6 Keys To Avoiding Rubbery Chicken

Most cooks have at some point been a little upset and embarrassed when that special chicken dish contained rubbery chicken instead of chicken that is tender and juicy. So the last time that happened to me, I was determined to find out what causes chicken to become rubbery so I can prevent it from happening in the future. Here’s what I discovered:

Rubbery chicken is primarily caused by overcooking which can be avoided by using a meat thermometer. Chicken should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165℉.

If overcooking isn’t the issue, there are some other things that can lead to rubbery chicken. Changing some of your cooking and shopping habits can solve this problem. Take a look at 6 simple things that will result in tender and juicy chicken, not rubbery.

1. Avoid Overcooking Chicken

One of the main things that causes rubbery chicken is overcooking. In an effort to avoid serving chicken that isn’t quite done, I tend to cook it a little too long.

But overcooking chicken can cause it to become rubbery so that it is dry with a rubbery texture. This most often happens when grilling or baking chicken on a rack to keep it from sitting in its own juices.

The best way to avoid overcooked chicken with a dry, rubbery texture is to use a meat thermometer. Cook the meat only until it reaches an internal temperature of 165℉. Once it reaches that temperature, you can be certain that the chicken is both done and will still be tender.

2. Avoid Undercooking Chicken

The last thing we want is for chicken or other poultry to be undercooked and pink or even bloody (Yuck!) in the middle. Undercooking can also result in chicken with a rubbery texture.

Undercooking any kind of poultry should be avoided at all cost because not only will it have an undesirable texture, but it can cause salmonella, better known as food poisoning. Here is what the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) has to say about eating undercooked chicken:

“If you eat undercooked chicken, you can get foodborne illness, also called food poisoning. You can also get sick if you eat other foods or beverages that are contaminated by raw chicken or its juices.

CDC estimates that every year in the United States about 1 million people get sick from eating contaminated poultry.”

This is another excellent reason to use a meat thermometer when cooking chicken or other poultry to make sure the meat is done and will not make us sick. Be sure to cook all poultry to an internal temperature of 165℉.

Perfect Fried Chicken

Symptoms Of Food Poisoning

If you have eaten undercooked chicken or other poultry and experience any of the following symptoms, chances are that you are experiencing food poisoning and should seek medical advice and/or treatment if the symptoms become severe:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Bloody Stools
  • Dehydration

3. Buy The Right Chicken For The Recipe

Air Fryer drummet chicken with Fish Sauce on white plate

The recipe that you use to cook chicken should also provide the information needed for buying the chicken. In other words, chicken should be cooked in certain ways to maximize the taste and to make sure the dish you are preparing turns out the way the recipe intends.

So, follow the recipe you are going to prepare not only for cooking the chicken, but for buying it as well. If the recipe doesn’t tell you what cut or pieces of chicken to use, take a look at the next section for some tips on buying chicken.

4. Buy Chicken That Is Right For The Method Of Cooking 

Size certainly matters when it comes to buying chicken and other poultry. Smaller chickens can be cooked at higher temperatures for shorter periods of time. Chickens that weigh 2.5 to 4.5 pounds are called “fryers” and can be fried at relatively high temperatures for a short period of time.

  • Boneless chicken breast can be pan-fried in 10 to 15 minutes, while larger bone-in pieces like legs and thighs will take 45 minutes to an hour to be fried.
  • Chicken breasts are very versatile and can be cooked in any way: deep-fried, pan-fried, oven-roasted, slow-cooked, boiled, and air fried. The trick to cooking chicken breasts is to avoid overcooking them.
  • Chicken legs and thighs can be roasted, boiled, pan-fried, deep-fried, and air fried.
  • Wings can be roasted or deep fried.

Larger chickens should be cooked at low temperatures for longer periods of time. Chickens that are 5 pounds and over are called “roasters” or “hens” as my mother always called them. They should be cooked at lower temperatures for a longer period of time, depending on the size. 

Cornish game hens are normally less than 2 pounds, but because they are usually cooked whole and are bone-in, they should be baked at about 350℉ for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast reaches 165℉.

Bone-in chicken will take longer to cook than boneless.

5. Don’t Buy Woody Chicken

I know you are asking yourself right now, what is woody chicken? Woody chicken is caused by an inflammation of small veins in the breast which can lead to scar tissue that makes the meat of the breast become hard and have a whiter color than normal.

Just do what I do and look to be sure the chicken breasts you are buying are the natural pink color and are not hard to the touch.

6. Don’t Buy Chicken With White Streaks

While it is normal for a chicken breast to have some fat on it, some practices of chicken growers lead to muscle disorders in the breasts which can cause the muscles to be replaced by fat and collagen. This problem is easily spotted. Just pay special attention to the chicken breast you are buying, and be sure to avoid any packages of breasts that have more than a little visible fat on them.

How To Fix Rubbery Chicken

There are a couple of things you can do to try to salvage chicken that has become rubbery.

Method No. 1

The best way to salvage chicken that has become rubbery is to follow these steps:

  1. Place the rubbery chicken in a baking pan and preheat oven to 300℉.
  2. Heat enough chicken stock to cover the amount of rubbery chicken that you have, and pour the stock over the chicken.
  3. Place the pan of chicken in the oven for a short time, 10-15 minutes, in an effort to add moisture to the chicken so that the chicken will be less dry and more tender.

Method No. 2

Shred the chicken and serve it with a variety of sauces and buns for a “pulled-chicken” sandwich.

Is It Safe To Eat Rubbery Chicken?

If chicken is rubbery because it is overcooked, it is safe to eat even though it may be a little tough. The toughness can be reduced somewhat by trying Method No. 2 above and making “pulled chicken” instead.

If chicken is rubbery because it is undercooked, it is not safe to eat unless it has been cooked until it is completely done and no longer pink inside. Cooking the undercooked chicken until it is done should result in a more tender chicken.

Can Organic Chicken Become Rubbery?

Yes, any chicken, including organic, can become rubbery if overcooked or undercooked, but can also be salvaged by using the mehods mentioned above.

Can Rubbery Chicken In Soups Be Prevented?

Chicken that is being used for making soup can be prevented from becoming rubbery by browning it before adding it to the soup pot. 

Simply fry the cubed chicken over high heat just until it is browned to seal in the moisture and reduce the likelihood of it becoming rubbery as it cooks in the soup.

Final Thoughts

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind that will avoid having dry chicken.

  • In an effort to cook healthier, many of us always remove the skin, which contains a layer of fat from the chicken before cooking it. But cooking chicken with the skin on helps hold in the moisture and prevents the meat from drying out.
  • Also, bone-in chicken will be juicier than boneless.

For a simple, basic method of frying chicken strips that are moist and tender, take a look at my video below.

Thanks for stoppin’ by!

Anne James

Hi, I'm Anne but my grandchildren call me Jelly Grandma. I have over 50 years of experience as a Southern cook and am a retired librarian. I love sharing what I have learned. You can find me on YouTube as well! Just click the link at the bottom of your page.

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