28 Ways To Turn Chicken Into Muscle - Men's Health Magazine Australia

28 Ways To Turn Chicken Into Muscle

These high-protein feasts will make you cock of the walk.

When it comes to fuelling your efforts in the gym, chicken is the ultimate wingman. But by focusing only on the leanest meat in its plainest form, you’re missing out on vital nutrients – not to mention flavour. Spread your culinary wings with this flock of protein-rich feasts, compiled by some of the industry’s most exciting chefs. It’s time to teach the old bird some new tricks.

23g of protein, compared with 17g in a McChicken Burger

1. The Best Chicken Burger You’ll Ever Eat

Without wishing to ruffle feathers, protein needn’t always be pious. The Disco Sandwich – created by Carl Clarke, co-founder of London’s best fried chicken joint, Chick’N’Sours – serves up 40g of the good stuff in a truly irresistible package.

Ingredients (Serves 4)

• 500ml buttermilk
• 4 boneless thighs, skin on
• 1 large egg
• 120ml milk
• 165g flour
• Vegetable oil, for deep-frying
• 2 very ripe avocados
• Juice of 2 limes
• 1 tbsp chopped coriander
• 8 slices of dry-cured streaky bacon
• 4 brioche rolls
• Hot sauce
• 4 american cheese slices
• 2 tbsp pink pickled onions
• 2 tbsp mayonnaise (Ideally japanese kewpie)


Clarke, author of The Whole Chicken, is on a quest to perfect the art of the chicken burger. Whisk the buttermilk with 1 tsp of salt in a bowl. Add the thighs, cover with cling wrap and pop in the fridge for 12-24 hrs.

Whisk the egg and milk and set aside. For the coating, blend the flour with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Remove the thighs from the brine;
shake off the excess buttermilk. Dip in the flour mix, then submerge in the wet mix. Dredge back into the flour and work it with your hands to create a flaky texture.

Heat about 2L of oil heated to 140°C for the frying. Fry the thighs
in pairs for 7 mins, then set aside. Up the oil temperature to 180°C. Deep fry again for 3-4 mins until golden brown; drain on paper towels.

To build the burgers, mix the avo flesh with lime juice and coriander, then season. Grill the bacon. Halve the rolls and toast under a grill. Spread the avo on the base of each roll and top with chicken, hot sauce, a cheese slice, 2 slices of bacon and onions. Spread a little mayo on the lid of the bread roll and close it up. Trust us: this recipe rules the roost.

2-4. What’s On The Outside Counts

Stripped chicken breasts might be the gym bro’s go-to, but it’s worth saving your skin – it’s a surprising source of recovery-boosting selenium, and far tastier than you might think. Make the most of it with Clarke’s chicken-skin crispies.


Place your pieces of skin, cut to about 10cm in length, on a chopping board and scrape off excess fat from the inside with a sharp chef’s knife. Line a baking tray with parchment, then lay the pieces of skin on the tray, smoothing out the creases and leaving a small gap in between each. Season with sea salt. Top with another sheet of parchment and pop a flat baking tray on top, pressing to flatten. Roast at 180°C for about 50 mins until golden brown (keep watch – if the skin overcooks it becomes bitter), then pop on a wire rack. It will crisp up as it cools.

Remix It

Throw the skins in a salad with baby gem lettuce, blue cheese, crispy bacon and pickled apple. Enjoy as a cracker-style snack with sour cream and pineapple jam, or homemade houmous and chilli oil. Or use to top pad Thai, crushed, along with roasted peanuts, to give your dish some extra crunch.

5. Chicken Soup For The Swole

Don’t throw away your Sunday roast carcass – there are useful proteins and minerals hidden within, not to mention plenty of recovery-boosting collagen. Instead, use it to concoct this frugal yet delicious soup.

