How to Perfectly Cook a Chicken Breast
Learn tips and tricks for a perfectly cooked chicken breast. Juicy, tender and well seasoned. It can be served in or with just about anything!
I know, this recipe seems so basic. That’s because it is!
Almost a year ago I hopped on Facebook Live and did a short tutorial for this exact recipe. It’s one that we get asked about a lot, so I’m finally dedicating an entire post to it and sharing it with the world. ?
This is how we cook incredibly juicy, tender and flavorful chicken breasts. They come out perfect EVERY time. You can serve them as is or slice them up and use them in just about anything. If you’re looking for the best way to cook chicken breasts, this is it!
You’ve probably noticed by now that we eat a lot of chicken. I’m always posting recipes that involve seasoned and cooked chicken breasts. This is the tried and true method we use every time.
Over the years I experimented with several ways to cook them (temperatures, foil, brine, marinade etc.) and here’s what I’ve found:
The perfect way to cook a chicken breast can be broken down into 5 easy steps:
Let’s talk about step #1.
Step #1: Tenderize
One of the things I’ve found incredibly helpful is tenderizing the chicken breasts with a cake tester or toothpick. About 15 pricks is all you need. It sounds strange, but I promise it works!
Step #2: Season
I always use the same five ingredients: coarse kosher sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Depending on what I’m going to use the chicken for, I’ll switch up the sixth ingredient- the herbs. I usually stick with Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning.
Mix up your blend of seasonings and spices in a small prep bowl so everything gets evenly distributed when you sprinkle it over top. The amount given below is enough for 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of chicken. They should be seasoned liberally for maximum flavor.
I always cook 3-4 chicken breasts at a time so I never have leftover seasoning. I like to do this because we have leftover to use in a recipe the following day whether it’s for dinner or chicken salad. Any little prep I can do in advance is a huge win!
Step #3: Sear
Here’s the deal. I think searing is absolutely necessary when serving chicken breasts as a protein on the side of a dish. However, if you’re using the chicken in a dish, it’s not super necessary.
Why sear chicken?
Like searing any meat, it helps develop more complex flavors, gives it that nice crust, and seals in the juices.
Take a large non-stick skillet and set it over medium heat. Add a tablespoon or so of oil (avocado is my favorite because it has a high smoke point and the chicken will finish in the oven at a high temperature), when it begins to ripple you know it’s ready. Place the chicken into the skillet and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes.
Step #4: Bake
Transfer the chicken to a parchment or baking mat lined baking sheet. Make sure it has rims or sides. Place in the oven at 45o degrees for about 18-22 minutes. The baking time will depend on the thickness of the chicken breasts. I always use a instant read thermometer to check the temp around the 18 minute mark. It should read 160 degrees when it’s ready to come out.
Step #5: Rest
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, rest your meat. I think that’s a big mistake most people unknowingly make. Cover it with foil or another baking sheet and let it sit for 5 minutes before you cut into it.
This will allow the chicken to come up to temperature and for the proteins to ‘set’ which means the juices go back into the chicken instead of surfacing and either pooling on the cutting board or evaporating.
Slice the chicken against the grain (yes, it has grain just like beef and pork), then serve it immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and use within 3 days.
This all-purpose recipe is one you need to have in your back pocket. It will come in handy ALL of the time!
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How to Perfectly Cook a Chicken Breast
- 1 - 1 1/2 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher sea salt
- 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 3/4 tsp. paprika
- 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp. Herbes de Provence or Italian seasoning*
- 1 tbsp. oil - avocado, grapeseed, canola
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, set aside.
- Tenderize the chicken breasts by poking 10-15 holes into each chicken breast using a cake tester or a toothpick.
- In a small bowl whisk together the salt, pepper, garlic, paprika, cayenne, and herbs. Sprinkle over each side of the chicken breasts.
- Set a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil, when glistening add the chicken and sear on each side for 2-3 minutes or until a nice golden brown crust forms.
- Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and place in the oven for 18-22 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken breast reaches 160 degrees.
- Remove from the oven and cover with foil or another baking sheet flipped upside down. Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before transferring to a cutting board.
- Slice against the grain of the chicken, serve immediately.