Friday, January 15, 2010


Dear Mary,

I heard that you could soak chicken in buttermilk. But I’m not exactly sure what buttermilk is and why I would soak chicken in it?



Dear Karen,

Thank you for your question. Buttermilk is a secret weapon for chefs. It has so many great uses and a unique tang that can be really interesting in a lot of dishes. You said “really” twice so I deleted one. When I worked at one of my favorite restaurants, we would soak our chicken tenders in the buttermilk to make the best chicken fingers.

Buttermilk is extremely tart to the taste. If left by itself, it separates and the heavy casein falls to the bottom and the lighter whey floats to the top. It has a pungent smell and usually has small curds in the liquid. Before you serve it or use it to cook with, you should always shake it vigorously.

“The nutritional value is similar to skim or reduced fat milk”

The Visual Food Lover’s Guide, pg 534

The nutritional value is close to skim or reduced fat milk if you’re watching your weight and are looking for another source for flavor this is a great option.

Nutritional Information- per 1 cup Buttermilk

Protein 8.6 g

Fat 2.3 g

Carbohydrates 12.4 g

Cholesterol 9 mg

Sodium 272 mg

The Visual Food Lover’s Guide, pg 534

Soak chicken breast, thighs, or legs in the buttermilk for about 1-2 hours before cooking. This process will help tenderize the chicken and even remove some of the blood in the veins (which will make everyone more comfortable when eating). Children can be turned off by red veins and by soaking the chicken the veins will absorb the buttermilk becoming difficult to detect. Decreasing battles with your kids.

Using its acidic qualities, buttermilk tenderizes the meat the same way a marinade consisting of lemon juice or vinegar does. It also makes the chicken moist and delicious.

Main Courses like fried chicken, chicken parmesan, chicken tenders and southern grilled chicken with a sour cream sauce are all great dishes to use the buttermilk trick. You would want to soak chicken in buttermilk when it would enhance the flavors in the dish. It adds a nice tang to the chicken and breaks down the fibrous tissues, which leaves you with a mouthwatering piece of poultry.

Give it a try. You can also use the buttermilk in sauces to turn a naked chicken into a saucy chicken.

Happy Cooking!

Chef Mary