For Tender, Juicy Chicken, You Gotta Praise the Braise

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When it comes to cooking chicken, you really oughta be braising your bird. Here's why.

It's easy

Although braising is a three-part process — you sear the chicken to crisp the skin, deglaze the pan to amp up the flavors, then cook the chicken slowly in liquid — it's still simple and mostly hands-off. Plus, if you use a Dutch oven or an oven-safe skillet, you can basically do everything with one pot or pan.

It makes meat tender

Braising is an economical way to tenderize tougher cuts of meat, such as chicken thighs.

It adds a lot of flavor

Chicken absorbs the flavor of the braising liquid, which can make it so tasty you won't need a sauce. You can use chicken or vegetable stock, wine, beer, salt water or even apple cider.

It's very forgiving

It's tough to mess up when you're braising. Your chicken won't dry out even if you leave it on the stove or in the oven a little too long.

Master ingredient list

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 to 1½ cups braising liquid

Stovetop-braised chicken

Step 1

Wash the chicken thighs and pat dry with paper towels. Season one side with salt and pepper.

Step 2

In a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat a small amount of oil until it begins to shimmer. Add the chicken to the skillet, seasoned side down. Sear on medium-high heat until golden, 3 to 5 minutes. Season the other side.

Step 3

Flip the chicken and sear. Remove the thighs from the pan. The meat will still be pink inside but don't worry — you're not done.

Step 4

Deglaze the pan: Add white wine vinegar and increase the heat to high. Scrape the pan with a spatula to lift any browned bits stuck to the bottom. If you want to add some vegetables, now would be a great time to toss them in and give them a quick sauté.

Step 5

Reduce heat to low. Pour in your braising liquid of choice and place the chicken gently in it. If you're including veggies, keep them right in the pan and add the liquid and chicken on top. Cover and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes, flipping the thicken once. If you find that the liquid is reducing too much, pour in a little more, but be careful when lifting the lid.

Step 6

Check the chicken by cutting into a small piece. If the juices run clear, the bird is done. Transfer thighs to a plate.

Step 7

Skim any excess fat from the remaining liquid. Increase the heat to high and cook at a rapid boil until the liquid is thickened and reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Use this as a sauce for the chicken. Season with salt and pepper if you like and serve.

Oven-braised chicken

Step 1

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Step 2

Follow steps 1 through 4 of the stovetop method, using an oven-safe skillet like a cast-iron pan or a Dutch oven.

Step 3

Bake chicken in the skillet, uncovered, for 40 minutes or until the juices run clear.

Step 4

Remove the chicken from the pan, skim excess fat, and reduce the sauce on the stovetop if necessary, as in step 5 of the stovetop recipe.

Mexican variation

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced (with seeds if you want spicy)
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice
  • Hot sauce, to taste

Follow steps 1 through 3 of the stovetop method. When you remove the chicken to deglaze the pan, add garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add the pepper, jalapeño, taco seasoning, and stir. Place the chicken back in the pan and add the tomatoes in juice as your braising liquid. Stir in some hot sauce if you're interested. Follow the remaining stovetop or oven cooking steps.

Balsamic variation

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Follow steps 1 through 4 of the stovetop method. Place the chicken back in the pan and add the balsamic vinegar and water as your braising liquid. Season with the basil and rosemary. Follow the remaining stovetop or oven cooking steps.

Paprika variation

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika, divided

Following the stovetop instructions above, seasoning each side of the chicken with salt, pepper and ½ tablespoon of the paprika before searing.

Continue following the stovetop instructions using any braising liquid you like (red wine, dark beer or chicken broth all work well with paprika). Season with the remaining paprika near the end of the simmering time.

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For Tender, Juicy Chicken, You Gotta Praise the Braise