The power of chicken soup – aka Jewish penicillin – to nourish, comfort, strengthen and cure is legendary. Quite literally, in fact, for its secrets and ingredients invariably differ depending on who you ask. Despite its association with Ashkenazi Jewish culture, some claim that the origins lie in ancient Greece, or even China. Many, if not most, Jewish people will cite their grandparents’ recipe as The One. Some include gamier ‘boiling fowl’; others insist on the best chicken you can buy. But the one thing on which all can agree is that the most important ingredients are love, time and care.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

• Leftover carcass or bones
• 1kg chicken wings and/or drumsticks
• 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
• 1 parsnip, peeled and roughly chopped
• 3 celery sticks, roughly chopped
• 2 skin-on onions, quartered
• 1 bay leaf
• 1 handful parsley stalks
• 1 tbsp peppercorns


Pop your carcass and chicken pieces into a large saucepan along with the veg. Cover with water and bring to a very slow boil, skimming any white foam off the top.

Once it’s been simmering for about 90min, remove from the heat. Take out the bird and pick off all the meat before setting aside, along with the veg. Strain the broth through a sieve and return it to the cooking pot, along with the carcass. Cook for another 1 hr, then strain again.

Refrigerate overnight, then scoop the rendered fat (schmaltz) off the top – it’s full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. For a traditional Jewish soup, warm the broth and serve with matzah balls, chopped carrots, torn chicken meat and fresh parsley. Or use the broth for one of the recipe ideas below.

Remix It

Sweat an onion in butter, then add a tin of sweetcorn. Blend this with the broth and top with basil. Combine with onion, garlic, thyme, rosemary and 100g of bacon for an extra 17g of protein. For a nutrient superboost, add Brussels sprout leaves, spinach and crushed chestnuts.

6. Play The Organs

Offal is an unsung superfood, as Angelo Sato – chef-owner of yakitori bar Humble Chicken (which offers more than 17 different cuts) – knows well. This miso liver recipe can be served with steamed sticky white rice.

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

• 300g chicken livers
• 50g cornflour
• 50g sesame oil
• Black and white sesame seeds, toasted
• 4 spring onions

For the miso sauce

• 100g miso
• 30g gochujang paste
• 15g soya sauce
• 10g sugar
• 20g honey
• 10g ginger, grated
• 1 garlic clove, grated
• ¼ apple, grated


To make the sauce, put everything in a pot along with 100ml water and simmer for 25-30min. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan every couple of mins to make sure it doesn’t burn. (While it simmers, prep the spring onions: slice very thin and soak in ice water for 20 mins; pat dry.) Remove the sauce after 30min; leave to cool.

Rinse the livers and pat dry. Season the cornflour and dust the livers, shaking off excess flour. Heat the sesame oil on high and add the livers. Liver is packed with B vits, which help your body turn food into energy. Sauté for 60sec each side; reduce the heat and coat with the sauce. Simmer for 3min.

When cooked, plate up and spoon over the sauce. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and spring onions to garnish.

10 – 15. Stretch Your Sunday Roast

Master the art of waste-free cooking by learning to prep in bulk. Perfect your roast with this recipe from London butchers Parson’s Nose, then adapt your leftovers for a week’s worth of meals. Keep your health in check on the cheap.

240g of protein in a smallish bird, were you to finish it

SUNDAY: A Whole Lotta Bird


• A 1.6kg chicken
• 2 onions, chopped
• 2 carrots, chopped
• Garlic bulb, broken up
• 2 tbsp Olive oil
• Large sprig of Rosemary
• 1 tbsp Smoked salt
• 250g Butter
• 1 orange, quartered
• 1 lemon, quartered


Soak your bird in 3L tepid water with sugar and salt. Refrigerate for 6-12 hrs.

Dry the chicken 1 hr before roasting. Coat the vegetables in oil. Mix the rosemary and salt into the butter. Rub the chicken with butter and stuff the fruit into its cavity.

Pop the bird on the veg on a tray, then cover with foil and roast at 180°C for 20 mins. Remove the foil; roast for 35 mins. Don’t eat it all tonight.

MONDAY: Afternoon Spring Rolls

Ingredients (Serves 2)

• 250g cooked chicken
• 4 rice paper wrappers
• 1 carrot, grated
• 2 spring onions, sliced
• Handful of beansprouts 
• Coriander and mint, to taste

For the sauce

• 2 tbsp fish sauce 
• 2 tbsp lime juice
• 1 tsp runny honey 


Get creative for an afternoon snack that beats any protein bar. Dip the wrappers in hot water one at a time and lay them on a damp tea towel.

