Chicken breast is a go-to source of protein for anyone who wants to cook (and eat) more healthfully. Chicken breast has just 165 calories per 3.5-ounce serving, and it packs a whopping 31 grams of protein. Chicken breast is also leaner than other parts of the bird. The only problem? The lack of fat can make it difficult to cook a chicken breast well.
Here’s how to cook chicken breast perfectly every time.
Pound It Flat
One of the major problems with cooking chicken breast is that one end of the breast is much thicker than the other. The amount of time that is needed to fully cook the thickest part of the chicken can leave the thinner sections dry and overcooked. Prevent this by pounding the chicken breast flat with a meat pounder or a rolling pin until it has reached a uniform thickness.
Season the Chicken
Salt is one of the most important factors in cooking a delicious and juicy chicken breast. If you have time to brine your chicken (soak it in a solution of salt water for about a half an hour), do it; this will keep your chicken breast juicy, even if it’s a little overcooked. If not, make sure you salt the chicken well — it will improve the flavor and help maintain moisture.
Cook the Chicken
The other key factor for making perfect chicken breast is ensuring that you don’t overcook it. Whether you’re grilling your chicken over an open flame or baking it in a pan in the oven, chicken that is cooked at too high a temperature or cooked past 165 degrees F will dry out. When you’re cooking chicken breast, use a meat thermometer (inserted into the middle of the breast) and stop the cooking process when the thermometer reads 160 degrees F. The temperature of the chicken will continue to rise as it rests.
Rest the Chicken
If you cut into your chicken breast right away you’ll lose all of the juices. Let it rest (under a piece of foil to keep it warm) for 5 minutes before serving.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.