Chicken -- the ubiquitous white meat -- is delicious, nutritious and easy to prepare. However, while there may be a flock of ways to cook a chicken, many recipes call for simply baking or boiling the bird. Both methods produce moist, tender meat with a slight variation in the flavor and nutritional makeup.
The Tasty Techniques
Both baking and boiling produce tender meat without added fat. Both methods take about the same amount of time and work for almost all parts of the chicken. Baked chicken adheres to the bone better and can be eaten with the fingers while boiled chicken falls off the bone easily and works well chopped or shredded and mixed with other ingredients. Baked chicken with the skin on is slightly higher in calories -- about 220 for a thigh/drumstick quarter -- than boiled chicken, which has about 190 calories for the same piece; some of the fat boils off and into the water. Baking chicken produces drier meat but the flavor is more robust than boiled chicken. Boiled chicken is lower in phosphorus and other minerals but nearly the same in protein content as baked meat.
Baking the Bird
Bake chicken at 350 degrees Fahrenheit in a preheated oven. Cook the bird in a shallow, covered pan to prevent the skin from browning or bake it uncovered to produce a crispy, golden crust. If you remove the skin before baking, the meat may become slightly tough as the dry heat dehydrates the outer layer of meat. However, cooking with the skin on then removing it before eating can reduce the overall amount of fat and calories while still preserving most of the flavor.
Bake a whole chicken for approximately 30 minutes per pound. Boneless breasts take only about 30 minutes to bake and poultry with the bone in -- such as bone-in breasts, legs or thighs -- take about 30 to 40 minutes.
Poaching the Poultry
Boiling chicken at high temperatures can make meat tough. However, poaching chicken -- simmering it in water at a low temperature for a longer time period -- infuses the meat with moisture and makes it tender and succulent while reducing the fat content. The fat cooks off the meat and remains in the broth, resulting in a lower-calorie meat than baking with the skin on. Boil a whole bird at medium heat for about an hour; smaller pieces take less time.
Meet the Meat
While almost interchangeable in many recipes, baked and boiled chicken can be eaten alone or shredded or chopped and mixed with other ingredients. Drier baked chicken can be served alone or added to recipes such as pizza and lettuce-based salads. Because it is more fragile, boiled chicken works well for soups, such as chicken noodle soup, or for dishes calling for moist, shredded chicken such as chicken enchiladas or chicken salad sandwiches.