I often hear people talk about how difficult it is to cook chicken breast well. Many of my friends and acquaintances seem to get inconsistent results, and most often, end up with dry and tough chicken breast when they make it.
Not so in our family.
You see, over the years my husband and I have picked up on some basic principles to help us cook chicken breast well. These can be applied to almost any recipe or situation.
Basic “Chicken-Cooking” Principles
- Salting the chicken prior to cooking (whether salting it directly or soaking it in a brine) breaks down the breast, tenderizing it, and infuses it with flavor.
- Dry chicken results when the internal temperature of the chicken gets too high during cooking. Internal temperature is the #1 most important factor to consider when cooking chicken breast. A meat thermometer can help you with this, but as I’ll show you, is not an absolute necessity.
- A chicken breast of varying thickness will overcook in one spot before the other cooks through. Use a meat tenderizer to even out the thickness of the breast prior to cooking. If you make chicken breast often, this is a must have! A meat tenderizer is inexpensive and essential to good chicken breast.
Easy enough? Now I’ll show you how to apply these concepts. Let’s pan-fry some chicken breast!
How to Make Pan-Fried Chicken Breast
If you have 1-2 hours before cook time, brine the chicken. Do this by filling a bowl with enough warm water to cover the chicken. Add 1/4 cup salt and 1/4 cup sugar. (The sugar helps the chicken to caramelize in the pan, creating that tasty brown crust). Then place your chicken breasts in the water and stick it in the refrigerator.
If you don’t have time, simply salt it on both sides.
Lay the breasts on a cutting board, cover them with plastic wrap, and pound them with the flat side of your meat tenderizer until they are even throughout.
The chicken may take another 6-7 minutes to finish cooking, but don’t take my word for it! If you want tender, juicy chicken, you have to check it frequently. Don’t let it get a degree above 165°F (the FDA recommended safe temperature for cooking chicken).
As a matter of fact, we pull our chicken off a few degrees below that. We then “let it rest” for 5-10 minutes on the counter while making our pan sauce. During this rest process the internal temp will continue to rise the last few degrees.
What if you don’t have a meat thermometer? We didn’t for years. The nice thing about chicken and most meats is, God created a built in way to determine doneness… the color.
If you’re not using a meat thermometer, you have to cut into the breast as time goes by and watch it closely. If it’s just a tiny bit pink, it may only take 30 seconds to finish cooking, so be vigilant. The second it looks white throughout, pull it off!
Easy Pan Sauce
As your chicken rests on a plate, you are ready to make your pan sauce. This will greatly enhance the chicken, adding additional moisture and flavor. Plus it’s already half made there in your pan!
Melt 2-3 tablespoons of butter quickly in the microwave.
Add this mixture to your pan and stir. It will thicken quickly. Stir until fully incorporated. Add whatever spices your family prefers. We used garlic, salt, pepper and oregano. Add broth until the sauce is your desired consistency and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and serve!
Your done! Now you know how to pan-fry chicken breast.
Q: Do you have any tricks for cooking chicken breast? If so, please share them below! You can also share links to favorite recipes in the comments section.