How Gina Homolka Ensures The Most Juicy And Flavorful Chicken - Exclusive

There are few things more disappointing than biting into a piece of chicken you have painstakingly taken the time to prepare, only to find it dry and flavorless. That usually ends with loading up on sauces and condiments to try and save the dish. But Gina Homolka, the cook and mind behind Skinnytaste, has a trick or two up her sleeve to prevent dry chicken and to keep food flavorful without the use of sugar-laden toppings. 

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Holmolka told us, "For chicken breasts, I love to either do a brine on the chicken — sometimes a little mayonnaise coated on your chicken before you bake it will add so much juiciness and flavor to it — or marinate overnight." Marinades have been used for a long time as a way to add flavor and moisture to chicken; it makes sense, as you are literally adding liquid and flavors to it. Often, ingredients such as citrus or spices are added for an extra kick. But the marinades that are high in acid, such as vinegar, have the added benefit of tenderizing the meat, making it moist — and that's where mayonnaise comes in as well.

A suprising use for mayonnaise

It may seem odd to some that Gina Homolka — known for her website and books promoting healthy cooking — would promote mayonnaise as a solution in the kitchen, given its bad reputation for being unhealthy and packed with preservatives. But Homolka doesn't shy away from store-bought items that add flavor and value to a meal. She did caution: "I also look at the ingredients because I want to make sure that everything's not processed."

But provided you take a look at the ingredient list before picking your next jar of mayonnaise, it can serve as a perfectly respectable cooking tool beyond its use as a topping. Chefs like Geoffrey Zakarian swear by it for its ability to provide a nice crispy outside to a grilled cheese. While Homolka's trick of adding mayonnaise directly to chicken before baking may seem similarly unconventional, mayonnaise shares many elements of a marinade and has the benefit of additional fat. It's typically made out of egg yolks, oil, lemon juice, or another acidic component; other spices and flavors can be added as well. And unlike other common moisture-adding ingredients like straight oil, mayonnaise also has the advantage of sticking directly to the chicken, which will help keep your chicken juicy while baking.

The right tools for the job

Sometimes, though, getting a tender, juicy chicken is less about the ingredients and more about the technique and tools — and Gina Homolka had a recommendation there, too. "I also have this meat tenderizer that I got from OXO that is such a game changer when it comes to making chicken," she told us. "You tenderize [the chicken] and then marinate it for a little bit, and it comes out super tender."

The effectiveness of this tip might be a little easier to visualize than the work of the mayonnaise — tenderizing chicken works by breaking down and evening out the pieces, typically done by using a specialty hammer-like piece of equipment. The muscle fibers start to break down as you hit the chicken, giving the meat a more consistent texture, which helps to keep it juicier. Using this method, chicken can be prepped for anything from grilling to stir fry — and paired with a marinade (or mayonnaise brine coating), the meat is primed to give you a juicy, flavorful result every time.