One of the easiest ways to cook chicken breast is to bake it in the oven, but oftentimes the chicken becomes overcooked and dries out. The causes of overcooking chicken breast are easily avoidable. Just follow these simple steps to cook chicken breast in the oven.
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.
Add Some Stock
A splash of chicken stock (or any other liquid, like water, wine, or juice) will help create steam inside the pan as your chicken bakes, keeping it moist and juicy. As an added bonus, liquids that aren’t water will add flavor, too.
Cover the Pan
Make sure you cover the pan of chicken breast with aluminum foil as it cooks; this will trap the steam that’s created as the chicken cooks.
Don’t Overcook the Chicken
Most important, though, is to cook the chicken just until it reaches 160 degrees F and then let it rest (out of the oven) until it reaches 165 degrees F. Use an instant-read meat thermometer, inserted into the middle of the breast, for accuracy. If you cook the chicken past this temperature (or skip the resting period), it will be dry. Chicken that’s baked in a 375-degree oven will take about 20 to 30 minutes to reach the desired temperature.
Kristie Collado is The Daily Meal’s Cook Editor. Follow her on Twitter @KColladoCook.