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Clever Chicken Choices


If the word 'chicken' conjures up images of crunchy batter-coated chicken with eleven secret herbs and spices, it's time to take a fresh look at chicken!

Most people love chicken and it's also a good choice as part of a healthy diet: it's a great source of protein and it stacks up well on the nutritional side of things too - 100g of skinless chicken breast has only 110 calories and 2.5g fat.

So next time you're thinking chicken, take a look at these four quick and delicious ways to prepare a chicken dinner.



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Steaming


Bamboo steamer

Steaming is an excellent - and delicious - way to cook chicken, vegetables or fish. Steaming has the benefit of needing no oil or fat for cooking, and you can infuse tasty flavours into the chicken while it cooks.

What do I need?
Steaming is done using a bamboo steamer, a metal steamer (which looks a little like a metal colander), or a double boiler pot.

Try this!
Lightly score the top of small chicken breast pieces. Marinate them in your favourite flavours. Try soy sauce, minced ginger and lime juice for an oriental flavour.

Pour a small amount of water into a pot and bring to the boil. Place your chicken pieces into the steamer in a single layer, and top each piece with some chopped shallots and lime slices (or other variations).

Reduce the heat until the pot of water is gently simmering, and top with your steamer. Steam until the chicken turns opaque and is cooked right through. Slice and serve with a sprinkling of your favourite fresh herbs. Accompany with vegetables or salad.

Notes

  • Make sure the steamer fits tightly on top of the pot, you don't want all the steam escaping out the sides!

  • If you are using a bamboo steamer, line the steamer with baking paper first. Use a small knife to poke three or four holes in the baking paper, to allow the steam through.

  • Keep an eye on the water level of the pot below your steamer. Top up the water if necessary. Make sure that the water level is not too high, you don't want it bubbling up through the steamer.

Microwaving

Although most kitchens have a microwave oven, it is often only used for defrosting or reheating. Would you have thought of microwaving chicken for dinner? Microwaving doesn't require any added fat or oil, and it's much quicker than frying or baking chicken.

What do I need?
A microwave oven, a microwave oven proof dish and some baking paper are all you need for this microwave dinner.

Try this!
For a different way to microwave chicken try these chicken parcels. Lay out as many squares of baking paper as you have pieces of chicken. Make the squares large enough to enclose the chicken, with room to secure the edges. You can use any boneless cut of chicken for this dish.

Place one piece of chicken on each square of paper. Sprinkle the chicken with desired flavourings - include at least one liquid.

Suggested combinations include:

  • soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and minced ginger
  • lime juice, soy sauce and chopped chilli
  • sliced shallots, minced garlic and a little unsweetened pineapple juice

Bring two opposite sides of the paper up to meet above the chicken, and scrunch together to seal. Seal both open ends of the parcel by scrunching. Repeat with remaining squares.

Carefully place chicken parcels in a microwave oven proof dish and place in microwave. Check your microwave instruction manual to see how long and at what power level the chicken should be cooked at. Check regularly to prevent overcooking. Leave the chicken to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Wrapping the chicken in baking paper with the flavourings keeps the chicken moist while it cooks and allows the flavours to penetrate the chicken.

  • Don't forget that food continues to cook for a short while after microwaving, so be careful not to over cook your chicken.

Grilling


Try fresh herbs and ginger to add zing to your chicken

Grilling is a dream cooking method for slimmers. Quick and easy, you can grill most types of meat and many vegetables. You can cook a whole meal at once on the grill, if you add some capsicum, eggplant and zucchini slices with your chicken.

What do I need?
There are many options for grilling. You can use the grill plate in your oven, a barbecue hotplate, a heavy iron grill pan that is used on your stove element, or alternatively a grilling machine (similar to a large sandwich maker, it grills food on both sides at once).

Try this!
Marinate your chicken pieces well before cooking.

Try these ideas:

  • satay sauce
  • soy sauce and honey
  • unsweetened pineapple juice and grated fresh ginger
  • sweet chilli sauce and soy sauce
  • honey and grainy mustard
  • chopped fresh herbs and minced garlic

You can use any type of chicken pieces for this dish - wings make a crispy change, while thighs stay nice and moist. Drumsticks and other cuts work well too. Small pieces of chicken can be threaded onto skewers and grilled for quick kebabs.

Lightly spray grill with cooking spray. Heat the grill plate and cook chicken on both sides until browned and cooked through.

Notes

  • Baste chicken occasionally with marinade while cooking to keep it moist and flavourful.

  • Using the barbecue in summer keeps the kitchen cool and makes a nice alfresco change of scenery!

  • Left over grilled chicken pieces are great in lunch boxes.

Poaching

Although poaching might sound a bit 'retro', it's a flavourful way to cook chicken without adding fat. Poaching means to cook food in liquid, which is just below the boiling point.

You're probably familiar with poached eggs, which are usually cooked in water. However, poaching chicken in water might result in a fairly bland dinner. Try our suggestion for a flavour-filled alternative.

What do I need?
A pot or frying pan that is large enough to fit the chicken pieces snugly in a single layer. A lot of excess liquid surrounding the chicken can reduce the flavour.

Try this!
Place chicken in a pot in a single layer. Chicken breasts work well, but bone-in chicken cuts are also suitable. When cooked the chicken should be tender enough to come easily off the bone.

Add chicken stock, a few whole cloves, your favourite dried herbs, chopped onion, garlic and celery to the pot. Use just enough liquid to completely cover the chicken and vegetables.

Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and partially cover the pot. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear when pieced with a skewer. Remove the chicken and rest before serving.

Notes

  • You need enough liquid to completely cover the chicken, but excess liquid will dilute the flavour.

  • The liquid needs to be just gently simmering - vigorous boiling can toughen the meat.

  • Resting meat after cooking allows the juices to redistribute through the meat, resulting in moister, tender meat.

  • Experiment with different flavoured poaching liquids - you could use a white wine and water combination; add chopped carrots to the pot; throw in some mustard seeds or dried rosemary; add grated fresh ginger to the liquid.

Recipes and tips

Although these cooking methods are described for chicken, the same techniques can be applied to other meats, such as turkey or fish. Or try grilled, steamed or microwaved vegetables.

Visit the Recipe section of the CalorieKing.com.au website for lots of delicious chicken recipes. You can also have a look at the links below for a selection of tasty recipes.


Related links :

Last updated: September 22nd, 2005

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