100 Techniques

Technique #58: Braise Tender Chicken with Crisp, Not Rubbery, Skin

Flabby chicken skin is such a disappointment. This technique promises crispy, schmaltzy chicken skin every time. 

Published Sept. 4, 2023.

This is Technique #58 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Skin-on, bone-in chicken is a great candidate for braising. As it gently simmers in a flavorful liquid, the meat turns moist and tender while the skin renders its fat and collagen to the pot, making for deeply savory flavor and luxurious body in the final sauce.

But one thing braising is not known for is turning out crispy chicken skin.

Even when you do everything you’re supposed to, while the meat may be delicious, the chicken skin usually stays soft and slippery rather than turning crisp and browned, and the rubbery skin often ends up sticking to the pot and tearing away from the meat altogether.


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Can You Achieve Crispy Chicken Skin While Braising?

We’re unwilling to sacrifice the idea of crisp-skinned braised chicken. Patting the chicken dry to remove excess moisture before the initial stovetop sear helps ensure that the skin will stay on the chicken rather than stick to the pot and tear off. Browning the skin side of each piece on the stovetop before braising crisps the skin and begins rendering its fat. This step also creates a flavorful fond in the cooking vessel.

Keep the Chicken Elevated

Here’s what really makes the difference in producing braised chicken with juicy meat and crispy skin: making sure the skin stays elevated and uncovered above the braising liquid. You can achieve this by perching it on top of the other ingredients in the pot during the braising step. 

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Pull Out Your Skillet

We choose a skillet rather than a Dutch oven for this technique. Braising is often done in a Dutch oven, since its high, straight sides are designed for trapping heat and steam and keeping everything moist—everything, unfortunately, including the chicken skin. To keep the skin crispy, you need a cooking vessel that lets steam escape and keeps the chicken skin dry. So while a wide, shallow, uncovered skillet may seem like an odd choice for braising, it’s perfect here.

Don’t Crank the Heat

Don’t be tempted to use a higher oven temperature to coax the skin to get crispier faster. Stick with 350 degrees; we found that at 400 degrees, the chicken meat cooks through too rapidly, before any significant breakdown of connective tissue can take place, and the result is tough, stringy meat that no amount of braising liquid can fix.

The Science of “Overcooked” Chicken

We cook lean chicken breasts to 160 degrees to ensure juiciness. But while dark-meat chicken is safe to eat at 160 degrees and becomes nice and tender at 175 degrees, it can be exceptionally succulent when slowly cooked to even higher temperatures (185 to 195 degrees), as its abundant collagen breaks down into rich gelatin.

Watch Bridget Lancaster and Lan Lam use this technique in the video above.

Step-by-Step: How To Braise Tender Chicken with Crispy Skin

Now you know that it’s not impossible to achieve satisfyingly crispy chicken skin while braising; it just takes a little preparation. By pulling out your skillet, pre-crisping the skin, and elevating the chicken during cooking, you can have your schmaltzy skin and eat tender chicken, too. Read our step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Pat Dry and Season

Pat chicken pieces dry to remove excess moisture and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Step 2:  Crisp the Skin In Skillet

Cook chicken skin side down in smoking-hot skillet until skin is crisped and well browned and fat has rendered. Transfer to plate.

Step 3: Sauté Other Ingredients

Pour off excess fat if necessary, and sauté vegetables or other ingredients for braise in skillet. Add liquid.

Step 4: Elevate Chicken 

Arrange chicken pieces skin side up on top of other ingredients so that they are above surface of liquid. Bake uncovered until chicken registers desired doneness temperature.

Recipes That Use This Technique

Now that you can achieve crispy chicken skin while braising, use your new skills for dinner tonight by making a few of our favorite dishes that use this technique.


One-Pan Lemon-Braised Chicken Thighs with Chickpeas and Fennel

Most braised dishes build flavor through long cooking in a covered vessel. We wanted to get to the flavor faster.
Get the Recipe

Chicken Scarpariello

To perfect this Italian American dish, we had to cut back on the grease and keep the heat in check.
Get the Recipe

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