Americans eat a lot of chicken; in fact, as of 2012, chicken has become even more popular than beef! It’s easy to cook with and is a great source of lean protein — one 3.5-ounce serving of chicken breast has just 165 calories and a whopping 31 grams of protein.Despite its popularity and all the positives, chicken breast tends to get a bad rep for being mundane, flavorless and dry. Let’s illustrate this with a so-called classic American dinner: baked chicken breast (barely seasoned and dry), steamed broccoli (nearly neon in color), and a baked potato or bland white rice — oh, and some ketchup on the side for flavor and moisture. It checks off the major food group boxes — protein, vegetable, starch — for a well-rounded meal, but not only is this incredibly boring, it is also virtually flavorless.
So let’s get creative in the kitchen and make better food, starting with the chicken. How do you cook a juicy and delicious chicken breast?
Chicken breast loses its moisture when it’s overcooked, and this is easy to do because of its shape: thick at the top, thin and tapered at the bottom, it nearly always cooks unevenly. You can correct this by lightly pounding the breast, with a meat hammer or rolling pin, to create an even thickness throughout.
Next up: seasoning. Salt is a necessary component in cooking to lift the natural flavors of ingredients. Salting protein is extra important because it actually changes the molecular structure of the meat. Salting chicken breast will allow it to absorb more moisture (that is, stay juicy) and soften, thus tenderizing the meat. Make your chicken more interesting with spices and herbs too; our slideshow will give you plenty of ideas.
When cooking, it’s important to not let the internal temperature of the chicken climb too high. The amount of time needed to cook chicken breast varies based upon the thickness of the breast and the method of cooking. The most accurate way to determine how long chicken breast needs to be cooked is to use a meat thermometer and cook chicken to a precise temperature. If you cook your chicken breast to 160°F and then let it rest for five minutes before serving it, it will reach the FDA-recommended 165 °F without becoming overcooked.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can follow these guidelines for cooking chicken breast; try to stop cooking the chicken as soon as the juices run clear (instead of pink).
On the grill: Approximately 6 to 8 minutes per side over direct heat, 10 to 12 minutes per side over indirect heat
In the oven: Approximately 20 to 30 minutes when baking or roasting at 375°F
On the stovetop: Approximately 2 minutes per side when sautéing at high heat, 4 to 6 minutes per side when sautéing at medium or low heat
When you’re deep frying: Approximately 8 to 12 minutes in 350°- to 365° F oil
As far as adding flavor to chicken breast, well, you’ll need a good recipe for that. Here are fifteen of our favorite:
Original article published by Kristie Collado in 2015. New Revisions made by Rachael Pack, Cook Editor of The Daily Meal, follow her on Instagram @rachael_pack