What's up with boneless, skinless chicken breasts? At supermarkets, they weigh between 7 and 10 ounces each — huge! I sometimes trim them down and use the trimmings for stir-fry, but part of the reason to buy them is they're pan-ready. If chicken breasts take a lot of prep, the convenience factor is gone.
— Nancy K., via email
As almost every food in the United States undergoes supersizing, take comfort in knowing that many cooks share your annoyance with this trend.
Chickens are indeed bigger, according to William P. Roenigk, senior vice president of the National Chicken Council, a Washington, D.C.-based industry group. Some 40 percent of birds weigh in at 6 pounds or more, according to federal statistics.
Why? The cost per pound goes down in processing, Roenigk says, and larger birds provide more boneless, skinless meat to use in chicken nuggets, patties and strips for restaurants. Roenigk says when the restaurant business slows — usually in the winter — some of these big birds end up in supermarket meat cases.
"We get more comments about them now," he told McClatchy News Service.
In can't hurt to check with your grocer about whether smaller chicken breasts are available. Ethnic markets can offer a wider variety of cuts of meat in various sizes.
Farmers markets are among the best sources for heritage-breed birds that don't attain such a large size and have smaller breasts. Of course, this may mean paying more money for your meat, but it's likely to taste more like a traditional chicken, too.
If you can manage a little prep work, the best way to handle oversized chicken breasts is simply slicing them horizontally and pounding.