Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breasts

Cooking chicken breasts can be tricky. Unlike thighs, they are lean, so they don’t contain enough fat to keep them juicy during a long cooking process. That’s why many crockpot recipes call for chicken thighs instead of breasts.

If you have ever tried to cook a chicken breast on the stove, you know that you brown the outside, but then it takes forever for the inside to cook. So you either burn the outside, or the inside is under-cooked, or it is so dry from cooking so long that it’s almost inedible.

BUT….. there is a trick to doing it so that they come out perfect, every time. Beautifully browned on the outside, nice and juicy on the inside, and full of flavor.

First, if you have boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you will notice how they are uneven – one end is very thick, and then it tapers off toward the other end where it is thinner. In order to help them cook evenly, you can cut them in half vertically, through the middle. You do this by placing your hand on top as it is laying flat on the cutting board, then you begin at the widest end, and carefully move your knife through to the other end. It takes practice to get it, but it’s not difficult at all.

Once you have your chicken breasts filleted, you can season them for cooking. I usually just use salt and pepper, because you’ll find that when you have a piece of meat that is cooked properly, you don’t need a ton of seasonings. But sometimes I’ll use some garlic powder or chili powder or whatever. Season just one side.

Get your skillet out and place it over medium heat. If you have one with a lid that is preferable. But if not, you can work around it. Add fat of  your choice (vegetable oil, butter, bacon grease, etc.). Once it is warm place the chicken in the skillet, seasoned side down. Season the other side now while it is cooking.

Do not start flipping it over! You need to let it sit and create a nice, brown crust. If you try to flip it too early, it will stick to the pan, and rip and tear. Just leave it alone. If you watch the sides of the breasts, you will see them turn white. When the white is up to the halfway point of the breast side, then you know it is time to flip it over.

Once you get all the chicken flipped, cover the pan with a lid. This will create steam inside the pan and allow the chicken to cook thoroughly.

How do you know it’s done? If you press the top of the chicken and it does not leave an impression, it is done. Another way to tell is using the finger test. To test how well done a piece of meat is, you touch each finger to your thumb. Index finger to thumb is rare, middle finger to thumb is medium rare, ring finger to thumb is medium well, and pinky to thumb is well done. Try it on your hand and feel how firm the fleshy part of your thumb feels for well done. Then compare that to the feel of the chicken. That is how you can tell.

Of course, there is always the absolute best option of checking the temperature with a probe thermometer. When it reaches 165 degrees it’s done. With chicken, it has to be well done.

Once the chicken is done you can remove it from the pan. Let it rest about 5 minutes before you do anything else with it. This will allow the juice to resettle into the meat. If you cut into it the juices will run out and the meat will get dry.

So there you go! Let me know how yours turned out. Post your comments below!