Meat that is dry or bland can be really disappointing. Why? because most of us spend more money on meat than any other type of food–vegans/vegetarians excluded, of course. And it’s usually the most expensive food that we purchase.
Also, it’s easy to overcook or under-seasoned meat. There are so many different recipes floating on the internet on how to cook chicken, beef, and fish, that it can be hard to pin down the basics to make these meats moist and flavorful. Which is what we’ve done with this guide.
Below is a comprehensive guide (based on tips from professional chefs) that will give you the tips that you need for cooking your meat to perfection. So if you struggle with baking chicken or cooking a juicy steak or tasty fish, look no further. And don’t forget to check out Part 1 of this cooking guide, if you haven’t already!
So continue reading to learn about the best methods to cook steak, chicken and fish.
Doesn’t matter if you’re grilling, frying, or baking--we’ve got you covered!
Tip for Cooking Tender Juicy Steak Cuts
Who doesn’t love a good steak? But what exactly makes a steak taste good? It’s simple, moisture, texture, and flavor. The key to making a good steak is to know how to cook it so that it retains its moisture and doesn’t dry out before it’s completely cooked.
Dry, tough steak is not fun to eat. So whether you’re pan-frying, broiling, or grilling your steak, here are a few tips to help you get the best results of that your steak is flavorful, juicy, and tender.
If you’re cooking flank, round, chuck, or hanger steaks, tenderizing is a must. These cuts are usually more fibrous and tenderizing them will definitely help make them easier to gobble down.
If you have New York strips, ribeye, porterhouse come, or filet mignon, you generally won’t need to tenderize these cuts, just add some salt for flavor. If you don’t have a meat tenderizer, you can simply sprinkle coarse salt over the top of your steak and let it sit for about 15 to 20 minutes.
You can also use a mallet, hammer, or dough roller to pound the steak to break up the fibrous tissue. And lastly, you can always tenderize the meat by letting the cuts sit in an acidic marinade (such as lime juice, apple cider vinegar, or a buttermilk and white vinegar mix) for about 30-60 minutes.
Note: Don’t let the steak sit in an acidic marinade over 24 hours or it may cook.
Best Steak Pan-Frying Tips
One of the quickest ways to cook your steak is to pan-fry it on the stovetop. This method can take anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes, depending on how well-done you prefer your steak and the type of cut you have. If you’re new to cooking steaks, it’s helpful to use a food thermometer to measure the steak’s internal temperature.
Here are the average cooking times for each type of doneness:
- Rare steak – Cooks in about 5 to 6 minutes
- Medium-rare steak – Cooks in about 6 to 8 minutes
- Medium-well done steak – Cooks in about 7 to 10 minutes
- Well-done steak – Cooks in anywhere from 8-12 minutes
1. Prepare the steak
After taking your steak out of the refrigerator, let it sit on the counter for about 15 to 20 minutes so that it reaches room temperature. During this time, add a generous amount of coarse salt to the top of the steak. This will allow the steak to tenderize, especially if it’s a thicker cut of half an inch or more.
Before placing the steak on the stove, be sure to rinse off the salt and pat it dry. Next, add any additional seasonings. If you’re new to seasoning steak, it’s always best to go with a solid steak seasoning such as McCormick’s Grill mates or Webber’s steak seasoning.
Don’t be afraid to salt the steak. Remember that salt brings out the flavor in the meat, and you won’t be able to salt the interior of the meat, so you want the exterior to be thinly covered with it.
2. Always preheat the skillet
You can’t go wrong with a good old cast iron skillet for cooking your steak. Not only does the skillet help the steak develop a crispy brown crust, but it also helps it to cook evenly and fairly quickly. Before placing a steak on the stove, preheat the pan for about 5 minutes at a medium-high setting.
Once you place the steak in the skillet, let each side sear for about 1 minute minutes until you see a golden-brown crust. Use your tongs to turn the steak so that each side is seared.
3. Add a little butter
You can add butter to the pan before adding the steak or after it’s cooked. Adding butter beforehand helps to add flavor to the pan and helps to promote a good crispy sear. You may also want to add other aromatics including rosemary, garlic, or onions. Use half a tablespoon of butter or oil.
4. Let the meat rest before serving
You may have read this a hundred times before, but it’s always best to let your cooked meat sit for about 10 minutes before serving it. Why? Because this allows all of the juice is to stay retained inside of the meat, adding a more robust flavor.
