Knowing how to season chicken is critical to the cooking process. Whether you're looking for the best chicken breast recipe or other savory chicken main dishes, here's a guide to chicken seasonings and tips for experimenting with different seasoning combinations in chicken recipes.
What Is the Purpose of Seasoning Chicken?
Seasonings help to tenderize and flavor chicken. Although salt and pepper are essential seasonings for chicken, you can add texture and flavor to chicken dishes by combining spices, herbs, and acids (such as vinegars, alcohols, and citrus juices). Cooking chicken with fats, such as olive oil and butter, can also help it cook evenly while adding flavor at the same time.
How to Season Chicken
Use the following seasonings to tenderize and flavor chicken whether you rub, brine, baste, or marinate it. The following are the best chicken seasonings:
Acids: Lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, and other acids help to tenderize and flavor the meat. Choose an acid that will complement the flavors of the meal.
Fats: When cooking, rubbing chicken with olive oil or butter adds moisture, flavor, and helps heat transfer.
Herbs: Dried herbs add a depth of flavor to the chicken. Italian seasoning, a blend of rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, and dried parsley, complements chicken well.
Marinades: Tenderize the meat with a marinade, which will also infuse flavor into the chicken before cooking. A chicken marinade is traditionally made up of a combination of fat (such as oil), acid (such as vinegar), and seasonings (like spices, herbs, and condiments). You can also make a marinade with white or brown sugar, which will caramelize and add sweetness.
Salt: Season the chicken with sea salt, kosher salt, or flavored salts to help the chicken absorb flavors while cooking.
Spices: Garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, and cumin add flavor and savoriness to the chicken. Heat and smokiness are added to the chicken with spices such as paprika, chili powder, cayenne pepper, and Cajun seasoning.
6 Tips for Seasoning Chicken
Consider the following tips when seasoning chicken:
1. Allow marinades to sit. Allow the chicken to marinate for at least thirty minutes and up to twenty-four hours before grilling or baking it for the best flavor.
2. Take your measurements. For every pound of chicken, use one tablespoon of seasoning. Before applying the seasonings to the chicken, combine them in a small bowl.
3. Pat dry the chicken. If you're using a dry rub, pat the chicken dry with paper towels before seasoning to ensure the dry rub adheres to the meat properly. Rub olive oil or butter on the dry chicken first to help seasonings adhere.
4. Season the skin of the chicken. Rub some seasoning on top of the skin to flavor it and help it crisp up when cooking chicken with the skin on, and then underneath the skin to flavor the meat.
5. To enhance the flavor of your ground spices, toast them. Chef Wolfgang Puck offers a pro tip for getting the most out of your seasonings, a practice he employs in the kitchens of his award-winning restaurants: "If you can, toast your peppercorns a little bit in the oven to release a little bit of the oil, and they will be even more fragrant." That is something we do with all of our spices. If it's cumin or coriander seed, we toast it to bring out the flavor because the oil is released."
6. Make a seasoning mixture. Combining spices to make a premade spice blend or dry rub can help to speed up the cooking process and is a great way to experiment with different flavor combinations. Spice blends can be stored in an airtight container for later use.
9 Chicken Recipes with Seasonings
There are numerous ways to season and prepare chicken cuts, ranging from roasting a whole chicken to searing chicken thighs. Consider making one of the following chicken recipes with homemade chicken seasoning mixes:
1. Baked chicken breast: To make this easy baked chicken recipe, season boneless skinless chicken breasts with paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Serve the juicy chicken breasts in a baking dish with vegetables or mashed potatoes.
2. BBQ chicken rub: A homemade spice rub composed of salt, sugar, and spices, a BBQ rub is applied to the chicken before smoking or grilling it. Brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, black pepper, smoked paprika, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin make up this barbecue chicken rub. Serve with classic barbecue side dishes such as potato salad, coleslaw, cornbread, and mashed potatoes.
3. Chicken paillard: A boneless piece of meat that has been pounded thin or butterflied to an even thickness is referred to as paillard in French. To make tender chicken breasts, pound the thickest parts of a boneless skinless chicken breast on a cutting board with a rolling pin or meat mallet. Chef Thomas Keller's chicken paillard recipe, which uses only oil and kosher salt and requires you to sear the chicken quickly on the stovetop, makes for an easy chicken dinner.
4. Chicken souvlaki: This Greek dish of marinated meat on skewers calls for marinating chicken breasts in lemon juice, garlic, and herbs before grilling. In Greece, chicken souvlaki is typically served as a main course with rice and tzatziki. In the United States, it is frequently a pita bread sandwich, similar to a gyro or shawarma.
5. Chicken tacos: Combine ground cumin, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, chipotle chile powder, ancho chile powder, dried Mexican oregano, and onion powder to make your own taco seasoning. To boneless skinless chicken breasts, add the chicken seasoning blend. Sear the chicken on the stovetop before slicing it and serving it with warm tortillas. Top your chicken tacos with cilantro, avocado, lime wedges, and salsa.
6. Fried chicken: Seasoning is the most effective way to make flavorful fried chicken. Brining the chicken with lemons, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, peppercorns, kosher salt, and water is part of Chef Thomas Keller's fried chicken recipe. The chicken should then be dredged in a mixture of flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, kosher salt, and ground black pepper. The chicken can be fried in either oil or an air fryer.
7. Jerk chicken tacos: Jerk sauce is a smooth blend of chiles, spices, garlic, sugar, and soy sauce. Jerk chicken tacos are made with grilled, jerk-seasoned chicken wrapped in a corn tortilla. The meat is marinated, grilled until smoky and juicy, and served in warm tortillas. Simply top Jamaican jerk chicken tacos with diced radishes, onions, and pineapple. A cilantro sprinkle and a squeeze of fresh lime juice are popular finishing touches.
8. Roast chicken: In Chef Thomas Keller's roast chicken recipe, the chicken is marinated in a mixture of lemons, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, peppercorns, kosher salt, and water. The marinade could also be used to make an oven-baked chicken breast recipe.
9. Tandoori chicken: Skinless chicken breasts or thighs are marinated in yogurt and spices such as garam masala, chili powder, ginger, and cumin in this Indian grilled chicken dish. While it is traditionally roasted whole on skewers in a high-heat tandoor oven (a cylindrical clay oven heated with wood or charcoal, primarily used in Northern India), it can also be cooked in a conventional oven, rotisserie, or grill. For the best results, use a meat thermometer (or even an instant-read thermometer).