Chicken breasts has had a reputation for being dry and boring but it is one of the most common lean protein available. There are so many variations on cooking chicken breast that it doesn’t have to be dry or boring! With this post, you’ll cook chicken breasts perfectly every time!
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Why Is My Chicken Dry?
So I’m in a few meal prep groups on Facebook and chicken tends to be a protein that gets brought up a lot. A lot of beginners use as their base and while chicken breast is so easy make, it can also be easy to mess up. I’ve seen recipes where the chicken breasts was just plain boiled! One of the main reason as to why chicken breasts come out dry is that they’re over cooked. To prevent that, you can purchase an instant read thermometer to check that the internal temperature of the chicken is at least 165°F in the thickest part of the meat.
The Secret to Flavourful Chicken Breasts
So what’s the secret? One of the best ways to make your chicken breasts more flavourful is by using a marinade! I’ve written about why you need to marinade chicken if you’ve got the time in my Easy Freezer Friendly Chicken Marinade post but essentially, to marinade something means soaking it. Marinating something essentially turns whatever you’re marinating into a flavour bomb. Marinating your chicken breasts adds flavour, seals in moisture, and tenderizes the meat! You should let the chicken breasts marinade for at least 30 minutes so that the flavour fully penetrates the skin – if you’re able to marinade your chicken breasts overnight, even better!
An alternative to a marinade (if you don’t have time), you can always use a spice rub! With a spice rub, make sure you include salt and pepper. It’s best to grill or cook your chicken breasts in a cast iron if you’re using a spice rub and once again, your chicken should be ready when the internal temperature hits 165°F in the thickest part of the meat. Be sure to let the chicken rest for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it afterwards.
How to Cook Juicy Perfect Chicken Breast on the Stovetop (Pan Seared)
- After seasoning your chicken or taking it out of its marinade, start with a wide, deep pan (keeps splatter to a minimum) or a cast iron and add oil on medium-high heat
- Once you place your chicken breast into the pan (if there’s skin, skin side down first), do not move it for at least 5 minutes. Once the chicken is in the pan try to flip the chicken, leave it alone! If you can’t easily flip the chicken with tongs, it’s not ready for flipping yet
- Flip it once and don’t touch again!
- Once it’s cooked through (165°F internal temp), you can finish it off with some butter in the pan but then let it rest out of the pan for 5 minutes before slicing
Recipe using this pan sear method: creamy one pot chicken is made with no cream
How to Cook the Perfect Chicken Breasts in the Oven (Dry Poaching)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- Grease a baking dish with butter or olive oil and place your chicken into the dish (chicken should be seasoned)
- Cut a sheet of parchment paper a little larger than the pan. This sheet acts like the chicken’s missing skin, preventing it from drying out
- Grease one side of the parchment paper as this prevents the chicken from sticking and then lay the parchment, greased-side down, on top of the chicken. Tuck the sides down and press the parchment down so that it’s snug around the chicken breasts so that all the chicken breasts are covered
- Bake until the chicken is 165°F (around 20-30 minutes) and let it rest before cutting
How to Cook the Perfect Chicken Breasts in the Oven (Packets)
This is actually similar to the dry poaching but I prefer cooking my chicken breasts this way if it’s going to be a sauce heavy recipe. Using the packet for a saucy chicken bake is also great for if you’re doing a sheet pan meal and don’t want the saucy and the sides (like the veggies) mixing. This method is also great if you want to make different individual packets at the same time as you can place 1 chicken breast with your veggies of choice in each individual packet and bake them all at once.
- Preheat the oven to 420°F
- Fold a large piece of parchment paper in half and place the chicken (and vegs if you’d like) on one half. Fold the parchment in half and then fold the sides to seal it. See the image below for an example of how to fold it.
- Pop it into the oven and bake until the chicken is 165°F (around 20 minutes) and let it rest before cutting
Recipe using this parchment package method: Sheet Pan Chicken Teriyaki with Veggies and Pineapple Meal Prep
How To Cook Chicken Breasts in the Air Fryer
- Click over to this post on how to cook chicken breasts in an air fryer.
How To Cook Frozen Chicken Breasts Perfectly
Before I get your hopes up, I’ve only ever done this in an Instant Pot and can only speak about cooking frozen chicken breasts in an Instant Pot.
- Place your frozen chicken breast (up to 4) into the Instant Pot and add 1 cup of water (or broth) and pressure cook for 8-9 minutes and then Quick Release when done.
- For more info on the Instant Pot, check out my What is an Instant Pot FAQ here!
