Rubbery Chicken (Causes, Consequences and How to Avoid It)

Why is chicken rubbery? Did you overcook it, did you undercook it, is the chicken off? Here, we will analyze in detail all the different ways you might end up with rubbery chicken, and explain how to avoid this unpleasant outcome. 

This will result in tastier meals and eliminate any potential risks of harming yourself by undercooking or using bad meat.

Causes of Rubbery Chicken

There are multiple reasons why chicken may appear rubbery. Here we will outline the three most common, as well as one reason that is often overlooked.

Chicken

Overcooked Chicken

Sadly, many people overcook chicken as a precautionary way of avoiding salmonella. While the intent is good, overcooking causes chicken to lose the bulk of its moisture. Without moisture the protein fibers in chicken lose their elasticity, and without this the chicken seems to taste more rubbery.

Undercooked Chicken 

On the other end of the scale is undercooked chicken. Undercooked chicken is incredibly dangerous and can cause severe illness, so if the chicken tastes rubbery and also appears to look pink/shiny with a consistency that is jiggly, stop eating and discard the chicken.

Chicken Type

Unfortunately, a final cause of rubbery chicken is down to how the poultry has been farmed. Often when a chicken is bred to get as big as possible as quickly as possible, the meat will taste rubbery. 

Always buying organic and ethically farmed food isn’t just good for your conscience, it is good for taste reasons too. With safer practices and no risk of genetically modified chickens, you can be sure that the chicken you’re getting won’t be rubbery. 

One additional cause of rubbery chicken is reheating it. Often, the chicken is not covered sufficiently with plastic wrap or aluminum foil, which can cause the meat to lack moisture.

Covering the chicken correctly and refrigerating within 2 hours of being cooked will help maintain ideal moisture levels. Also, please note that you should endeavor to eat the chicken within 48 hours of it being refrigerated so the meat does not spoil. 

Consequences of Rubbery Chicken

Food poisoning

There are several consequences to rubbery chicken, but let’s review the most severe first. Thankfully, undercooked chicken is widely well known as being bad for you, and most people avoid this at all costs. This is because it often causes salmonella (food poisoning). 

The most common side effects to experiencing salmonella are prolonged vomiting, diarrhea, high temperatures, dehydration, stomach cramps and bloody stool. A mild case of any of these is enough to make you sick, but a severe case can lead to hospitalization. 

Always make sure your chicken is cooked all the way through – the core temperature of the chicken should be 165 degrees Fahrenheit and there should be no pink showing in the chicken. Doing this will make sure you avoid serious illness.

Taste

You are very unlikely to experience dangerous side effects from eating overcooked rubbery chicken, so the main consequence will be that the meat does not taste very nice. 

You can sometimes rescue the chicken by creating a sauce (Alfredo sauce often helps mask the taste). This isn’t ideal if you only notice the chicken is rubbery as you sit down to eat it, but if you’ve been cooking with a sauce anyway you may notice the impact of rubbery chicken has already been lessened.

Ethical Considerations

The consequences of eating rubbery chicken that has not been ethically farmed are usually not threatening to your health, but you can still end up with poor-quality chicken. There are multiple theories as to why this chicken tastes rubbery, one of which is that the chicken has suffered from white striping. 

This is a disease that is often found in poultry. It is not harmful to humans, but it does severely impact the taste and also may bring up the moral quandary of whether it is right and proper to eat chickens that have been cultivated in an unethical manner.

Rubbery Chicken

How To Avoid Cooking Rubbery Chicken

The undercooking and overcooking issues can be solved together, by cooking your chicken for the correct length of time. Always follow instructions, and consider the different methods that you might need to use. 

Cooking sous vide (vacuum sealing the chicken and cooking for a long time in water) helps maintain the moisture within the chicken breast and also allows you to regulate the core temperature more easily. 

If you are intent on oven-cooking a chicken breast, leaving it in a marinade beforehand for at least 30 minutes will also help to maintain moisture and give the chicken a more succulent taste.

Much of what we have previously discussed has been about regulating cooking an average chicken breast, but you may experience a rubbery texture with other types of chicken. 

A chicken wing would be rubbery if it has been overcooked, so again make sure to follow recipes for exact timings. Rubbery chicken drumsticks are typically undercooked due to using the wrong temperature – it needs to be higher on these thicker pieces of meat, so consider that before cooking. 

Chicken cooked in a broth tends to be rubbery when it is left in the pot for a large period of time. Adding the meat 20 minutes before the soup is finished will help maintain the chicken’s moisture, rather than putting everything in at the same time.

Some additional mistakes that are often made include cooking in a cold pan. You should cook chicken in a pan at a higher temperature for a shorter period of time, and having to warm up the meat while the pan is also warming up often causes a rubber consistency. 

Using skinless chicken breasts can also be an issue – whilst some people prefer not to have skin, it does help maintain moisture. If you really don’t want to eat the chicken skin, you should remove it after cooking for best results.

Conclusion

Rubbery meat is not always harmful, but it can greatly affect your enjoyment of the overall meal. Undercooked chicken is actively dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. If you put into practice the ideas we have outlined, it will help rapidly improve the quality of your cooked chicken. 

If all else fails, you can always mask the texture with a flavorful sauce. Finally, try to source organic ethically farmed meat. Knowing that the meat has not been genetically modified and that the chickens are less prone to diseases will lead to an inevitable increase in the quality of the meat.

Jess Smith
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