Are you looking for an alternative to store-bought deli meat that is lower in salt, lower in cost, and has no chemical preservatives? This chicken sandwich deli meat takes just a handful of simple ingredients to make and is healthy and delicious.
When it comes to making sandwiches, deli meat is a handy food to have around, and I, for one, often look to it as an option for school lunches.
But sandwich meat can be expensive, and this is especially the case here in Hong Kong where so much of the food is imported. Aside from cost, though, deli meat often contains ingredients you don’t want, like preservatives, and who wants that?
So what if I told you that making your own healthy deli meat for sandwiches is actually really easy?
And that all it takes is 5 ingredients?
Crazy, right? I know!
But it really does work and all I can say is it’s super easy and the results are DELISH.
Oh, and I’m saving some money in the process, which I will never complain about!
This deli meat is prepared using the Torihamu method, which I learned about through Just Bento’s Homemade Chicken “Ham” recipe. It involves marinating the chicken breasts for at least 24 hours in salt, honey, and other seasonings. The purpose of this step is not only to flavor the meat, but also to give the meat a slightly longer refrigerator “shelf life”. Call it a homemade way of curing the meat, but without any chemical preservatives!
The additional step of soaking the meat before roasting it is needed to desalinate the chicken, or remove some of the excess salt, while also balancing out the flavors.
For those of you wondering how to slice them thin without an actual meat slicer, I use a sushi knife as you can see pictured above. The blade is thinner than regular knives, and I think the holes in the blade and the nonstick surface contribute to not grabbing the meat as you slice. And then, of course, I just go slowly when slicing to have better control. Voila!
I’ve used chicken for this recipe because chicken breast is readily available in the grocery store at any time of the year. It’s also easy to handle (compared to a big turkey breast) and yields a decent amount of sliced meat without feeling like you have too much.
Also, as you can see from these photos, if you make two chicken breasts at once, you can make each one different slightly different!
Both chicken breasts started in the same marinade, in the same bag. But then I coated one in crushed black pepper because it is super tasty and we are all fans of pepper-crusted deli meat! You could do the same, or coat the chicken breast with spices or finely-chopped herbs for that added bit of flavor.
The first soaking of the chicken is basically a wet brine to flavor and season the meat. The soak at the end before roasting is to desalinate the chicken, or remove some of the salt, while also helping to retain some of the flavors so the taste is nicely balanced.
While my boys love to nibble on the meat straight from the fridge from a snack, let’s not forget that it makes for awesome sandwiches, especially with homemade gluten-free bread, like my Soft Homemade Gluten-Free Bread pictured here!
This has got to be one of my favorite recipes that I make all the time. Easier, tastier, healthier, and more affordable than store-bought deli meat…what’s not to love about that?
Easy Homemade Sandwich Deli Meat
- 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (approximately 1lb. or 450 g total)
- 1 1/2 tbs honey
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
Optional coatings prior to roasting:
- Crushed black pepper
- Finely chopped fresh herbs
- Combine honey, sea salt, onion powder, and garlic powder and mix well.
- Coat chicken breasts thoroughly in the honey marinade.
- Place chicken breasts in a zip-top bag. Press air out of the bag and seal.
- Refrigerate for 48-72 hours (2-3 days).
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and rinse with cool water.
- Place the rinsed chicken in a dish of cold water and soak 30 minutes for every 24 hours you marinated it. (See note below.)
- Preheat oven 250 deg F (125 C).
- Remove the chicken from the soaking water and dry well with paper towels.
- Place the chicken on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
- Press crushed black pepper or finely cut fresh herbs into the chicken breast, if desired.
- Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the internal temperature taken with an instant-read thermometer is 165 deg F (74 C).
- Let cool at room temperature about 30 minutes.
- Place chicken breasts in refrigerator until completely chilled.
- Slice the chicken breast at an angle, as thin or as thick as you like. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- When soaking the chicken in fresh water, soak 30 minutes for every 24 hour period it was marinated. ie. 72 hours marinating = 1.5 hours soaking
- When soaking the chicken in water, I put the chicken and water in a sealable container and place it in the fridge. The purpose of this soaking step is to desalinate the chicken a bit while also balancing out the flavors.
- You can marinate it for as little as 24 hours, but I find the best flavor comes from marinating it for 48-72.
If you make this recipe, share your photo on Facebook or Instagram and tag me @dayinthekitchen!
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This post was updated on May 27th, 2019 with additional notes about the preparation of the chicken before roasting.