Your tender, juicy steak will go perfectly with baked potatoes, roasted broccolini or asparagus, a house salad, cauliflower and cheese bake, couscous, or sweet potatoes fries.
Best Steak Grilling Tips
Grilling a steak may take a bit of practice. The most important thing that you want to remember when grilling a steak, especially if it’s thick, is that a good marinade is the key to preventing your steak from drying out.
So if you’re worried about grilling a steak that has the consistency of cardboard, read on to learn how to prevent this from happening.
1. Always salt your steak early
Some people believe that salting the steak too thoroughly can try out the moisture and cause it to dry out prematurely before you grill it. This isn’t true. While adding salt can draw some moisture from the steak, applying it 20 to 30 minutes beforehand is actually a good thing.
This will minimize the amount of moisture that’s drawn out. It’ll help it tenderize the steak and allow the proteins and sugar in the meat to mix with the salt to make the steak juicier as it heats on the grill.
2. Watch your grilling time
Make sure that your grill is nice and hot before tossing the steaks on it. The time it takes to cook the steak will depend on your preferred level of doneness. Here are the average grilling times for each:
- Medium-rare steak – Cooks in about 4 to 5 minutes (internal temp of 135 F)
- Medium-well done steak – Cooks in about 5 to 8 minutes (internal temp of 150 F)
- Well-done steak – Cooks in anywhere from 8-12 minutes (internal temp of 160 F)
3. Let the steak char a bit
When placing your steaks on the grill, be sure to let them get golden brown and likely charred on one side before flipping them over to the other side. This will take anywhere from three to five minutes. Remember that searing helps to keep moisture and juices inside of the steak.
So if you’re looking for a steak that is full of aroma and tasty flavors, be sure to let both sides sear until they are dark brown. This way the steak will turn out juicier and tastier.
And of course, after you take the steaks off the grill, be sure to let them sit for about 7 to 10 minutes (and leave them in the foil if they’re wrapped up) before cutting or serving them.
Best Steak Broiling Tips
Broiling is another quick and easy way to cook a nice juicy steak. The biggest thing to watch with broiling is the cooking time. Because while the method is fairly quick, you can easily burn your steak if you’re not careful.
If you’re not used to using the broiler on your oven, don’t fret. Below we have a few tips to help you broil the perfect steak as a broiling newbie.
1. Pre-heat and prepare steak cuts
The preparation process is pretty much the same for broiling steak as it is for pan-frying and grilling. Make sure that your steak cut is at room temperature, properly seasoned, and tender before you toss it in the broiler.
Also, be sure to preheat your broiler ahead of time. The average temperature for a 3/4 to 1 1/2-inch steak cut is about 450 to 550 degrees Fahrenheit. You can place the steak in a boiling pan or simply tossed it in a cast-iron skillet.
Be sure to coat the skillet or pan lightly with oil or butter. This will help give you a nice juicy crust.
2. Check the broiling time
Note that you want to start your timer from the exact moment that you slide the steak inside of the broiler. Use your phone, the timer on the stove, or a portable timer to keep track of your cooking time, as you don’t want the state to overcook–which is very easy to do.
Set your timer for about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on how done you want the steak. You’ll want to flip the steak halfway between the cooking time, so if you want a medium-rare piece, this will be about three minutes into the cooking time.
For a well-done piece, this will be about five minutes into the cooking time. It’s always best to use an instant-read thermometer when broiling a steak for the first time, as the look of the steak can be deceiving.
You may find that the surface of the steak is brown and crispy, but the interior it’s still completely red. So just make sure that you keep an eye on the steak, regardless of the recipe you’re following.
Tips to Cook Awesome Chicken
With each chicken cooking method comes a common set of rules that can help you ensure that your chicken is moist, well done, and flavorful. So if you struggled in the past with cooking chicken that you actually like to eat, this section is just for you.
Best Tips for Fried Chicken
Frying is probably the most commonly used method (baking is a close second). To master frying you’ll need to learn how to create the perfect crispy crust, all while ensuring that the inside of the chicken is juicy, tender, and done. Here are tips to help you out with this.
