Skip to Content

What to do with burnt chicken breast?

Dealing with overcooked or burnt chicken breast can be frustrating. Unfortunately, it happens to all of us from time to time when cooking chicken. The good news is that there are several tricks you can try to salvage burnt chicken breast, depending on how bad the burn is. Keep reading for tips on what to do when your chicken breast gets a little too crispy.

How can you tell if chicken breast is burnt?

Chicken breast is fully cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. However, there are some visual cues that can help you identify if your chicken breast is overcooked or burnt:

  • The surface is very dark brown or blackened in areas
  • The texture is dry, tough, or rubbery
  • The meat has pulled away from the bone (for bone-in breasts)
  • The juices run clear but the meat is dry when cutting into it

If your chicken exhibits any of these characteristics, it is likely overcooked or burnt. The degree of burn will determine if and how it can be salvaged.

Can you eat burnt chicken breast?

While burnt chicken breast may not look or taste very appetizing, it is usually safe to eat if cooked to a safe internal temperature. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), chicken is safely cooked at an internal temperature of 165°F.

At this temperature, any potential bacteria or pathogens are killed, even if the outside looks burnt. Of course, the quality and taste will be negatively impacted. But if your chicken breast reached the proper internal temp, you can eat it without worries from a food safety perspective.

It’s best to check the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast using a food thermometer. If it reads 165°F or above, the burnt chicken is technically safe to consume. However, if the burn is especially bad, you may choose to discard it anyway based on poor texture and taste.

How to salvage mildly overcooked chicken breast

If your chicken breast is only mildly overcooked, there are a few easy ways to salvage it:

  • Slice or shred the chicken breast – This increases the surface area, making it feel more tender and less dry in your mouth.
  • Use it in chicken salad or wraps – Chopped or shredded chicken breast works great in chicken salads, wraps, tacos, or sandwiches where it is paired with sauce or other ingredients.
  • Simmer it in sauce or gravy – Cooking the chicken breast in a flavorful sauce helps rehydrate it and adds moisture.
  • Make chicken soup or stew – Similarly, using the chicken breast in soups, stews, or chilies allows it to soak up liquid as it simmers.

For mildly overcooked chicken, slicing or shredding it is usually the easiest way to salvage it for meals. Focus on recipes where you can incorporate sauces, gravies or other liquids.

How to fix chicken breast that is moderately burnt

For chicken breast that is more than just a little dry but not completely charred, there are some additional tactics you can try:

  • Cut away any blackened sections – This improves the flavor and appearance.
  • Soak it in saltwater brine – A saltwater brine helps re-moisten and tenderize the meat.
  • Marinate it – Marinading infuses flavor and moisture into the chicken.
  • Use a tenderizing marinade or sauce – Marinades containing ingredients like buttermilk, yogurt, or pineapple juice also help tenderize.
  • Pound it thin – You can pound the chicken to an even thickness, which tenderizes it.
  • Bread or batter it – Breading or battering provides a crispy exterior coating.

Be sure to slice across the grain of the meat for a more tender texture. Marinading for at least 30 minutes improves moisture. Opt for recipes like chicken parmesan, chicken fingers, or chicken tacos where sauces add plenty of flavor.

How to fix severely burnt chicken breast

Chicken breast that is badly burnt with a charred exterior and rubbery, dry interior has very limited salvage options. Here are a few things you can try:

  • Cut away all blackened parts – Scrape off the charred sections to improve flavor.
  • Shred it – Shred into very small pieces to minimize poor texture.
  • Use it in strongly flavored dishes – Add to barbecued pulled chicken, chicken chili or soup where other seasonings overwhelm the burnt taste.
  • Repurpose it – Use it as dog food or as a filler for broth or stock.
  • When all else fails, throw it out! Severely burnt chicken breast likely won’t be palatable.

Unfortunately once chicken is badly burnt, the texture and moisture cannot be restored. Your best bet is hiding it in highly seasoned recipes or repurposing it if still safe to eat. Don’t force yourself to eat inedible chicken – if it’s very badly burnt, it may need to be discarded.