Additional Tips and Tricks For Cooking The Perfect Chicken Breasts
- When in doubt, remember that chicken is very versatile. My go-to flavour bases are fresh and zesty flavour (such as lemon) as well as something like garlic with some fragrant herbs (such as thyme)
- If you’ve over cooked your chicken breasts, introduce some moisture to the meat to save it. The easiest way to do that is with a sauce!
- Let the chicken rest, covered with aluminum foil, for at least 5 minutes before cutting into it. This will allow the juices to redistribute within the meat instead of spilling out onto your cutting board
- To lessen cook time, you can pound out the chicken (or slice them in half into cutlets) so that they’re thinner. This also evens out the breasts which makes chicken breasts easier to cook through without the thinner portions of the meat overcooking first. BUT chicken breasts that are pounded out too thin will be more likely to drying out/easier to overcook.
- Looking to make chicken breast even more fun? You can stuff them or you can pound them up and make chicken rolls with stuffing
- Got leftover chicken? Try this delicious and easy spicy chicken wrap for lunch the next day!
Let’s Chat! How do you cook your chicken breasts? Do you have any tips you’d like to share?
Want more simple chicken recipes? Check these out!
- Sheet Pan Cashew Chicken with Veggies
- Sheet Pan Chicken Teriyaki with Veggies and Pineapple Meal Prep
- One Pan Spicy Pineapple Chicken Meals
- Super Easy and Fast Dinner Idea: One Sheet Pan Chicken and Vegetables
- One Sheet Pan Honey Mustard Chicken + Veggies
- Want to try making a whole chicken in an Instant Pot?
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cook chicken breasts perfectly
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Priceless tips on cooking chicken — and I’d never heard about placing parchment on a chicken breast to keep it moist before. That’s brilliant. I made some pan roasted chicken breasts (with skin) yesterday and you’re right — when you put the chicken in the pan (skin side down) it’s best just to leave it alone for several minutes — the chicken releases from the pan when it’s ready — not when you are (LOL). I’ve never tried to cook frozen chicken breasts before, but it sounds like the Instant Pot would be ideal for that. Great ideas!
Oh my gosh- this is so helpful!!! I started eating chicken again recently, and I have ZERO idea how to cook it. This will definitely help me!
Well this post certainly answers the problem of “dry chicken”. So many people have this issue, when as you can see….chicken breasts can be cooked…and still be juicy. This would be great any night of the week in our house.
Wow, so many good suggestions! I love your point about not touching the chicken on the pan as if you can’t easily flip it, it shouldn’t be flipped just yet. Also, that dry poaching method is so unique! I’ve never heard of it but now I am eager to try it out!
I always have so much trouble with chicken. It seems to dry out too much, and I feel better with all these suggestions. I can’t wait to implement the next time I tackle chicken! Thanks for the great inspiration.
You certainly have found the solution to dry chicken and your tips are great. People have a tendency to overcook the poor breast until it is as dry as a bone. It ends up being more rubber than meat. We eat lots of chicken throughout the week and your tips and techniques results in a tasty piece of chicken.
Carmy! I love these tips. First of all, hi. I grew up on overcooked chicken. I stayed away from chicken breasts for a long, long time once I was on my own because I was convinced I didn’t like them. I guess the 80s and 90s saw a lot of fearmongering around solmonella and foodborned illness, because a lot of people I know experienced the same. All of our mother’s were overcooking chicken. (Enter: mounds and mounds of BBQ sauce for dipping!) I have a meat thermometer and use it religiously when cooking any meat, since I’m such a sucker for a perfect tender cook. (I mean, who isn’t.) Sometimes my chicken is so juicy and tender, that I grow paranoid about it being undercooked because I grew up so used to dry chicken. Ha.
I really need to try this chicken in parchment. I do that with fish a lot, but I’ve never tried it with chicken. I’m excited to!
Seriously, this is such a fantastic post – one of the questions I get from friends most often is if I have any chicken breast cooking tips. I usually use the dry poach method with olive oil and herbs and it’s fail-safe. I will have to forward this on to my friends!
This is perfection. I wish I had access to this post back when I was in my early 20’s and first got married. I used to prepare my chicken breasts the same way as my mum – cut into massive chunks and cooked WAY too much. It took me a while, but I finally feel like I have gotten the hang of it. Chicken breasts can have the best flavor, and these tips will definitely help with getting there no matter what method you use. Sending to my little sister :)
What a fantastic tutorial, Carmy! We make chicken often, but usually get stuck in a rut of a single preparation style. I’m really interested to try your dry poaching method in the oven! The chicken must come so tender and juicy. Perfect for chicken salad!
Brine chicken breasts in a mixture of Sea salt and brown sugar and water to cover overnight in refrigerator!
Sous Vide produces very moist chicken breasts