How to cook chicken breasts in a pan so they don’t dry out
Boneless skinless chicken breasts are a go-to kitchen staple that’s on my dinner rotation at least four times a week. They can be thrown in the oven for an easy sheet pan dinner or tossed in the slow cooker on a busy day. But when it comes to cooking chicken, sauteing it in a pan has never been my strong suit. I usually end up with tough, dry chicken breasts that no amount of sauce or creamy side dishes can save.
To change my ways, and have a quick cooking option when it’s too hot to turn on the oven, I turned to Taste of Home‘s Test Kitchen for their fool-proof method for cooking chicken on the stovetop. Check out their tips and tricks below. Psst: Take a look at these mistakes almost everyone makes when cooking chicken.
How to cook chicken breasts in a pan
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 6 ounces each)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon butter
Step 1: Prep the chicken
To prevent the thin end of a chicken breast from drying out, or the thick end from being undercooked, you’ll want to ensure the chicken breasts are an even thickness. To do so, place your chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap on top of a cutting board. Pound the chicken to 1/2-in. thickness with the flat end of a meat mallet (we suggest this one from KitchenAid).
Test Kitchen Tip: If you don’t have a meat mallet on hand, a hefty saucepan or skillet works in a pinch. Just be careful so as not to pound the chicken too thin.
Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt, pepper and any other dry seasonings you like. This is how one professional chef seasons her chicken.
Step 2: Get cooking
In a skillet that’s large enough to hold all of the chicken without overlapping, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. Add your chicken to the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes. Moving the chicken around can cause the breasts to stick to the pan and rip, so resist fiddling with the meat while it’s cooking. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 5-6 minutes
Test Kitchen Tip: While it can be tempting to turn up the heat, especially if you’re really hungry, keep the burner on medium and no higher. Cranking the heat can cause the outside of the chicken to brown too quickly, or even burn, while leaving the inside undercooked.
Step 3: Take the temperature
Your chicken breasts will be cooked through and food-safe when their internal temperature has reached 165ºF. To check, take the temperature with an instant-read thermometer, like this one from ThermoWorks. Simply insert the thermometer halfway into each chicken breast until the temperature is displayed.
Test Kitchen Tip: If your chicken has reached 165ºF but isn’t golden brown on the outside, you can crank the heat up for a few seconds to add some browning.
Step 4: Rest
When cooked through, remove the chicken breasts from the pan and allow them to rest on a plate for five minutes. This lets the chicken breasts’ juices to redistribute, helping to lock it in after it’s cut.
And there you go! Perfectly cooked chicken breasts that are ready in a snap.
Round out dinner with these easy suggestions:
- Go Tex-Mex: Slice the chicken breasts thin and serve on tortillas with shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato, sour cream, and guacamole. Whip up some homemade refried beans for a side.
- Go Italian: Top cooked chicken with pasta sauce and parmesan cheese and serve with spaghetti.
- Go American: Place chicken on a bun and top with lettuce, tomato, raw onion, and mayo. Serve with potato chips or homemade french fries.
Next, try this recipe for making stir-fry chicken.
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