the chicken from sticking.

Step 9: Cooking to Perfection

Cooking the chicken properly is key to its final texture and juiciness. The cooking time will vary depending on the size and cut of the chicken. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken reaches the safe internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). Be mindful not to overcook, as this can lead to dry, tough meat. If you’re cooking a whole chicken, consider starting it breast-side down to protect the more delicate white meat from drying out before flipping it to crisp the skin.

Step 10: Resting for Ultimate Juiciness

Once cooked, let the chicken rest before cutting into it. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring that each bite is succulent. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and let it sit for at least 10 minutes for smaller cuts, and up to 20 minutes for a whole chicken. Patience during this final step will reward you with a more flavorful and moist chicken.

By meticulously choosing your chicken, preparing it with care, and cooking it with precision, you’ll achieve a dish that’s both delicious and satisfying. Remember these key steps next time you’re in the kitchen, and elevate your chicken game to new heights.

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