If you're constantly trying new ways to give chicken more flavor, you may be overcomplicating it! According to chef and Milk Street: Cookish author Christopher Kimball, you don't need a bunch of fancy ingredients to add delicious flavor to chicken dishes. In fact, you can do it with just a few simple cooking techniques that use basic herbs and spices.
"When you reduce cooking down to the basic, underlying technique, it doesn't have to be complicated," Chris says. "The chicken we're going to do here, it's just very simple, very few ingredients, but you're adding a lot of flavor."
He shares three easy chicken recipes, each of which uses a different technique to maximize flavor. And the best part? All three techniques are super versatile, so you can swap ingredients in or out depending on your preferences.
1. To maximize flavor from marinades, try the slashed chicken technique on bone-in legs and thighs.
"The concept is that marinating doesn't really work that well. It does sometimes, it depends," Chris says. This is a quicker, more effective way of doing it. Essentially, slashing the chicken to the bone helps the flavor of sauces and marinades penetrate faster and deeper for more flavor.
"You take chicken and you actually cut through, right to the bone, about every inch. Turn it over, do the same thing. This allows the paste to get into the chicken instead of letting it sit around and marinate for a long time, which doesn't really work that well," according to the chef.
"Also, in the last six months I've been—as everyone has—wracking my brains to take a chicken and do 28 things with the chicken. I'm trying to add big flavors to simple things. You can do this endlessly, with different kinds of things on top."
2. To add flavor or spice to a whole roast chicken, try stuffing compound butter under the skin.
"This is a classic French technique, which is flavored butters," Chris says, "but we're going to use big flavors here."
The recipe for compound butter he demonstrated on the show is a blend of spicy serrano chiles and fresh herbs, but it's easy to change up based on your preferences. This technique can be used with any compound butter, so feel free to swap in your favorite spices and herbs before stuffing under the chicken skin and roasting.
3. To ensure moist, flavorful chicken thighs, try sealing in a foil packet with aromatics.
"Sealing chicken thighs and a few aromatics in a foil packet allows for a two-step cooking technique," says Chris. "To start, the ingredients steam with their own moisture. Then, after the packet is cut open, the chicken roasts until browned, developing deeper flavor."
The Cookish author layers thyme, minced ginger and sliced onions on a large piece of foil, tops with chicken thighs, salt and pepper and wraps up the foil in a big packet. "That goes into a 500 degree oven for 15 minutes, then just open it up and let it finish another 20 minutes…to get some browning on the skin," he says. Again, feel free to swap in garlic, shallots or different spices—whatever you like.