Leaving a 2cm border around the edges, stuff the rolls with your other ingredients, then wrap them up like parcels.

Pop the rolls in some Tupperware, then pour the sauce ingredients into a bottle. Shake to mix. Break these
out when post-lunch cravings threaten your resolve.

TUESDAY: Pesto Protein Strips

Ingredients (Serves 4)

• 400g cooked chicken
• Handful of basil 
• 1 garlic clove, grated
• 25g pine nuts 
• 25g freshly grated parmesan
• 100ml olive oil
• 400g cherry tomatoes 
• 2 mozzarella balls, torn


First, the pesto. Blitz the basil, garlic, pine nuts and parmesan, adding oil to form a paste. Season to taste – with more cheese, if you prefer.

Tear the chicken into strips, coat it in pesto and lay it in a dish. Top it with the tomatoes and cheese (mozzarella packs a helpful 12g of protein per serving).

Bake at 180°C for 10 mins until the cheese melts. Serve with salad and balsamic vinegar, or tagliatelle if you’re in
need of workout fuel.

WEDNESDAY: Moroccan Muscle

Ingredients (Serves 4)

• 400g cooked chicken
• 1 onion, sliced
• Dash of oil
• 1 red chilli, chopped
• ½ squash, diced
• 2 tbsp curry powder
• 1 tbsp rose harissa
• 50g dried apricots, chopped
• 50g flaked almonds
• 1 tin of tomatoes
• 2 tbsp runny honey


Feed your muscles after a session with a simple tagine. Start by frying the onion until it’s browned, then add everything else except for the chicken and honey.

Mix well, then cover with a lid. Let it bubble for 10-15 mins.

Add the torn chicken and the honey and cook for a few mins. Serve with brown rice and veg for a perfect blend of carbs, protein and vitamins.

THURSDAY: Curry Night Upgrade

Ingredients (Serves 2)

• 200g cooked chicken 
• ½ Onion, finely sliced
• ½ Red capsicum, finely sliced
• 1 garlic clove
• Chunk of ginger
• 1½ tbsp madras paste
• Sweet potato, chopped
• 200ml coconut milk
• 2 tsp peanut butter


Skip the supermarket ready meals and and make your own. Soften the onion, pepper, garlic and ginger in a pan. Add the curry paste and stir.

Add the potato chunks, followed by the coconut milk for a hit of healthy fats. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 mins until the sweet potatoes have softened.

To finish, add the chicken and peanut butter and warm it all up. Serve with basmati and a chilled lager. It’s almost the end of the week, after all.

x3 Soya, garlic and onions provide a triple hit of prebiotics for digestion

FRIDAY: Light & Lean Pho

Ingredients (Serves 2)

• 200g cooked chicken
• 1L fresh stock
• ½ onion, sliced
• 120g rice noodles (dry weight)
• 1 tbsp fish sauce
• 1 tbsp light soya sauce
• 50g raw beansprouts


Spare yourself the graft and line your stomach with this soup you can prep in moments. Bring the stock to a boil, add the onion and simmer for 6 mins.

Add the noodles and chicken. Don’t avoid the dark meat; it’s marginally higher in kilojoules but full of micronutrients. Once the noodles have softened, add the sauces.

Divide into bowls and garnish with coriander, fresh red chilli and a big squeeze of lime juice. 

16 – 24. Choose The Nug LIfe

Because you can’t dine under the Golden Arches every day, we’ve created this lean nugget matrix to help you switch up your home efforts. Quinoa salad or supersized fries? We’ll leave that one with you.


It’s time to get your hands dirty – but start by washing them. Bulk out your minced chicken with 3/4 cup of one of the three boosters, plus 1 tbsp of your chosen spice blend. Knead the mixture together, mould it into nugget-sized balls and refrigerate for 30 mins. 

When you’re ready to cook, take the balls out of the fridge and roll each in flour, then dip in the beaten egg and add the breadcrumbs. Flatten the nuggets into an oval shape.

