When it comes to chicken, the breast is far and away the most popular part, but many people struggle when it is time to actually cook them at home. All too often the chicken one enjoys at a restaurant, from fast casual all the way to fine dining, far surpasses anything home cooks make in their own kitchen, but that needn’t be the case! Here’s the secret to cooking the perfect, juicy chicken breasts every time.
First of all, buy skin-on chicken breast — the skin adds amazing flavor and also protects the breast from drying out. If you really don’t want to eat it, that’s fine (though it may be hard to resist once they are all crispy and delicious) — but at least cook the breast with the skin on.
Next, season the chicken breast — rub some olive oil all over and season with salt and pepper. There’s no need to season as generously as one would a steak, but don’t be stingy with the salt. Before cooking, one could also let the chicken sit in a quick brine, which will definitely make the breasts even juicier.
When ready to cook, heat a teaspoon or two of olive oil in a good, heavy skillet — cast iron is fantastic, but stainless steel works too. (Avoid non-stick when cooking almost anything.) When the pan is hot but not smoking, add the chicken breasts, skin side down and cook for about 10 minutes before flipping and continuing to cook for another 10 minutes on the other side. Make sure to monitor the temperature of the pan, and feel free to turn the heat up or down. The chicken should be sizzling and getting brown and crispy, but not too quickly. No one likes burnt chicken, right?
Once the chicken is fully cooked, with an internal temperature of about 165 degrees F, there is one final step. Before cutting into the chicken, make sure to let it rest for at least five minutes. If the breast is cut into before resting, it will cause all of the lovely juices to come running out and leave you with a dry, unsatisfying chicken breast. Pan-searing chicken is an excellent skill that all home cooks should master, and it’s a fantastic way to cook chicken on those busy weeknights.