Tender Instant Pot chicken breast?
September 15, 2023 1:45 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a recipe/method to get tender juicy chicken breasts cooked in an Instant Pot, both thawed and from frozen? There are tons on the web, but the one I tried left it like sawdust. Tell me your secrets!
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee to Food & Drink (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Chicken breasts don't have as much connective tissue compared with thighs, so they overcook easily! Less is more. It takes trial and error. How much liquid is accompanying the chicken, how long does it take the pot to come up to pressure, etc.? I would try the next batch --whether fresh and frozen -- on the lowest default setting and rapid pressure release. You can always let them cook more if the internal temperature is too low at the end, but you can't go back and undo overdoneness.

You didn't ask this, but when I've wanted to salvage overcooked chicken breast, I'll shred it thoroughly and heavily dress it with something like a BBQ sauce -- sometimes that makes it edible.
posted by eunique at 2:59 PM on September 15, 2023 [4 favorites]

I haven't tried this in an Instant Pot, but I get tender, juicy, delicious chicken if I first brine (thawed chicken) in salt, sugar, and tamari for two hours, before cooking. Perhaps some variant of this may work with an Instant Pot?
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:45 PM on September 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I found this guide recently for frozen chicken breasts in the Instant Pot, and although I haven't followed the full instructions but just used water, have had good results. It definitely feels counterintuitive but a natural release for 10 minutes after cooking really does seem to help a lot.
posted by KatlaDragon at 4:38 PM on September 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

Maybe there is a secret, but I've never been able to make them taste very good in the instapot. I'm not sure it's possible? I basically only cook thighs in there now.

If I have to do chicken breasts, I cook them from frozen with 2 cups of water and extra chicken seasoning for 35 minutes and natural release.
posted by luckdragon at 6:42 PM on September 15, 2023 [1 favorite]

I'd try this recipe from Amy & Jacky as their instant pot recipes are well-tested and never let me down. I would cut in half lengthwise any larger chicken breasts over 6 ounces. There is also a link in that recipe for frozen.
posted by RoadScholar at 2:19 AM on September 16, 2023 [1 favorite]

Pretty sure you need to brine / marinade it first. Then make it just before you eat it so the moisture doesn't have time to "leak out".
posted by kschang at 4:48 AM on September 16, 2023

Best answer: The recipe KatlaDragon posted seems very solid to me, but also underlines my initial thought: Why would you want to cook chicken breast in the InstaPot? I could easily cook chicken breast in 15 minutes on the stovetop, in several different ways, which is as fast or faster than the times that recipe suggest. The same applies to RoadScholar's link.
Obviously, there may be very good reasons, but maybe you could get even better answers if you explained your thoughts a bit more. For instance, if your intention is to use the slow-cook setting, that would give entirely different responses. Fricassees are a really good use for chicken breast that can be made in numerous ways.
Chicken breast is in some ways a tricky cut. It is easy to make for a fast protein-rich meal if you do it right, but it can also easily fail and like you say, turn out dry and sad. IMO frozen chicken breast is near impossible to get right, but I may be wrong. (Whereas wings are great from frozen).
posted by mumimor at 9:28 AM on September 16, 2023 [2 favorites]

For instance, this Greek-Style Chicken Fricassee Avgolemono is pretty glorious, and quite easy to make.
posted by mumimor at 12:19 PM on September 16, 2023

Best answer: To get tender, juicy chicken breast, you need to stop cooking it when the internal temperature reaches 165 F. Beyond that, it’s going to dry out, even it’s in a wet environment. An instantpot-type pressure cooker will generally reach temps of around 240 F. And in that wet, steamy environment, even a whole chicken breast is going to fly past 165 pretty quickly. It would take a lot of careful planning, precision, and probably luck to time things so that the breast is not overcooked by the time you open up the instant pot.

Thighs are much more forgiving, and but if you’re locked in on breasts and instant pot, you could just use the slow cooker feature, which will let you monitor how done the chicken breast is and turn off the heat when it’s done. It’s a lot slower and more hands on that way though.
posted by skewed at 1:18 PM on September 16, 2023

Response by poster: "maybe you could get even better answers if you explained your thoughts a bit more"
Yeah, this is a good point, I think I defaulted to Instant Pot because I've been using it for a lot lately and the chicken breast was partially frozen. Also, I was going to pressure cook chickpeas in the broth after and in my mind it would have taken two pots to poach, however I could have poached them in the instant pot too. So I guess the takeaway here is thaw first, then poach or sous vide or something (which I"ve had some success with in the past). Thanks all!
posted by Rufous-headed Towhee heehee at 2:44 PM on September 16, 2023

Since you are not set on instapot, I would suggest sous vide. To have chicken breast ready in the fridge for salad, I do an hour at 150f. If I were going to sear it and have it hot, I would do an even lower temp, but for a little longer depending on the temp. Like, at 140f you need maybe 90 minutes so it is at that temp for long enough to make it safe.
posted by snofoam at 6:05 PM on September 16, 2023

I was looking at Youtube and the recipe for "Marry Me Chicken" seems to tick the boxes for tender chicken breast. Maybe just Google (tm) some recipes for such and see which one suits your cooking implements?
posted by kschang at 8:59 PM on September 16, 2023

If your instant pot has a sous-vide setting, you could use that for cooking the chicken breasts. It will give you the ability to set an exact temperature that the chicken will reach, which will help avoid drying it out. Serious Eats has a pretty good guide to that.
posted by Hactar at 11:45 AM on September 17, 2023

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