1. Soak the chicken in a brine
Many people are familiar with soaking only ducks in brine (for Thanksgiving), but soaking whole chicken or cut-up pieces. The salt brine can help to break down the acids and the enzymes in the chicken, which in turn will make it is super tender.
So before you prepare your chicken, try soaking it in a good brine (kosher salt is best) anywhere from 12 to 24 hours (more than 24 hours will likely make the chicken salty). Afterward, prepare your chicken as normal.
2. Give it a buttermilk soak
You can also soak your chicken in buttermilk (a popular soak for cornish hens) for increased tenderness. The buttermilk works similarly to the brine and breaking down the proteins in the chicken to make it as tender as possible.
You’ll want to soak the chicken anywhere from 12 to 24 hours and you can also add your seasonings such as garlic, onions, and paprika to the buttermilk. Afterward, don’t rinse the chicken, simply drain it and then dip it in your flour mix.
3. Double dredge for a good thick crust
Dredging is the process of coating meat or other foods in flour. And when it comes to fried chicken, the crust is everything. If you want to make your crust extra crispy, consider double-dredging all of your cuts. To do this, crack anywhere from one to three eggs, depending on how many pounds of chicken you’re cooking.
After seasoning the chicken, dip it in the flour, then into a bowl of battered eggs, and then back in the flour once again. This process will ensure that the last coating of flour stays on the chicken, which makes for a super crispy and thick crust.
And if you want a crust that is extra crispy, preheat the oven to 250° while the chicken is cooking. And once you put all the pieces, place them on a cooling rack inside of the oven instead of paper towels.
4. Use appropriate cooking oils
Another thing that you do want to consider is the cooking oil that you’re using. When frying meat, always avoid oils that have a low smoke point. It’s best to cook chicken in a neutral-tasting oil that has a high smoke point (400 degrees Fahrenheit and higher).
The best oil to use for frying chicken or vegetable, canola, or peanut oil.
5. Never overcrowd the frying pan
Another thing that you’ll want to avoid is overcrowding your frying pan. Doing so can cause the temperature of the cooking oil to lower, which will take the chicken longer to cook–which will make it greasy.
It’s a good idea to let your chicken sit on the counter for about 20 to 30 minutes so that it reaches room temperature before you fry it. You don’t want the chicken pieces sticking to each other, which can cause the crust to peel off when you remove them. So make sure that each piece of chicken has its own space within the pan.
Best Chicken Grilling Tips
And then we have grilled chicken, which is an absolute delight if you’re planning a barbecue or simply love its texture and charred flavor. The biggest hurdle with grilling chicken is keeping it moist.
It’s super easy to overcook chicken when you’re grilling it, but if you keep reading you’ll learn how you can avoid this and ensure that your chicken is plump and bursting with flavor.
Note: When grilling chicken, it’s best to go with cuts that have skin and bones, such as thighs and skin-on breasts. When the skin and bones are left on the chicken, it helps to insulate the pieces from overcooking, ensuring that the moisture stays inside of the meat.
1. Always preheat your grill
Setting your grill to the right temperature is crucial when it comes to drilling any meat. For chicken, this temperature can be anywhere between 350 degrees and 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Test the grill by holding your hand about 6 inches from the top to enure that it is ready to go before applying your chicken.
Do this for the top left and right, bottom left and right, and center of the grill. This will help you determine if there are any cool zones on the grill where chicken may take longer to cook.
Make a mental note of these places so that you can let the chicken cook longer in these areas.
2. Always use a good marinade or brine beforehand
If you’re cooking chicken breast, drums, or wings, it’s helpful to first soak the pieces in a good brine or marinade for about 12 to 24 hours ahead of time. These pieces tend to dry out the easiest.
A good combination of herbs and spices can bring out the best flavors in the chicken. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different dried or fresh herbs in the seasoning. Here are a few that go wonderfully with chicken:
3. Be sure to cook the chicken skin-down at first
If you prefer your grilled chicken to have those beloved grill marks, be sure to grill the skin side of the chicken first. And you’ll need to grill it down for a longer amount of time than you may think. Anywhere from 20 to 25 minutes may be necessary.
It takes about 30 minutes to cook chicken on the grill, and you’ll want it to be on the skin side down for the majority of this cooking time just about 20 to 25 minutes. After you’ve cooked the skin side, flip the chicken to the other side to finish it off.
