The Best Way to Cook Chicken Breast
There is beauty in simplicity. A perfectly cooked chicken breast can top a good salad and make it great. It can stand alone on the plate, leaving you wanting more. Used as the base of another recipe, better chicken means a better dish. Cooking perfect chicken may seem easy but it’s deceivingly difficult…if you aren’t using the right method.
Chicken breast that is perfectly cooked has a beautiful brown crust, is seasoned perfectly, and has a juicy, tender middle. Can you say all that about your chicken? If not, you may wish to perfect your method with this foolproof, step by step guide. In about 15-20 minutes, you’ll have chicken that looks like this….every time.
Are You Making These Mistakes?
If you are the victim of floppy, white, overcooked, chewy, tasteless chicken, you’re probably committing one (if not all) of these mistakes:
1. It’s not seasoned well.
2. It’s not brown.
3. It’s overcooked.
Agenda: Season it well. Brown it. Cook it just enough.
What You Need to Cook Perfect Chicken
Just like most things in life, the right tools can mean everything. The same applies to cooking. There are multiple things that a kitchen just must have, and a cast iron skillet is one of them. There is only one brand of cast iron I will purchase: a Le Creuset. I have become emotionally attached to mine… If you opt for this one, prepare for a beautiful lifelong relationship with it. The one below is the exact size I use, just an updated model.
Another necessary tool to have in your kitchen is a digital thermometer to temp meats. A quality thermocouple is even better. They are a bit pricey, but will last you a lifetime, so it will save you money in the end. I have had many a digital thermometer die on me, but never my thermocouple. Like the cast iron skillet, I just couldn’t cook without it. The one on the left is a highly rated digital thermometer if your budget doesn’t allow for the thermocouple on the right. But remember, there’s always Christmas!
How to Cook Chicken Breast: Step by Step
Step 1: Thoroughly Season
Put your salt and pepper in a dish so you don’t get your chicken hands all over your salt and pepper containers. You want to have a decent amount of seasoning on both sides of the chicken.
How much? Make it look like this. You want a good layer of salt and pepper, especially if the breast is large.
Step 2: Brown It Well
Put a decent amount (about 2 Tablespoons) of a high smoke point oil like coconut oil or avocado oil into your skillet and heat until you see it smoke. Remove from heat to stop the smoking, add the chicken then put back on flame at medium-high heat. Why go to this trouble? Your pan needs to be screaming hot before adding the chicken.
DO NOT MOVE THAT CHICKEN! The longer it is one spot with the hot skillet, the better it will brown.
After 3 minutes, check to see if you’ve achieved proper browning. If so, flip, then leave it be for another 3 minutes or so.
Step 3: Finish in Oven
In a 350F pre-heated oven, let the chicken slowly roast the remainder of the cook time. Dependent upon the size of the chicken, it may take anywhere from 5-15 minutes. The secret to telling when it’s perfectly done is below.
Step 4: Temp It
You’ve got to temp it. To be safe, cook chicken to reach 165F. Do not let it get over 175F, otherwise the texture will change for the worse and it will be dry.
The ideal time to take it out of the oven is when it reaches 160F.
Let it sit for 5 minutes; the residual heat in the pan will cause the chicken’s internal temperature to reach the desired temp (165F – 175F).
A digital thermocouple is by far the most accurate and fastest way to temp meats. If you want one like this, the link is here: Cooper-Atkins 35132 Series 351 AquaTuff Wrap and Stow Waterproof Thermocouple Instruments with DuraNeedle Probe, -100 to 500 degrees F Temperature Range.
The End Result: Perfect Chicken, Every Time
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Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breast
- 2 Chicken breasts, preferably organic
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 Tablespoons Coconut oil (Or other high smoke point oil. Be sure not to use olive oil.)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Rinse and thoroughly pat dry chicken.
- Place salt and pepper in a small dish.
- Sprinkle the salt and pepper mix over the chicken to create a fine, even layer on both sides. You will likely not need the full amount of salt and pepper, especially if your breasts are smaller than 8oz. Please refer to the photo above for reference.
- Heat coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over high heat.
- When you start to see a bit of smoke rising from the pan, remove from heat.
- Add chicken to hot pan and do not move from the initial spot.
- Add pan back to flame and reduce heat to medium-high heat.
- Cook for 2-3 minutes. Check for adequate browning before flipping.
- Cook, uncovered, for an additional 2-3 minutes.
- Place the entire pan into the oven to finish cooking.
- Set the timer for 8 minutes then check the internal temperature to get a gauge of where you are.
- Once you reach 160F, remove from oven and let sit in pan for a few minutes longer.
- The goal is to reach 165F but not exceed 175F.
- Kcal 153 | Fat 5g | Sat Fat 3g | Chol 65mg | Sodium 345mg | Carb 0g | Fiber 0g | Sugar 0g | Protein 26g
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