I was approached last week by a good family friend with a question about food. I had never thought of this as troublesome or even difficult for others to do: Stuffed Chicken Breasts!. Here is the question she sent me.
“Help me! What’s the trick for keeping filling (cream cheese, avocado etc), inside your chicken while you bake or fry? I seem to lose most of it during the cooking process.“
This was a problem I had never considered someone might have, since having learned how to properly stuff chicken breasts in cooking school, to me it seemed like a very logical and straightforward process. It is a great example of the fact that unless you are shown how to do something properly or know the little tricks professionals use, very simple cooking tasks can seem very daunting.
So what do you stuff chicken breasts with, and how do you properly cook stuffed chicken breasts?
- There are a number of reasons a filling might leak and fall out during cooking, regardless of the meat you use. First and foremost, when cooking meat it is important to understand that the meat itself contracts and shrinks during the cooking process. This is a normal side effect of cooking any meat and is caused by the loss of moisture. If the piece of meat being cooked is stuffed with a filling, some of it may naturally be squeezed out as the meat cooks and slowly shrinks. There are a few tricks you can use when preparing the meat to help keep the filling in though.
For creamy cheese-based fillings, I would recommend cutting a pocket into the chicken breast as opposed to butterflying the meat, as this will create a smaller opening for the filling to escape out of. If you are stuffing a chicken leg you can also tie the meat together with butcher’s twine to help keep it together during cooking( roulade style). Another option when butterflying meat would be to wrap the chicken breast with something (such as the pancetta which I am using) to help keep the meat together. This also has the benefit of adding flavor to the stuffed chicken, and is the route I chose to take in this recipe.
When it comes to the filling itself you need to use some sort of binder to help keep it all together. In this stuffed chicken recipe, the cream cheese acts as the binder to hold the basil pesto and diced sweet pepper together. If you are creating just a vegetable filling without any cheese, for example with avocado, spinach, or mushroom fillings, you may add an egg yolk to the mixture to help glue it together. Make sure to chill the stuffed chicken breasts before cooking, as this will firm up the stuffing and reduce the chance of it melting out as you cook the meat.
Creamy Basil Stuffed Chicken Breasts
In this recipe I used:
2 Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
2 Tbsp Basil Garlic scape pesto (find the recipe here)
125 grams cream cheese
1tsp ground black pepper
1 small Jalapeno or Sweet Italian Pepper – small diced
4 slices Prosciutto
Begin by mixing the cream cheese, basil pesto, diced pepper and ground black pepper in a bowl. Set aside the filling.
Butterfly the chicken breast, and then layer half the mix on the inside of the chicken.
Roll up the chicken making sure to tuck the leading edge of the breast under. Tightly wrap the breast in prosciutto and refrigerate for 20 minutes to half an hour to firm up the cream cheese. Repeat the process with the second breast.
In a smoking hot pan, sear the stuffed chicken breast until golden brown on both sides. Then finish by baking in a pre-heated 375F oven for 10 to 15 minutes. This should be timed so that the stuffed chicken breasts can be served immediately after coming out of the oven. The internal temperature for the chicken should read between 145F and 165F. You can learn more about proper cooking temperatures of chicken in this post on Food Safety at Home.
Most likely some of the stuffing will leak out of the breast as it bakes in the oven. This is normal, especially since our filling here is very fatty and will melt when heated. This is why you want to keep the cooking time to around 15 minutes and not bake the chicken much longer than that. The chicken should be almost half cooked after searing it(no melting cheese visible yet),and only finished in the oven to heat everything through. You shouldn’t lose more than one or 2 teaspoons of stuffing though. Anything that melts out can always be used to “sauce” the chicken as well or spooned onto the chicken if you serve it cut open.
If you have any questions regarding this recipe or any other food related questions you can always find me on Facebook, Twitter, and of course I’m always reachable by e-mail. If you make this or any of my other recipes, send me pictures! I love seeing other people cook!
- 2 Boneless/Skinless Chicken Breasts
- 2 Tbsp Basil Garlic scape pesto find the recipe here
- 125 grams cream cheese
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 small Jalapeno or Sweet Italian Pepper - small diced
- 4 slices Prosciutto
- Begin by mixing the cream cheese, basil pesto, diced pepper and ground black pepper in a bowl. Set aside the filling.
- Butterfly the chicken breast, and then layer half the stuffing mix on the inside of the chicken. Roll up the chicken making sure to tuck the leading edge of the breast under.
- Tightly wrap the stuffed breast in prosciutto and refrigerate for 20 minutes to half an hour to firm up the cream cheese. Repeat the process with the second breast.
- In a smoking hot pan, sear the stuffed chicken breast until golden brown on both sides. Then finish by baking in a pre-heated 375F oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
- This should be timed so that the stuffed chicken can be served immediately after coming out of the oven. The internal temperature for the chicken should read between 145F and 165F.
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