It's time to learn how to cook chicken breast and have it turn out delicious and tender every. single. time. That dried-out chicken breast is going to be a thing of the past!
Why did the chicken cross the road? To get dressed up because it is BORING when it’s naked! Okay, so that’s a terrible joke. But it’s also the truth!
You might have steered away from chicken breasts — or had a less-than-awesome experience with them — because of their tendency to turn out dry and tough instead of moist and tender. That can especially happen with boneless, skinless breasts.
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Not anymore, Shelf Cookers! Are you ready to find out how to cook chicken breast perfectly!? We're specifically sharing how to prep chicken and then pan-sear or oven-bake your chicken to perfection every time!
TIPS FOR HOW TO COOK CHICKEN BREAST
Let's break the process down and take it step-by-step to get you the BEST chicken breast to add to your favorite Caesar salad or serve with a hot plate of sweet potato fries! Now, keep in mind here that we're talking our absolute favorite method, so we're going to share how to prepare and cook chicken breast two ways: pan-searing and oven baking.
PREP YOUR CHICKEN
- Starting with frozen chicken? Make sure it's thawed completely before using. Cold chicken can cook unevenly and often airs on the tough side when cooked. Let your chicken breast warm up to room temperature before cooking. If you're starting with thawed chicken, let it sit out for 20 minutes before cooking. (Learn the proper way to thaw chicken so you don't get sick!)
- Use the bottom of a wide jar, small frying pan, or the flat side of a meat tenderizer to flatten the chicken breasts a little. Pound until they’re all the same thickness. (Helpful tip: put cling wrap over the chicken so the juices don't go everywhere!) This way you don’t end up undercooking some and overcooking others in the same pan.
- Dredge the chicken in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper, shaking off the excess. You’ll get a very light crust that will help retain the juices.
- If you don't want to have a floury crust on your chicken, this is the perfect time to add a spice rub to your chicken. Chicken breast is totally customizable to whatever flavor profile you're going for… Want some taco chicken? Sweet and spicy chicken? Or even a delicious Indian chicken?
- Preheat your skillet for a couple minutes with a little cooking oil before you put the chicken in the pan.
WHILE YOUR CHICKEN IS COOKING
- Sear the chicken breasts in a hot skillet just until golden, no more than a couple of minutes on each side. You’re not trying to cook them through right now. You just want to give them enough of a sear to seal in the juices. Then transfer to a baking dish and bake as directed in the recipe.
- Put a piece of parchment paper over the chicken breasts while they’re baking; it acts like a “skin” to hold in the juices.
- Resist the urge to keep “checking on” the chicken, whether it’s in a skillet, in the oven, or on the grill. You’ll disrupt the cooking process and end up cooking the living daylights out of it.
- Avoid overcooking chicken. This is the main culprit in dry, tough meat. Generally, chicken is “done” when it’s no longer pink in the middle and the juices run clear. If you want to be sure, use a meat thermometer; the center should be at least 165°F.
FINISH COOKING IN THE PAN
So maybe you want to skip the oven step and finish cooking your chicken in the pan. Here are a few more tips for success:
- Cook over medium heat until the edges are showing white, about 10 minutes.
- Flip, lower the heat, and cover with a lid.
- Cook all the way through (about another 10 minutes), but try not to overcook!
Pro Tip: Take a piece of parchment paper and fold in half, then put the chicken breast in between the paper so it's covered on both sides. This will keep the chicken from sticking to the pan, keep the seasoning on the chicken, and help to hold the juices in.
ROAST CHICKEN IN THE OVEN
Want to just stick your chicken in the oven and call it a day? We totally get it! That's great, too. Here are some tips for the perfect roasted chicken breast (without searing it in the pan first):
- Preheat your oven to 350°F.
- Put some olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish, add the chicken breasts, drizzle with more oil, and season.
- Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30-40 minutes until done.
SERVING YOUR CHICKEN BREAST
- Let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before you cut it or all the juices will come running right out and you won't get to savor them with every bite! This is what your mama was talking about when she said patience is a virtue.
- Add some color to the plate. Chicken is the perfect protein to pair with salad, some fresh or frozen veggies, potatoes, rustic bread, and more!
HOW TO STORE CHICKEN BREAST
Whenever you go to the effort to make a batch of chicken breast, we highly suggest doubling and freezing to make meal prep easier and faster in the future. Once cooked, you can prep several meals at once and store in the fridge for several days. If you love a good rice bowl or salad jar for lunch, this is a big bonus!!
Slice, shred, or chop your chicken and store it in the fridge to repurpose for another meal like tacos, pasta, or soup later in the week. With your meat already cooked, you can prep a meal in record time!
HOW TO FREEZE CHICKEN BREAST
You can also take shredded or sliced chicken and freeze it for future meals. Which again, we highly suggest! It's such a smart way to cook in the kitchen. All you need to do is portion it out for a meal in a size that works for your family. Add it to a freezer bag, label with the date, lay it flat, and place it in the freezer!
Once frozen, you can easily store several bags of frozen chicken nice and compact and then you have delicious pre-cooked chicken ready to go for future meal prep. Voila!
THE PERFECT PAN-SEARED, OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN BREAST
Alright, are you ready for the main event?! Feel free to season the chicken to whatever flavor profile goes with the rest of your meal.
Pan-Seared, Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast
- 2-3 room temperature chicken breasts, flattened
- Seasonings, to taste
- Salt, to taste
- Pepper, to taste
- 2-3 Tbsp cooking oil
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Preheat skillet to high and add cooking oil.
- Add seasonings to each side of chicken breasts, then place in skillet.
- Sear for 2-3 minutes, then flip and sear the other side for 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer to a baking dish and place a piece of parchment paper on top to help hold in the juices.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F. (DON'T over-bake!)
- Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before cutting.
So easy and so tasty! Try putting it in a casserole, BBQ chicken wraps, Italian cream cheese chicken, or in a creamy soup. It also pairs really well with mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, roasted carrots, Brussels sprouts, macaroni and cheese, rustic bread, and so much more!
What's your favorite way to cook chicken breast? Let us know in the comments! Better yet, join our Shelf Cooking Facebook Group for even more great ideas!
Make sure you check out these posts!
- Start cooking together as a family. It takes all the burden off one person and it's a great bonding time!
- Learn everything you need to know about stockpiling food and growing your food stores to make shelf cooking a breeze!
- Keep a kitchen inventory of all your food so you always know what's in your fridge, freezer, and pantry!
Now go dress up that chicken and enjoy!