Tips to avoid burning chicken breast

While you can salvage burnt chicken breast to some degree, it’s best avoided in the first place. Here are some tips to help prevent burning your chicken:

  • Don’t cook over high heat – Cook chicken gently over medium heat instead.
  • Watch the temperature – Use a food thermometer to accurately monitor doneness.
  • Cut it evenly – Chicken breasts should be an even size and thickness.
  • Pound it – Evening out thickness helps it cook evenly.
  • Brush marinade – Marinade adds moisture and prevents drying out.
  • Avoid overcrowding – Do not overload the pan, which steams the chicken.
  • Let it rest – Allow chicken to rest 5 minutes before cutting into it.

Also, stay nearby towards the end of cooking time and frequently baste or turn chicken breasts. Pay attention to visual signs like firmness and opacity. With some care, you can avoid an overcooked chicken nightmare.

Can you freeze burnt chicken breast?

You can freeze burnt chicken breast, but it’s not recommended. The freezing process will harden the meat, making burnt chicken even tougher and drier once defrosted and cooked.

However, if the chicken is only slightly overdone, freezing may be an option for saving it for later use. Be sure to defrost the chicken in the fridge before cooking to prevent further drying out. Use previously frozen burnt chicken in recipes like chicken noodle soup or chicken chili where it will be immersed in liquid during cooking.

In general, the best use for slightly burnt chicken is in recipes that introduce moisture through sauces, gravies or cooking methods like braising. Freezing burnt meat gives it an unappealing texture. For chicken that is more than mildly overcooked, it’s best not to freeze at all.

What are some recipes to use with burnt chicken breast?

Here are some recipe ideas for putting burnt or dry chicken breast to use:

Chicken Salad

Dice or shred chicken and mix with mayonnaise, celery, onion, and any other desired ingredients like grapes, pineapple, or apple. The mayo will provide moisture and flavor.

Chicken Tacos

Chop chicken and season with taco seasoning. Include it in tacos with toppings like salsa, cheese, lettuce, etc. that will mask the dryness.

Chicken Noodle Soup

Simmer chopped chicken in chicken broth with vegetables and noodles until tender. The broth will rehydrate the meat.

Chicken Pot Pie

Combine chopped chicken with your favorite vegetables and gravy. Cover with pie dough or biscuit dough and bake until golden brown.

BBQ Pulled Chicken

Shred chicken and toss it in your favorite bbq sauce. Pile it on buns for chicken sandwiches.

Chicken Chili

Cut chicken into small pieces and simmer it in a flavorful chili or white chicken chili full of beans, spices, and other ingredients.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Add shredded chicken, corn, beans, tomatoes and spices to chicken broth. Top with crispy tortilla strips.

Should you shred or slice burnt chicken breast?

Burnt chicken breast will be more palatable if you shred or slice it rather than serving it whole. Cutting it into smaller pieces helps minimize the poor texture of overcooked meat in several ways:

  • Increases surface area for absorbing moisture from sauces or gravy
  • Prevents biting into large dry pieces
  • Allows you to cut away any blackened sections
  • Makes it easier to chew by shortening the muscle fibers

Slicing is best if the chicken is only mildly overcooked. It enables you to serve it in slices for dishes like fajitas, wraps, or sandwiches.

Shredding is ideal for chicken that is dry or tough throughout. It essentially masks the poor texture. Shredded chicken works perfectly in soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, salads, and more.

For the best results with burnt chicken, slice or shred it prior to incorporating it into recipes. Avoid serving it in large portions or keeping breasts whole.


While burnt chicken breast can be disappointing, you have options for salvaging it as long as it reached a safe internal temperature. For mild overcooking, slicing and shredding are often all you need to improve the texture. For more severe burning or dryness, utilize methods like marinading, pounding, or chopping before adding to flavorful soups, stews, and other saucy dishes. With some creativity and techniques for introducing moisture, you can transform dried-out burnt chicken into tasty meals. Learn how to prevent burning in the first place, and always monitor temperature and doneness when cooking chicken. Even the best cooks run into overcooked poultry now and then – now you know how to make the best of it!