How to Cook Juicy Chicken Breasts
Growing up, we always had the most flavorful and juicy chicken breasts imaginable. I later discovered that it was because my mom would drown the chicken in olive oil after it was cooked, so while it was moist chicken, it was also full of unnecessary fat! While I’m a huge proponent of the Mediterranean diet and olive oil, I don’t think adding oil to chicken after it’s cooked is necessary.
Fast forward 20 years, when I was in charge of cooking for my own family, I let my husband do the grilling. I viewed it as a traditional manly role… you know Man + Grill = happy husband and good food. The problem with this is that my husband doesn’t really know the first thing about cooking and everything he does know, he learned from his own mother who hates to cook. So when it came to cooking chicken, it meant cook the chicken until its dry. This went on for about 2 years when I finally fired him from grill duty and put him in charge of cleaning the dishes.
Chicken should not be cooked until its dry. Chicken is meant to be juicy and tender when eaten, and not covered in oil like my mother used to do it.
After preparing juicy chicken for my family for years, I am sharing the secret to cooking juicy, tender chicken. Step 1: Cut it or pound it so that it’s the same thickness from top to middle to bottom (aim for 1/2 an inch). 2. Cook just 3-4 minutes each side and 3. LET IT REST!
When you let the meat rest, the juices get incorporated back into the meat allowing for juicy, tender meat every time. The residual heat from the resting process also cooks the chicken to the perfect internal temperature of 165°. Also – if you start with thin, evenly cut or pounded chicken, it cooks through quickly and evenly.
When you buy chicken breasts at the store, they are fairly large breasts and inevitably one side is thinner than the others. Simply slice it in half, or pound it thin (and even) with a rolling pin or a mason jar. I always place it between wax paper or plastic wrap before I start pounding. Follow these steps and you will be thrilled at how delicious and juicy your chicken is and your family will thank you!
Recipe for Juicy Chicken Breasts
1. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board. Using the bottom of a mason jar, pound each chicken breast for even thickness. Season one side with salt and pepper. Let rest on counter to bring to room temperature.
2. Preheat 12-inch cast iron pan (or non-stick pan) on medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until water droplets added to the pan sizzle and immediately evaporate. Add oil and let heat 1 minute. Add chicken breasts (seasoned side down) and cook 3 minutes. Season second side and flip. Cook 3 minutes and flip chicken again. Cover with lid and cook 3 more minutes, or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 150°-155°.
3. Remove pan from heat, keeping the lid on, and let rest 10 minutes (temperature will rise to 165° while resting.) Remove from pan and serve.
1. For tender chicken pieces, always slice against the grain.
2. Use 1 teaspoon of thyme, rosemary or parsley for a flavor boost.
Watch a video of how to cook a juicy chicken breast courtesy of our friends at Safeway here:
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