Woody Chicken Breasts 101: How to Cook Woody Breast Chicken, Tips to Avoid One and More

Sometimes chicken can be tough to chew, and you may think it has to do with poor cooking skills. In fact, the chicken you have just consumed could have been “woody chicken breasts“, and it can happen to any breed of poultry.

You may have heard of “woody breast chicken”, and even though you may not be totally familiar with what the meat is all about, it doesn’t sound that appetizing. But what happens if you have accidentally bought one?

How to cook woody breast chicken? Can you still make a good dish with it? Yes, it’s not the end of the world – you can cook tough chicken breast in many different manners.

Let’s find out.

First Off, What Is Woody Breast Chicken?

It is unknown what causes woody breast syndrome in poultry, but it is thought to be influenced by the bird’s age, genetics, diet, or exercise levels. Woody breast chicken meat is tough and chewy. The meat has a spongy texture and different flavor than usual, one of the key identifiers of woody breast in chicken. 

How to Identify That Chicken Is Woody

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There are several ways how to identify woody chicken breasts that you are eating are tough and chewy, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms.

You can easily identify that the chicken meat is woody from the texture and color of the chicken breast. Woody chicken breasts will feel hard when you touch it, and it is also paler than the supposed healthy light pink color of non-woody chicken breasts.

But What Causes Woody Chicken Breasts?

Chicken is one of the most popular meat choices but if you happen to be unlucky, you could find yourself getting tough and chewy chicken meat instead of tender ones. When meat is tough and chewy, it isn’t easy to eat.

Scientists couldn’t pinpoint the exact cause for it, but some of the possible reasons behind this tough and chewy texture include:

Poor Quality of Meat

One of the main reasons why meat can be tough and chewy is because of the meat quality. Often, it can be challenging to eat the meat because the chicken itself has a woody breast, potentially due to the stress on the muscles in the breast area.

The breast meat becomes dry and dense, making it difficult to chew, but this does not necessarily indicate the meat has gone bad.

The quality of the meat is one of the most significant factors in determining its toughness and chewiness. Poor-quality chicken is likely due to prior freezing and the meat not adequately cared for, resulting in toughness and chewiness. To ensure tender meat texture, be sure to purchase quality chicken.

Chicken Is Too Old or Big

A good rule of thumb is to select your poultry from younger chicken. Older, bigger-sized chickens tend to have firmer and tougher meat.

Unskilled butchering process

Another reason for the poor meat quality can be the butchering process. Not properly butchering can make it the meat texture woody.

Undercooking or Overcooking the Meat

If the chicken meat is undercooked or overcooked, you may also get woody chicken breast. When meat is undercooked, the proteins are not fully cooked, hence chewing it can be difficult.

Additionally, the proteins can become dry and tough if the meat is overcooked. To avoid this, you should cook the meat properly so you can enjoy the best texture and flavor.

Sucking the Moisture Out of the Meat

The most frequent reason for dry, tough meat is that too much moisture has been drawn out of it, usually from the cooking process. Chicken meat that is frequently overcooked or cooked in a dry environment will most likely have this problem.

To prevent this, keep the meat wet while cooking by cooking it in a broth or sauce. Additionally, don’t overcook the meat, or it will dry out.

How to Cook Woody Breast Chicken Like A Boss

Cooking woody breast meat can be tricky if you’re not used to it. However, preparation is not too hard if you know what causes woody chicken breast and what to expect from cooking it in certain ways.

So how to fix chewy chicken for meals? You can cook it in a few different methods. It’s similar in flavor to dark meat, except it is drier and has more fat.

Related post: How much weight does chicken lose when cooked?

How to cook woody breast chicken like a boss

  • Grilling

    Before grilling with a smoker, season it with salt and pepper for 30 min then grill it for 15 min each side.

  • Roasting

    To roast a woody chicken, you’ll want to start with a dryer bird seasoned well beforehand. Start by roasting in an oven at 400F for about 30 minutes. Then flip and roast for about another 30 minutes until cooked properly.

  • Slow cooking

    Chicken can be made more tender and juicy by marinating it before cooking, provided the marinade has the right flavors. If you are using a pressure cooker, be sure to adjust the cooking time for the size of your cut of meat. Choose smaller pieces of meat, and prevent over-cooking as that will result in tough meat.

  • Simmering over low heat

    The meat won’t dry out while being cooked slowly, allowing the flavours to meld. Adding moisture to the cooking process by basting the chicken with a liquid or adding broth or water to the pan during cooking.

  • Steaming or Braising

    Keeping the chicken moist and preventing it from drying out can be achieved by cooking it using moist heat techniques such as steaming or braising.

  • Tenderizing the woody breast meat

    The best way to tenderize meat is by marinating it. Your woody chicken breast can be tenderized by soaking it in brine, but if you have the time and energy, try a marinade instead.

