Baked Chicken Breasts
Ever single time we do a survey on the blog and ask what kinds of new recipes readers would like to see, the #1 request is always the same:
Specifically, recipe that call for boneless skinless chicken breasts.
Not thighs, not legs, not wings, all of which I personally happen to love. Nope, everyone seems to be obsessed with the lean white meat that comes with chicken breasts, and all the better when you don’t have to mess with any skin or bones. Plus, they’re pretty affordable as lean proteins go, chicken is extremely versatile to work with, and let’s be real, you can make it taste like just about anything you like!
However, anyone who has cooked entire chicken breasts before will tell you that they can be annoyingly finicky to work with, especially when baked in the oven. Cook them the wrong way and you’ll end up with a dry, rubbery, tough, and flavorless disaster. But cooked the right way?! We’re talkin’ juicy, tender, flavorful, deliciousness.
Everyone out there seems to have an opinion (and get ready, they differ!) about how to make perfect baked chicken in the oven. But I thought I’d go on record today and share with you my favorite way for baking up my favorite bird. It’s very easy, requires minimal prep, and is absolutely foolproof (at least in my experience) for making juicy chicken breasts that you can either serve plain, cut up into strips, or even shred for your favorite meal. (And if you really want to be efficient, you can also bake up an extra-large batch and freeze the leftovers for future use.)
The secret is my 5-step method that has an easy-to-remember acronym for chicken brrrrreasts:
Can you guess what they stand for?
They’re not rocket science, but they are 5 important steps for making a perfect baked chicken breast:
Step 1: Brining the chicken breasts.
Many people are in the habit of brining a turkey for Thanksgiving, but have never considered brining chicken breasts on a regular ol’ weeknight. I’m telling you — this step is an absolute must for anytime you want to bake chicken breasts in the oven. It’s super easy, makes your chicken extra juicy and moist (yes, I used the “m” word), and — best of all! — it can be effectively done in just 15 minutes. Brining the chicken in warm water also helps bring the chicken to room temperature, which makes for more even cooking.
To brine the chicken, simply fill a big bowl with warm (not hot) water. Stir in a handful of salt until it mostly dissolves. Then add your chicken breasts and let them sit in the saltwater to brine for at least 15 minutes. If you are doing this in advance, you can cover and refrigerate the bowl of chicken and saltwater for up to 6 hours. But you really don’t want to let the chicken brine for much longer than that.
Then when you’re ready to go, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse it with cold water, then pat it dry with some paper towels. Again, don’t skip this step!!! You’ll be amazed at the difference.
Edited: As it turns out, some store-bought chicken breasts are now sold pre-brined. So double-check your packaging before doing this step. If it has already been pre-brined in a sodium solution, just move onto step two. :)
Step 2: Brush the chicken breasts…
…with melted butter. Or at least, I highly recommend using butter. It adds great flavor and helps give a nice golden crust on the outside. But if you’d rather use olive oil (or another favorite cooking oil), feel free. Brush the breasts liberally on both sides, partly so that the chicken does not stick to the pan on the bottom, and also to help the seasonings stick.
Step 3: Rub the chicken breasts with your desired seasoning.
If you’re really wanting to keep things simple, you can simply rub on some salt and pepper. But again, chicken will pick up the flavor of whatever seasonings you add. So even if it’s just a simple dish that calls for “plain” chicken breasts, I highly recommend the simple seasoning recipe I have included below that includes salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika.
Step 4: Roast that chicken!
So this is the step that causes some disagreement amongst chicken lovers. Do you bake your chicken breasts low and slow (as in, 30 minutes at 350)? Or do you bake them high and quick (as in, 15 minutes at 450)? I have tried both — and just about every interval in between — dozens upon dozens upon dozens of times. And after such, I fall firmly in the latter camp.
I like to roast my chicken breasts on high heat.
Depending on the thickness of your chicken breasts (and note — be sure to pound them beforehand if needed with a meat mallet so that they are uniformly thick for even cooking), roasting them at 450 should require a cooking time between 15-18 minutes. It’s speedy and it’s easy. But I love it most because cooking at high heat quickly develops a nice crispier “crust” on the outside of the breasts, which also locks in those juices and keeps the chicken perfectly tender on the inside. It’s the best of both worlds.
I highly recommend investing in a small cooking thermometer to measure the temp of the chicken in order to tell if it has fully cooked (160-170 degrees F), versus cutting into it with a fork (which lets those good juices seep out). I use this instant-read thermometer that I bought on Amazon for $10.
5. Rest your chicken.
And this is where that “patience is a virtue” stuff comes in. You must, must, must let your beautifully baked chicken breast rest before cutting into it. This goes for any meat, really. If you cut in right away, you lose all of the amazing juices and some of the tenderness that we’re going for!
Nope, you must give the bird a rest and give it time to finish cooking and soak back up all of those juices. I recommend loosely tenting a sheet of aluminum foil over the pan to keep the heat in while the chicken rests. Then after 5-10 minutes….
You can finally serve and cut into your perfectly-cooked chicken breast. And enjoy every last bite.
So remember, when cooking your chicken BBRRReasts, remember to brine, brush, rub, roast and rest that chicken. And I think you will be glad you did. Enjoy!
Update: Also, if you’re interested in a lemony twist on this recipe, check out this Baked Lemon Chicken (pictured above!).
Baked Chicken Breasts
Learn how to make juicy, tender, delicious baked chicken breasts with this easy foolproof recipe.
Baked Chicken Breast Ingredients:
- 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, that have been pounded to even thickness and brined in saltwater (*see easy instructions below)
- 1 Tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika (I prefer smoked paprika)
*To brine your chicken breasts, simply fill a large bowl with 1 quart of warm water and 1/4 cup kosher salt. Stir to combine until most of the salt is absorbed. Add the chicken breasts and let them sit in the mixture to brine for 15 minutes. Or you can also also cover the bowl and refrigerate for up to 6 hours. Remove the chicken breasts from the brine, rinse them with cold water, then pat them dry with some paper towels. (Again, though, if your chicken breasts are sold pre-brined in a sodium solution, skip this step.)
Heat oven to 450 degrees F.
Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in a large baking dish. Brush on both sides (turning once) evenly with the melted butter or olive oil.
In a separate small bowl, whisk the salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika until combined. Then sprinkle the mixture evenly over the chicken on both sides.
Bake for 15-18* minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink. If you use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature thickest part of the breast, it should be between 160-170 degrees F. (The FDA recommends 170 degrees F.)
*Or, if you want the chicken to be a little bit browned and crispier on top, you can turn the broiler on high for the final 3-5 minutes and broil the chicken until it is cooked through and extra browned on top. Keep a close eye on the chicken so that it does not overcook and/or burn.
Once the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the oven and loosely cover the pan with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes. Then serve immediately.
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #gimmesomeoven. I'd love to see what you cook!