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In an ideal world, the process of perfectly cooking a chicken would go something like this: Buy chicken, put chicken into pan, cook chicken in oven, serve and get all the praise. In reality, there’s a lot more room for human error. So we checked in with Steve McHugh, the executive chef and owner of Cured in San Antonio, Texas, for his best tips on avoiding some common chicken-cooking mistakes.

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You Overseason It
Keep it simple, folks. According to McHugh, “A properly raised chicken should be full of flavor.” As long as you buy a high-quality chicken, a little salt and pepper should more than do the trick. Here's a handy guide for choosing said high-quality chicken. 

...Or Forget the Inside
Just as you shouldn’t go overboard seasoning the outside of the chicken, you shouldn’t neglect the inside of the bird. McHugh suggests rubbing some salt and pepper in the cavity for maximum flavor.

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You Don’t Brine It
"The most common of all mistakes is letting the chicken dry out with a quick brine.  With a quick brine, you can help alleviate some of that headache and avoid/prevent dry, unappetizing meat," McHugh stresses. Brining, for the uninitiated, is basically letting an uncooked chicken sit in a mixture of liquids and spices for a few hours. Here's a super-simple recipe to follow. 

You Cook It on the Wrong Side
For reference, the right side is breast-side down. “The breast is the largest part of the bird, and by keeping it at the bottom, away from direct heat, you have less chance of a dried-out bird,” McHugh tells us.

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You Don’t Crisp the Skin
If you ask us, crispy skin is the difference between a delicious chicken and an out-of-this-world chicken.  Here’s McHugh’s secret to the crispiest skin: “Once the bird is fully cooked, fire up the broiler and it crisps the skin all around the bird.” Leaving the chicken under the broiler for three to five minutes should do the trick. 

You Waste Good Parts
Dumping any part of the chicken in the trash is a mistake, McHugh notes. “I like to add my gizzards, livers, neck and wings to my veggies [underneath the chicken] and they all are great snacks while your bird is resting.” Another part to make use of: the oysters (those little pockets of meat at the base of the spine and the back of the thighs). It’s the most tender part of the chicken and should not, by any means, be missed.

You Serve It Immediately
Just like when cooking beef, McHugh stresses the importance of giving your chicken a few minutes to rest once it’s done cooking. Even if just for ten minutes, leaving your chicken alone before carving lets you retain more of the juices that keep it moist and delicious.

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