How To

Don’t let your fowl taste foul.

Chicken. It’s a great lean protein option–but It’s amazing how easily this simple protein can be ruined. Take it out too early and you’ll get food poisoning, but leave it on for a couple minutes too long and you might as well go gnaw on some wood chips instead. Under-cooked chicken is easy to fix, (just put it back in the darn oven!) Dry chicken, however, is slightly trickier to remedy.

Despite the challenges of creating a perfectly moist breast, dining halls continue to mass produce this perfectly cost effective source of protein–and often err on the side of no food poisoning (aka chicken sawdust). Yet, you can only have mac ‘n’ cheese for so many meals until protein deficiency sets in, so we student continue to eat it. Even if you have never experienced the classic dining hall dry chicken, maybe you get your fill of it at your annual family reunion because Aunt Betty continues to insist upon bringing the main dish every year (guess what? Grilled chicken again). Whatever the case, dry chicken need not be a cause for despair! These seven hacks can save your bird even after the damage is done.

1. Moisten with a simple sauce

Barbeque sauce, pesto, and soy sauce all pair well with chicken, as do many other pasta sauces and condiments. If you’re feeling fancy, you can even make your own: try mixing some hot sauce and lemon juice to give the chicken a nice tangy kick. These works best if you shred the chicken and then add the sauce, but you can put the sauce on the side and dip it too.

2. Add it to soup

stu_spivack on Flickr

This one can be used for creamy or clear soups—chicken pairs well with anything from minestrone to broccoli cheddar. Just cut it up and mix it in with your soup, or take each piece and dunk it.

3. Pair it with Pasta

Katrin Gilger on Flickr

Pasta bar at your dining hall? Or maybe there’s some leftover pasta salad in the fridge? Mix in the chicken to give it a little extra protein—the sauce from the pasta will cover up the dryness of the chicken.

4. Quesadilla that shit

mealmakeovermoms on Flickr

Cut up or shred your chicken anyway you want (or can), spread it out on a tortilla, then cover it with your cheese of choice from the sandwich station and put it on a panini press, microwave, or even in a waffle iron to melt the cheese (because melted cheese fixes everything).

5. Salad toppings for days

alanagkelly on Flickr

If you’re looking for a lighter option, you can use the chicken as a topping for a salad (like this chickpea and quinoa salad). Both the moisture in the lettuce (especially if you’re using something like romaine or iceberg) and the dressing will make up for the lack of it in the chicken.

6. Dip it

mrsdkrebs on Flickr

Pretty much any sort of dip that would usually go on chips is also be great on chicken: hummus, salsa, bean dip, you name it. If you’re like me and love peanut butter, spreading it on your chicken is another great combo. (Or, if you really like to live life on the edge, you can try two-in-one with this peanut butter hummus.)

7. Sandwich it

Lara604 on Flickr

Three words: chicken salad sandwich. The mayonnaise (or avocado in this recipe) adds extra moisture, and celery (if you have it) gives a nice crunch. Or, you can even just put the full chicken breast in some bread and top with your favorite toppings—cheese, tomato, lettuce, mayonnaise—whatever your heart (or stomach) desires.

#Spoon tip: If you’re feeling adventurous, add grapes to your chicken salad.

If you’ve been missing chicken but not enough to brave the sad chicken breasts sitting out in the dining hall (possibly left over from yesterday?), no longer do you have to avoid it—these tips can turn that flavorless chicken into a fabulous meal.