How to bake chicken breasts is one of the most common questions I hear from fans, friends, and family. With good reason. Chicken is one of the most common foods on the dinner table, and those boneless skinless breasts, the most common cut of chicken. The sad reality however, is that chicken breasts are also the hardest part of the chicken to cook well. They are super lean, and so too often they turn out dry, tough & flavorless when baked.
The problem home cooks face most of the time; is they apply the wrong baking techniques. Instead of relying on the same methods used for cakes and pies….a 350 degree oven for about an hour, chicken breasts should be baked at high temperature. Above 425 degrees, the outside of the chicken will brown, which is where much of the flavor comes from, without the inside getting overcooked and dried out. In fact, I start the baking process on top of the stove, in a hot pan, searing the outside of the chicken before moving it into the oven. So throw away the old school techniques, and follow my steps below for the perfect baked chicken breasts.
How to Baked Chicken Breasts
- Baking works best with thicker breasts, rather than thin or pounded out chicken breasts
- Take the chicken breasts out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to cooking, to allow them to come up to room temperature
- Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees
- Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Other rubs are great and can add a ton of flavor. You should be away that rubs with sugar, may tend to burn over high heat; and you’ll want to sear for much shorter time (about half) if you’re using one
- Heat an oven proof frying pan over high heat for 2 – 3 minutes or until it just reaches the smoke point
- Coat the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of olive oil, and gently lay in the chicken breasts, presentation side down first
- Allow the chicken breasts to sear for about 2 minutes (err on the longer, not shorter time) without moving the pan or chicken
- Check one of the breasts, and if browned, turn over (if not, cook for another minute)
- Allow the chicken to sear on the second side for another 2-3 minutes
- At this point, both sides should have a deep, golden brown, flavorful crust, but the center is still raw
- Move the entire oven proof pan into the 450 degree oven, and continue to cook for 5 – 8 minutes (for most size chicken breasts)
- Figuring out when the chicken breasts are just cooked through is a bit tricky, but with practice, you’ll be able to tell just by look & feel
- The chicken should be firm to the touch, and you should not see any pink/opaque areas on the side
- Until you’re trained up, I suggest you use an instant read meat thermometer, and bring the thickest part of the breast up to 160 degrees
- Remove the pan from the oven & the chicken from the pan to rest for about 5 minutes on a cutting board
- Once rested, you’re all set to serve it up!
- One more pro-tip, using a pan like this gives you a great opportunity to make a pan sauce with some wine & stock.