4. Make sure it’s done
It’s common for people to overcook chicken due to concerns over Salmonella poisoning and other potential health issues. So to make this easier you can simply use a food thermometer to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked before you remove it from the grill.
The interior temperature of the chicken should be at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit before you remove it from the grill. After removing it, let it rest for about five to ten minutes to cool down. This will allow the juices to simmer and will result and pieces that are moister.
If you don’t have a food thermometer, you can simply cut a small incision in the middle of the biggest chicken piece to check for any pink or red areas. Also, note the color of the chicken juice all of the juices should be clear and there should be no hint of pink juices.
Best Baked Chicken Tips
And now we have baked chicken, which can be a challenge for both inexperienced and seasoned cooks. There are so many ways to bake chicken, and it’s helpful to experiment with different recipes and techniques so that you can learn which flavor combinations work best.
Note: If you prefer your baked chicken to have a crispy crust, try baking it anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes uncovered. Covering the chicken while it’s in the oven causes the skin to appear boiled (soggy and white) instead of baked.
1. Check your temperature
Many chefs will tell you that cooking baked chicken at a temperature between 375 and 450 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. With this method, you’re able to bake the chicken at a higher temperature and a smaller amount of time–which prevents it from drying out.
If you’re new to baking chicken, you may want to experiment with this a bit as every oven is different, and some may take longer than others (and thicker cuts such as breasts and thighs will take longer to cook).
2. Don’t be afraid of over seasoning
Yes, it’s true that too much of anything isn’t good. But the problem that most new “home chefs” run into when baking chicken is under-seasoning the chicken. But unless you’re having a field day with the salt, you likely won’t do this.
Don’t be afraid to add a good amount of salt, pepper, and other flavors so that you can get the robust chicken flavoring that you want. It’s nothing wrong with adding additional flavor while the chicken is cooking–especially if you’re cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts.
These cuts are less forgiving when it comes to under-seasoning. You can also consider an all-purpose rub or salt-free flavor enhancer such as Mrs. Dash.
If you’re cooking a large amount of chicken and are worried about under-seasoning, considered simply marinating the chicken in a brine for 12 to 24 hours beforehand. You can flavor the brine with other seasonings including sugar, herbs, peppercorn, onion, and garlic.
3. Coat the chicken in fat
Before tossing the chicken in the oven, moisten it with cooking oil that has a high smoke point. Consider canola, avocado, ghee, butter (works great though it has a low smoke point), vegetable, or sunflower oil.
The oil will not only keep the chicken from smoking, but it’ll also add a bunch of succulent flavor to the skin of the chicken.
4. Bake it for the appropriate amount of time
Here is another area where chicken baking can get a bit tricky. The baking time will vary depending on the type of chicken cuts that you’re working with.
Here are a few suggested bake times to go by according to cuts:
- Breasts (boneless/skinless): 20–25 minutes
- Chicken Thighs (with bone): 35–45 minutes
- Drumsticks: 30–40 minutes
- Tenders: 15–20 minutes
- Whole Chicken: 1–1.5 hours (depending on size)
The size of the chicken cut will also determine how long the chicken will need to cook. After baking your chicken, it’s best to place it on a piece of foil and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes. This allows the meat to soak up all of the juices so that it’s nice and moist before serving.
5. Don’t get rid of the chicken drippings
The fat drippings from baked chicken are packed full of flavor. You can use these tasty drip pans to make gravy, roux, broth, and soup, or redistribute them back onto the meat to add additional moisture and flavor.
Best Types of Fish To Grill
You can grill any type of fish. However, there are a few that go great on the grill due to their texture, flavor, and fat content.
Mahi-mahi is a good (and widely popular) fish to grill. When choosing the best piece to grill, try to find large or thick pieces that have a bit of weight to them. Otherwise, it could get too flaky and slip through the barbecue grates.
The Hawaiian favorite Mahi-mahi, a mild and sweet white fish, is easy to grill and stays firm on the barbecue. It takes very little time to grill, but be careful not to overcook it. Try making mahi-mahi kabobs–they’re guaranteed to make you feel like you’re on a tropical vacation.
Tuna is a great choice for barbecue because it’s meaty and hearty. Grab some tuna fillets, steaks, and them on the grill for a fun Saturday night. A bit of mayonnaise, eggs, and bread crumbs to give the tuna a bit of moisture.