    Consider using an enzyme-based marinade such as buttermilk or yogurt to help soften the fibrous texture before you proceed to cook it. Marinating for at least 4 hours results in tender meat, and overnight marinade makes it juicy and flavorful. After marinating, do remember to bring them to room temperature so the meat can cook evenly.

Photo of cooked grilled chicken breasts - How to cook woody breast chicken, Woody chicken breasts - thebarbequegrill.com

With these tips, now you know how to cook woody breast chicken so that it is tender and delicious! Next, let’s go through some tips on how to avoid a woody breast chicken in the future.

How to Make Chicken Tender

While there are many ways to make your meat more tender, here are some tried-and-tested “how to tenderize woody chicken breast” tips:

  • Use fresh, high-quality ingredients when possible and avoid frozen chicken meat or canned meat.
  • Use whole grain breadcrumbs instead of standard breadcrumbs for added texture and flavor—season food with herbs and spices to enhance the depth of flavor.
  • If you are using a pressure cooker, be sure to adjust the cooking time for the size of your cut of meat.
  • Choose smaller pieces of meat, and prevent over-cooking as that will result in tough meat.

Tips for Avoiding A Woody Breast Chicken In The Future

No doubt, it is important to know the symptoms of chicken woody breast and how to cook it properly, so it is tender and delicious.

However, prevention is always key when it comes to how to prevent chicken from becoming tough and chewy and suffer the woody breast syndrome – you can also take steps on how to avoid woody breast chicken in the future.

Here are some tips if you rear the chickens yourself:

  • Choose a bird that is the appropriate age or size for your needs.
  • Make sure the bird has plenty of space to move around and exercise.
  • Feed the bird a nutritious diet.
  • Monitor the bird for signs of stress or illness.
Woody chicken breast picture - How to cook woody breast chicken, Woody chicken breast - The Barbecue Grill Blog

If you purchase from vendors or the butcher:

  • Choose organic chicken over non-organic ones
  • Go for smaller breasts
  • Inspect the meat by feeling and touching to see if it is hard
  • Check for any discoloration on the meat or shrunken form – this is indicative of woody chicken breast meat

Wait, Is It Safe to Eat Rubbery Chicken?

It is still safe to eat woody chicken breasts despite the meat being rubbery, tough or too chewy.

It is possible to ensure that your chicken is tender and juicy every time with a bit of care after all, so yes, your woody chicken meat can still be saved! However, it is important to cook correctly so that it does not become rubbery and have woody chicken syndrome.

If you do all of these things, you should be able to enjoy tender, juicy chicken every time.


As we already understand, woody breast chicken is more difficult to cook than normal meat. Some people fear that woody breast chicken is challenging to prepare, but you can easily solve the tough meat issue if you learn to cook it with proper methods.

Now that you know all about woody chicken breasts and the best cooking methods for a woody breast, go ahead and cook the woody meat with confidence!


Picture of chicken breasts to salvage tough and chewy chicken - How to cook woody breast chicken, Woody chicken breasts - The Barbecue Grill Blog
What are the main reasons chicken is tough and chewy?

The main reasons that become tough and chewy are the quality of the meat itself, undercooking or overcooking the meat, and the lack of moisture in the meat.

How do I prevent chicken from becoming tough and chewy?

The best way to prevent it from becoming tough and chewy is to use high-quality meat, cook it properly, and avoid overcooking it.

How do I fix a cooked rubbery chicken?

The key to fixing rubbery is to cook it again. You can either pot-roast the chicken or grill it. Both methods will ensure that it has plenty of time to absorb the rub properly.

Is there any way to salvage tough and chewy chicken?

If you are determined to salvage tough and chewy chicken meat, there is one secret trick that can help.
Place it in a small container (like a plastic storage container or a small bowl) and fill the container with water until you reach the bottom.
Cover the container and let it sit face-down in your refrigerator for at least 8 hours. After these 8 hours, take out the and drain as much water as possible, then pat dry with paper towels.
Now shred the chicken into chunks and mix with all your favorite seasonings. Place back into a large Ziploc bag and store between layers of paper towels in your refrigerator.
The next time you want some shredded chicken for tacos or sandwiches, grab some out of your bag, and you’re good to go.
This process will tenderize the meat even more, so if you are looking for tough little slices of chicken breast, this is not the way to go. But if you are looking for tender shreds of chicken breast that have great flavor but don’t fall apart when you shred them? This is how to do it!

Is woody breast safe to eat?

Woody chicken breasts are safe to eat but do note that the woody breast does not have nutritional value and is not recommended to be eaten due to the fibrous texture that can affect the taste of your dishes.

What does woody breast taste like?

It depends on the type of woody breast you are eating. The more dry the woody breast is, the saltier it will be. If the meat is very moist, the taste will be salted and tastes unpleasant.