Finally, bake them in the oven at 180°C for 15-20 mins or until they’re golden. Tuck in with salad, pita bread or – if you’re a nugget traditionalist – chips.

Get to the heart of the bird and your T levels will thank you.

25. Have Some Heart

A great source of zinc, which helps to maintain healthy testosterone levels, chicken hearts are far too good to go to waste. Chase the pump with this heart skewer and tare sauce recipe from Humble Chicken’s Angelo Sato.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

• 30 chicken hearts
• 10g sesame oil
• Chives, finely chopped
• Dijon mustard, to serve

For the tare sauce

• 100g sake
• 30g dark soya
• 20g light soya
• 15g sugar
• 30g mirin
• 20g glucose


Start with the sauce: combine everything in a saucepan and slowly reduce over a low heat until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove and leave to cool.

Butterfly the hearts by slicing down the middle and spreading them open. Rinse the insides with cold water and pat dry. Slide the butterflied hearts on to 18cm bamboo skewers, 5-6 per skewer, and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a dash of sesame oil in a non-stick pan and add the skewers, sautéing for 2 mins each side. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool for 30 secs. Add your tare sauce, return to a low heat and gently glaze the skewers for another 30 secs. Garnish with chives and mustard.

26 – 27. Let Your Gains Take Flight

Bored of breast meat? Update your birds-to-biceps formula with these finger-lickin’ wings recipes from Chick’N’Sours’ Clarke – perfect for your post-training refuel.

Ingredients (Serves 6-10)

• 2kg jointed chicken wings
• 4 tbsp baking powder
• 3 tbsp sea salt

For the hot sauce

•1kg Scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded
•1kg long red chillies, deseeded
• 50g dried chipotle chillies
• 250g chopped garlic
• 1 tsp allspice
• 2 star anise
• 2L cider vinegar
• 250g butter
• 2 tbsp cornflour

For the sticky sauce

• 250ml apple juice
• 250ml apple cider vinegar
• 250g dark brown sugar
• 1 tbsp coarse ground pepper
• 125g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
• 1 tbsp cornflour


Combine the baking powder and salt and coat the wings, tossing for an even dusting. Place the wings on a rack inside a roasting tray, leaving a small gap between each so air can circulate. Cook on the middle shelf of the oven at 180°C for 30 mins, then move to the top shelf and up the temperature to 250°C for 10-15 mins until crispy. Add a sauce (see your two options, right), then dig in.

Like it hot? You might need goggles and disposable gloves for this one – Scotch bonnets are no joke. Place everything apart from the butter and cornflour in a pan with 1L water and simmer for 20-30 mins. Remove the star anise, transfer to a blender and blitz until smooth. Return to the pan and whisk in the butter. Add a splash of water to the cornflour to make a paste and use that to thicken the sauce, stirring until it coats the back of a spoon.

Like it sticky? “Use the best cider vinegar you can find – it makes all the difference,” says Clarke. Cook the juice, vinegar and sugar in a saucepan over a medium heat for 10 mins until reduced by half. Turn off the heat, add the pepper and stir in the butter. Mix a little cornflour with a little water in a bowl. Heat the sauce very gently then, once hot, stir in the cornflour paste to thicken. You’re gonna need quite a few serviettes.

28. The Best Bit Of All

A tender piece of meat located near the thigh, chicken oysters are also known as the chef’s reward, as they are often surreptitiously devoured before serving. This dark meat is rich in zinc and iron – for immunity and energy production – along with vitamins A and K. Plus, research by the NYU School of Medicine suggests the amino acid taurine may have benefits for heart health. To find the oysters, look for two small pieces of meat on either side of the backbone. Just don’t tell anyone. 

Beer O’Clock? 

Wash down your chicken muscle meal with a zero carb, zero sugar beer. Better Beer is the lager-lovechild of comedians Matt Ford and Jack Steele, from The Inspired Unemployed and Nick Cogger – a health-conscious drink enthusiast and founder of Torquay Beverage Co. With only 87 calories (364 kJ), this crisp, refreshing beer is your new summer go-to. Winner winner, chicken dinner. Available from Dan Murphy’s and BWS, in-store and online.  betterbeer.com.au

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