A meaty and fatty fish, salmon is one of the best types of fish to eat barbecue. It’s mild-flavored and works well with marinades–making it great for grilling and pan-searing. Try adding cedar plank wood or flavor to give it a little extra smokiness.
People love grilling tilapia because it’s sturdy, inexpensive, light, and goes well with almost any flavor or marinade. Try combining it with a charred tomato salsa, mango lime dip, or barbecue marinade for an awesome Sunday night meal!
Best Tips for Baking Fish
Who doesn’t love baked fish? Try pairing baked fish with fries, chips, or a side of mac and cheese or coleslaw. Let’s look at a few fish types that work well for frying.
Halibut fillets are a popular dinner choice. Baking is a great way to cook this tasty white fish such as halibut because it will come out of your oven super-moist and flaky. Try adding fresh grated parmesan and garlic to this for the perfect evening meal on Tuesday night.
Snapper also makes for a tasty baked fish. You can make your whole dinner quickly by stuffing the snapper with seasoned vegetables and spices and tossing it in the oven. Wrap it in foil and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes at 450 degrees.
Tilapia is low-fat and versatile. There are so many options when it comes time to baking tilapia. There are many easy recipes that you can use, and note that tilapia fillets will cook quickly and are less dense than salmon, snapper, and halibut cuts.
So you want to reduce the cooking time and length when using these cuts, as not to overcook them– which can make the fish stringy and dry.
Steps to Baking Tasty Fish
New to baking fish. Here are a few easy steps to get it done right.
1. Sear the fish first
The same technique used to sear fish can be used for baking it in the oven. The fish should be placed in the hot pan on the fleshy side. Let it sear for about 30-45 seconds until it’s brown. Turn the fish and sear it until golden on all sides. Then bake the fish in the oven until it is opaque and firm.
2. Lightly flour the fish
Fish is known to stick, especially if it still has the skin attached. To prevent fish from sticking to the pan, dust the fish with a thin layer of flour before tossing it in the oven to bake it.
3. Bake it at the right temperature
It’s important to bake your fish at the right temperature, temperatures that are too low will cause the fish crust to be soggy, and temperatures too high can cause it to burn quickly, leaving it dry and stringy. Most chefs recommend baking fish anywhere between 350-450 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Turn it once
Fish shouldn’t be handled too much while baking. Fish that are frequently turned upside down will eventually break apart–which is not good. A fish fillet should only be turned once. A light brown color around its edges is another sign it is ready for flipping.
Best Way to Deep Fry Fish
Wanna deep fry your fishh? Check out these time-proven steps to get it done right!
1. Maintain the oil temperature
It is important to maintain the oil temperature. The oil temperature for fish should be between 350 and 375 degrees (same goes for most seafood because it’s lense dense than meat). Thicker, smaller pieces should be cooked at 375 degrees, while thicker pieces should be cooked at 350 degrees.
2. Don’t crowd the pan
Remember that the oil temperature will drop when you add food to the fryer. You can work in small batches, if necessary. Pre-heat the oven to 300°F and place a metal cookie sheet in the oven. Once all of the fish has been fried, place it on the cookie sheets and heat in the oven for about 2 to 3 minutes for extra crispiness.
3. Salt the fish last
Salt should not be added to flour or batter, though it can be if you prefer this method of seasoning. But instead, try seasoning the fish as soon as it is out of the fryer. Note that Kosher salt won’t stick as well to table salt.
4. Don’t overcook
Once the fish has been cooked, it will cease emitting steam and oil will seep into the food making it greasy. It is done when it starts to float to the top of the grease. Most seafood can be prepared in 3-5 minutes or less.
5. Forget the paper towels
After your fish has been cleaned, transfer it to a metal drying rack. Toss the paper towels and instead, place the food out of the fryer onto a drying rack. Placing the fish on paper towels causes the crust to steam from below. This can lead to soggy bottoms and a crumbling, peeling crust.
Wrapping It Up
All great chefs and cooks started somewhere. Don’t beat yourself up if your mail doesn’t turn out the way you want. And if you’re new to the kitchen try not to overwhelm yourself by trying too many recipes too fast.
Try one or two recipes a week as you slowly familiarize yourself with different flavorings, cooking techniques, and foods. And remember, practice makes perfect!