You may have heard that acidic marinades, such as soy sauce and vinegar, can tenderize chicken and other meats. The truth is that these marinades add flavor but do little to tenderize chicken. Enzymatic marinades, including pineapple juice or kiwi puree, can tenderize the meat too much, creating a mushy mess. For truly tender, fool-proof results, marinate chicken in milk or other dairy products.
The calcium in milk is thought to activate enzymes in meat, which breaks down proteins and creates tender results, according to Fine Cooking. This action is similar to what happens during the aging process of beef. Even a milk marinade can't compensate for a poor-quality chicken, though, so start with a fresh, plump chicken and avoid overcooking it for best results.
To get the most from your milk marinade, place the chicken in a baking pan and pour just enough milk over it to mostly cover it. The ratio should be about 1/3 cup milk for every pound of chicken. Refrigerate the prepared chicken for at least two hours, or up to 24 hours. Once you're done marinating the meat, drain off the milk and pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Grill, bake or fry it. Chicken cooks quickly, depending on the cut. Use a meat thermometer to gauge its doneness and remove it from heat when the thermometer reads 165 degrees. Refrigerate any leftover chicken promptly and use it within three days.
Although milk tenderizes chicken, it doesn't do much to flavor it. Here's where you can get creative. Salt the chicken before you marinate it and add herbs of your liking to the milk marinade. Try rosemary, thyme, pepper, garlic, paprika, chicken seasoning or lemon-pepper. You can even add seasoning packets, such as ranch dressing seasoning.
Milk isn't the only dairy product that works to tenderize meat. Yogurt is a staple of Indian cooking, while the secret behind great Southern fried chicken is a buttermilk marinade. Both yield tender and tangy results. Regardless of which dairy product you use, opt for the freshest you can find and keep the chicken refrigerated until you're ready to cook it.
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