How to Cook Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is one of the most versatile cuts of meat, and there are so many dishes you can make using chicken breasts. There are complicated recipes, and there are ridiculously simple ones. Whether it’s a fresh chicken breast salad and mixed greens for lunch, or a savory oven baked chicken breast dish for dinner, you can find a chicken breast recipe for almost every meal. Believe it or not a high protein option like chicken breast is also wonderful for breakfast. Especially if you have delicious leftovers from the previous night's dinner.
There are a few helpful pointers though, to make sure that you end up with the most delicious chicken breasts possible, no matter what type of recipe you’re making. Read on for some tips and tricks for making top notch chicken breasts every time you cook them.
Important Tips for Cooking Chicken Breast
When cooking chicken breast, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind. Most importantly, don’t overcook them!! Unlike chicken thighs, which keep their texture even when cooked past done-ness, chicken breasts become rubbery and dry when cooked too long, since they are lower in fat. You’ll find that a meat thermometer is your best friend when it comes to making sure that your chicken breasts are cooked to perfection every time.
Tenderize Before Cooking
Because chicken breasts are usually a thicker cut of meat, you can sometimes run into problems with uneven cooking. A great way to solve this problem is to flatten the breasts to a uniform thickness prior to cooking. This can be done with a meat mallet, if you have one, but a small frying pan, or the flat bottom of a glass jar works just as well. Not only does this method flatten the breast for more even cooking, but as an added bonus it tenderizes the meat as well.
Another way to tenderize chicken breasts so that they cook to juicy perfection is to brine them in a saltwater solution prior to cooking. Add ¼ cup of salt to 4 cups of water, make sure the salt is fully dissolved, and allow the chicken breasts to sit in this solution anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour prior to cooking. If you’ve ever brined a Thanksgiving turkey, you know how moist and tender the resulting meat is - why not use that handy trick for chicken breasts as well?? Be sure not to leave the chicken breasts soaking for too long though, or they’ll get too tender which will result in a mushy final product.
Bring Chicken Breasts to Room Temperature
Part of the reason that chicken breasts get overcooked, is because it’s super important to bring them to a safe temperature of 165 degrees when cooking. If you start with chicken breasts right out of the refrigerator, it will take longer for the breasts to heat to the safe internal temperature, and cooking for too long can result in a dry and overcooked final product. Letting your chicken breasts rest for about 30 minutes at room temperature prior to cooking can help reduce the likelihood you’ll wind up with overcooked meat (we still recommend keeping your thermometer handy!)
More Ways to Jazz Up Your Chicken Breasts
Not overcooking your chicken breasts and starting with a tender piece of meat are pretty non-negotiable if you want a juicy and delicious final product. There are several other tips and tricks we can suggest that are totally optional, but will really add flavor to your final product.
‘Tis the Season(ing)!
Sorry, couldn’t resist that one. While we’re pretty confident that our fresh, pasture raised chicken breasts definitely beat the competition in the taste department, even with just some salt and pepper, most chicken breasts (even ours) will benefit from some seasoning. You can keep it simple with just salt, pepper, and freshly minced garlic, although garlic powder can work if you're in a pinch. Or, you can add any number of seasoning combinations like oregano and basil, lemon pepper, or onion powder. We love a good bar-b-que dry rub too! Always start with salt and pepper, and brushing the chicken breasts with olive oil before adding spices will ensure that they stick.
Let them Rest
Most of us know that it’s important to let a steak or a whole chicken rest before carving, but did you know that you should let chicken breasts rest too? The basic premise behind letting meat rest prior to cooking is that when a piece of meat is cut, it loses a lot of its moisture. Allowing your chicken breasts to rest for a few minutes when they come out of the oven, off of the stove or grill, lets those juices stay put inside the meat where they belong, for as long as possible.
The Most Important Tip for Cooking Chicken Breasts
Of course we’re biased, but the absolute most important thing to remember about how to cook chicken breasts is to start with high quality meat! The truth is, when you cook with high quality pasture raised chicken breast, the naturally better taste is enhanced by seasoning, brining, and marinating, but pasture raised chicken breasts are pretty delicious no matter what!
On the other hand, you can be a master chef, and if you start with a tasteless piece of low quality conventionally farmed chicken, the end product just won’t be the same. Yeah, we’re biased, but we also know our stuff - we started this company because we were consumers that were looking for a better quality product for our own kitchens, and it took off so well that it evolved into a successful business where we get to bring that same high quality to our customers. Sometimes we still have to pinch ourselves with how perfectly that all worked out!
If you follow the tips in this article, you’ll find that your days of dry and tasteless chicken breasts are over. Chicken breast is a super versatile cut of meat, made even better by the use of high quality pasture raised chicken and proper cooking techniques.