The 1-Ingredient Upgrade for Better Chicken Breasts (Works Every Time)

I apologize to all the mayonnaise fans out there, but this popular condiment is one of the very few things I don’t love the flavor and texture of. I do keep it stocked in my fridge, but not for the normal applications like spreading it on sandwiches, folding it into egg salad, or whisking it into a dressing.

I only reach for mayo in ways some people may not think to. For example, I smear it on the outside of a grilled cheese so that it gets golden brown and delicious and I add it into chocolate cake—the secret to getting the most velvety crumb.

That’s why when I saw cookbook author J. Kenji López-Alt’s on an Instagram Reel for @NYTCooking using mayo to coat chicken breasts, I was very intrigued.

Over the years, I have discovered some of my favorite cooking tips through Kenji, like how to get more tender scrambled eggs and fluffier mashed potatoes. So when I saw him share his tip for using mayo to marinate chicken breasts, I gave it a try.

According to Kenji, you should add mayonnaise to your chicken marinade. Use a ratio of almost equal parts mayo-to-marinade. For example, if you’re using 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce, cut it with about 1/3 cup mayo. Kenji says this ratio “will work with nearly any marinade… You could use pesto, salsa verde, bottled barbecue sauce, jarred Thai curry paste, teriyaki sauce, or mole, all with equal success.”

Kenji recommends marinating the mayo-coated chicken for at least four hours, or up to 24 hours before cooking. Though he uses chicken cutlets in his recipe, you can use any cut, including chicken breasts or thighs.

Simply Recipes / Ciara Kehoe


Why Cutting Your Chicken Marinade with Mayo Works

In the video, Kenji explains that adding a little mayonnaise to your marinade goes a long way in terms of flavor and texture. Here are the three benefits:

1. The marinade won’t slide off the chicken: Mayonnaise is creamy and thick because it’s emulsified. So when you add it to a marinade, it helps the marinade to adhere to the surface of the chicken, rather than run right off. Also, since the mayo thoroughly coats the chicken, it prevents the marinade from burning right off when it hits the heat.

2. You’ll get golden brown and juicy chicken: The egg proteins in the mayo encourage browning on the outside of the chicken while locking the moisture in.

3. The best part, the chicken won’t taste like mayonnaise. This is important for me!

I gave this trick a try with leftover pesto I had in the fridge. I’ve used plain pesto as a chicken marinade before and have been a little underwhelmed with the outcome. When combined with the mayonnaise, the pesto flavor and color both remained brighter and more flavorful once cooked. Mayonnaise may never be the star of my show, but it is a very important supporting character. Try this trick and never eat sad, overcooked, flavorless chicken breast again!


 

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