Chicken is used a lot when preparing Nigerian recipes, especially the Rice recipes and stew recipes. Chicken can also be eaten as a snack and washed down with a chilled drink.
You want to season your chicken so that it will be very tasty and you also want to prepare it such that it will be presentable and appetizing.
Seasoning chicken is very easy and you only need a few ingredients. Most often, people think that you have to add all the spices and stock cubes in the world to make the chicken tasty. But what all these excess seasoning does to the chicken is to take away the natural flavour of the chicken. To season chicken, you only need these major spices and ingredients:
- Chicken: Hen (female chicken) is tougher and tastier than cockerel (male chicken) so when you go to buy chicken, ask your grocer or meat seller for the hen. This is called Gallina in Spanish. You should also buy a whole chicken and cut it up in pieces. Not only is it cheaper but you get the different parts of the chicken which adds to the flavour rather than just one part.
- Onions: White, yellow or red onions. Onions are very important when seasoning chicken.
- Thyme: This is very essential due to the aroma it adds to the chicken.
- Stock cubes: Maggi or Knorr are the brands that bring out the best taste in Nigerian recipes.
- Salt: Use salt sparingly when seasoning your chicken. Salt should be added when the chicken is done. Never add salt to raw chicken, see notes below for more information on what adding salt too early does to your chicken or beef.
- You should also grill your chicken after cooking it rather than deep-fry it. If you have an oven, please grill your chicken because it is healthier. Grilling also makes the chicken taste better.
Directions for Seasoning and Grilling Chicken
- Cut up the whole chicken to desired pieces. Most grocers or meat sellers will do this for you and save you the job.
- Put the chicken pieces in a pot; add diced onions, thyme and stock cubes.
- Pour enough water to just cover the contents of the pot and start cooking.
- Since the hen is tough, it takes quite some time to get it well cooked. It usually takes me one hour 15 minutes on medium heat with a normal cooking pot to get it done to the way I like it. Depending on the heating capacity of your cooker, this may take less. Also if you use a pressure cooker, it will take even much less time so keep an eye on it so that it does not get too soft.
- When the chicken is done, add some salt, cover the pot and leave to simmer for about 2 minutes. Adding salt at the beginning will make your chicken cook in more time because salt toughens the chicken and some other food stuff.
- Transfer the chicken to a sieve to drain.
- Then place them on your oven rack, place the rack as close to the grill (the top heater in your oven) as possible.
- Switch your oven to “Grill” or if you are in the USA, “Broil” and set the temperature to 170°C or 338°F.
- When the top side becomes brown, turn the pieces of chicken on the other side.
- The chicken is well-grilled when both sides are brown.
Notes about cooking the chicken:
- Add water up to the level of the contents of the pot when cooking the chicken.
- When cooking chicken, I do not add salt to the raw chicken. This is because salt closes the pores of the chicken (and infact anything you are cooking), this prevents the natural flavour of the chicken from coming out into the surrounding water and prevents the seasoning from entering the chicken to improve the taste. The result is that your chicken stock will not have a rich natural taste. It will only have an artifical taste of seasoning.
- Salt also hardens the chicken hence it takes longer to cook.
- I only add salt when the chicken is done. A lot of people think that adding salt early makes the chicken taste better but there’s a big difference between a salty taste and a rich taste. I believe that what gives food a rich taste is not salt but the natural flavour of the food so allow this natural flavour to come out into your stock by NOT adding salt too early. And remember, stock cubes already contain salt so you really don’t need more salt.
- I do not use Nigerian curry powder to season my chicken simply because it changes the colour of the chicken and gives it an artificial overpowering taste. You can add curry powder to stews that you use the chicken or beef for. But if you don’t mind the colour and taste it gives the chicken, feel free to add it when steaming the beef or chicken.
- Serve with all the Nigerian Rice recipes, Nigerian Moi Moi and Nigerian Salad. Feel free to snack on it with a chilled drink. Your guests will love you if you serve them grilled chicken.