Why is My Chicken Rubbery? (Answering the Age Old Question)

March 20, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Chicken can be rubbery because of how it is raised as well as how you cook the meat.

Many years before I even thought of becoming a chef I had a couple of meltdowns after meal preparation wondering why is my chicken rubbery? After pinpointing the causes though, I now make wonderful chicken each and every time.

In this post I will outline where you are going wrong and show you how to fix your mistakes. Let’s get started!

Why is My Chicken Rubbery

Causes of Rubbery Chicken

Lets break down the leading causes of this rubbery texture on chicken:

Buying Poor Quality Chicken

It wasn’t until I started working in high-end restaurants that I really began to appreciate the importance of quality ingredients. This is even true for chicken, and here’s why!

First, there is an increasing number of cases of woody chicken breasts in the meat industry. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, woody chicken refers to hard, bad tasting, pale chicken. It is the result of an abnormality of muscle fibers.

Woody chicken breast isn’t dangerous to eat, but it certainly isn’t a pleasant experience, either. What’s more, when you cook woody chicken you can end up with a rubbery texture.

If you are still determined to buy mass produced chicken breasts, there is something else that you should be aware of. Research has shown that free range chicken has a better texture and taste. This means that when you cook it, there are fewer things that can go wrong!

Overcooked Chicken

If you have ever wondered – What does it mean when chicken is very chewy? – Here’s your answer:

It means that you have overcooked the chicken breast. This has caused the protein fibers to lose their elasticity, resulting in a rubbery texture.

The two biggest reasons for overcooking is that you either forgot your dish was on the fire or you were afraid of undercooked meat. Either way, you can find the solution to this problem in a bit…

raw chicken

Undercooked Chicken

Yes, undercooking chicken can yield the same results as overcooking chicken! It can be tricky to know when your chicken is cooked all the way through. This is because the top portion tends to cook and brown much faster than the middle.

Undercooking chicken doesn’t just cause it to be rubbery, it can also be quite dangerous for you. Eating chicken that hasn’t been cooked properly can cause food poisoning.

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Can You Eat Rubbery Chicken?

Well, this all depends on why your chicken is rubbery. If you have chosen woody chicken breasts or have overcooked the chicken, then it is fine to eat. It won’t be a pleasant experience, but there is no danger to this.

On the other hand, if the chicken isn’t fully cooked through, you shouldn’t eat it. Either put it back on the stove and cook it until the inside of the chicken is well done or toss the meat.

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How to Prevent Rubbery Chicken

Lets take a look at how you can avoid cooking rubbery chicken in the future:

Choose Chicken More Carefully

There is no denying that organic chicken can be a lot more expensive than the regular ones. If it is within your budget, though, I would certainly indulge. At the very least, buy organic chickens for a special dinner so that you can guarantee things will go right.

I would also pay attention to the farming conditions where the chickens were raised. Are they free range chickens, allowed to move about? These are better than caged birds.

If you really can’t afford organic chicken, I would suggest to choose your suppliers more carefully. Look for smaller chains, specifically ones who get their chickens directly from farms. There is often a lot more control over quality with these establishments.

I would also choose chicken with the skin on. Yes, boneless skinless chicken breasts can be easier to prepare but it also a lot easier to lose moisture this way.

Preparing Chicken Properly

One of the reasons that you may have trouble cooking chicken evenly is because of the lopsided shape and size. To make sure that it is all uniform, use a meat tenderizer to flatten the chicken breasts out.

If you do this every time, you will find it a lot easier to cook your chicken perfectly and be able to avoid chewy chicken.

BBQ chicken wings

You can also make sure that each piece of chicken is similar in size to the rest. This way, the cooking time will be the same for all the meat. There is then less risk of over or undercooking the meat.

Cooking Chicken to the Perfect Temperature

It is important to know how to properly cook chicken breasts and chicken thighs. The key to well cooked chicken is a meat thermometer.

Thats right, no more guess work and no more cutting into the meat to find if it is done. Instead, use a thermometer to determine the internal temperature of the chicken.

For safety purposes, the cooking temperature of the chicken must be 165°F. At this point, it will be fully cooked and there will be no more pink meat on the inside. Take the chicken off the heat and you will be able to avoid a rubbery chicken breast.

When grilling or cooking, always set the temperature to medium height. The meat will take longer to cook, but you will also have greater control over the heat. In doing so, you will be less likely to overcook the meat.

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Use Moisture Inducing Cooking Methods

As you are aware, there are lots of ways to cook chicken. However, easiest way to avoid dry chicken that is also rubbery is to use methods that use a lot of moisture. This includes boiling, steaming, braising, stewing, and sous vide.

In doing so, you are automatically adding water or some other liquid to the chicken at all times. This makes it a lot harder to dry out.

Another option is to have lots of liquid while cooking the chicken. This can be broth, sauce, or something equally flavorful. You should also leave the chicken covered during the cooking process to prevent the dish from drying out.

Learn to Brine Chicken

Lets face it, cooking chicken using wet methods isn’t the most appetizing idea. You probably prefer grilling or roasting your chicken. Dont worry, there is a way for you to prevent rubbery chicken when preparing it like this as well – brining.

If I am having guests over and I’m preparing a chicken, I always brine it beforehand – after all, I have a reputation to maintain!

Brining can be time-consuming but it ensures that moisture and flavor is locked into the raw chicken or chicken breast. This makes it far more likely that when cooked the chicken will turn out tender and juicy.

For brining to really work, your chicken will need to be immersed in the solution for at least 12 hours. Thus, it doesn’t really work for an emergency meal. Here is how to brine a chicken:

You can choose to brine a whole chicken or chicken breasts. You will also need a pot or pan that is big enough to fit in all that chicken.

Into this, you will add water, kosher salt, sugar, herbs, and aromatics. Bring this to a boil until the sugar is dissolved and all the ingredients are well-mixed. Let the brine cool down completely. Once it is cool, submerge the chicken meat in the pot. Then, refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Then roast or grill as desired and have perfectly roasted or grilled chicken each and every time!

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What to Do With Rubbery Chicken

Well, what if despite your best efforts your chicken has become rubbery? Or, perhaps you just don’t want to throw out the meal you have prepared.

Fortunately, there are some tricks that you can try to overcome the rubbery chicken texture of the meat:

Serve with Sauce

This is often the easiest fix. Serve the chicken slathered with a delicious sauce and no one will be the wiser. The trick, though, is to figure out which sauce will work best. I would say to use one that works well with the rest of the food.

For instance, eating a lot of grilled foods? Then barbeque sauce will be perfect. Pasta as the main carb? Alfredo sauce should do the trick. Mashed potatoes on the menu? Serve it with gravy!

Reheat in Broth

You should never use high heat to reheat already dry chicken. Instead, cook or reheat the chicken in some broth. You can choose salted or unsalted depending on how much you have seasoned the chicken.

It is important to add just the right amount of broth – you don’t want to make it soggy after all. If you want, you can try spritzing the chicken breasts throughout the reheating process instead.

Use the Chicken in a Sandwich

Want to make sure that your rubbery chicken isn’t the star of the show? Then, put it in a sandwich! This way you can introduce moisture to the dish via lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Don’t forget to add lots of mayo or any other flavorful sauce.

There is a lot more to rubbery chicken than meets the eye. From the right type of chicken to proper cooking time, there is a lot that you need to get right here. Fortunately, you now know just how to do this!

Follow the guidelines above and getting juicy, perfectly cooked chicken will be the new norm for you! Sure it may take a little time to perfect but you will be on the right track at least. Go ahead and get started today!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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