My Secret Ingredient for Chicken Dinner Is Already in Your Pantry
Braising chicken is always a great way to put dinner on the table without worrying about overcooking or last-minute fussing. Cooking chicken in a flavorful liquid both keeps it tender and moist, but also infuses it with deep savory intensity and creates its own sauce. Add a quick cooking carb to soak up the juices like rice or pasta or potatoes, and you have a meal that is comforting and simple, but delicious enough to serve for company.
While I love most braised chicken recipes, I do find that sometimes they can eat a little one-note. After all that cooking, the sauce becomes a rich umami bomb, devoid of freshness or bite. You can always add the punch of some lemon zest or a sprinkle of fresh herbs to perk it up, but those last-minute additions don't get into the dish in the way I want.
My secret braised chicken dinner ingredient? Vinegar!
So, these days, I'm leaning into an old French home cooking technique, chicken in vinegar. Replacing a portion of the stock or wine used for braising with the punchy acidity of vinegar creates a sauce with great depth, but with plenty of tongue-tingling oomph. The best part is that it doesn't require learning a new recipe, but rather, simply adding in an appropriate vinegar to the braising liquid in my favorite dishes and letting the mixture do all the work. Adding a splash of the same vinegar, often as little as a teaspoon, right at the end of cooking can bring that bright intensity to the forefront, without overpowering things.
Which vinegars to use when braising chicken
The important part of making this addition is to use the right vinegar. Use this as your general guide:
- Greek recipes: Red or white wine vinegar
- Spanish recipes: Sherry vinegar
- French recipes: Champagne vinegar or flavored fruit vinegars like pear or raspberry
- German/Alsatian recipes: Apple cider vinegar
- Italian recipes: White or dark balsamic vinegar
Be careful with vinegars with infused flavors like ginger or honey, which can fight with the rest of the dish. And don't use distilled white vinegar, which will never mellow.
How much vinegar to use when braising chicken
My best ratio for a braising liquid with great subtle vinegar flavor, but without too much acrid bite, is 3:3:1. Three parts stock or water, three parts wine or other liquid like juice or beer, and one part vinegar. So, if your recipe calls for a cup each of stock and wine? Add in 1/3 cup of vinegar.
When your recipe is done, taste the sauce. You'll be surprised how much the vinegar rounds out. At this point there is no need to add more, but I often find just a teaspoon or two of fresh vinegar right at the end to finish the sauce is a welcome addition.
It is important to note, this technique does not work if your recipe already has an intense acid like lemon juice; the combo will be too harsh on the palate.
3 great braised chicken recipes to add vinegar to
To get you started, here are some of our favorite recipes with some recommendations of which vinegar to add!
Try adding 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
Try adding 1/3 cup Champagne vinegar
Try adding 1/3 cup sherry vinegar