21 Minute Pan Seared Chicken Breasts

Perfectly cooked chicken breasts – in exactly 21 minutes. A long time Josie + Nina reader favorite, especially among college-aged students who are just learning the basics. This foolproof, simple method for pan seared chicken breasts produces moist, juicy chicken…every time. Your chicken pasta dishes, chicken enchiladas, and homemade chicken soup will all taste better than ever thanks to this easy technique!

skillet of pan cooke chicken breasts with tongs
You can make the best, super juicy chicken breasts on the stove…every time!

If you’re like me, you have grilled, baked, poached and crock-potted (a new word I’ve coined) more than your fair share of chicken breasts, with not consistent or sometimes dry and stringy results. I feel your pain! One day, I took to my internet machine and literally stumbled upon this pan seared chicken breasts technique that has changed the way I (and soooo many J+N readers) have learned to cook really juicy chicken breasts.

All that’s needed is 2 minutes of prep work and the other 21 minutes are just managing a timer while the chicken breasts cook. Easy, right?

But first, I have to lay down some ground rules.

Guidelines

There are a few pan cooked chicken breast “rules” you must follow to be successful:

  1. You must POUND
  2. NO peeking!
  3. Once more for the crowd in the back: NO PEEKING!

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How to make pan seared chicken breasts

Ready to cook some super juicy chicken breasts?

parchment paper with chicken breasts and meat pounder
1. Start by placing chicken breasts on a piece of parchment paper and get a meat pounder or tenderizer.
meat pounder flattening chicken breasts before cooking
2. Using the flat side of a meat tenderizer, flatten the chicken breasts until they are the same amount of thickness.

What you’ll do/need

  • Pat dry your chicken breast with paper towel and lay it on one side of a double length of parchment paper (enough to cover the chicken on top). Take the remaining half and pull it over the chicken to cover like a book.
  • Use either the flat side of a meat tenderizer/pounder or a skillet and POUND the chicken breasts. (Note: this is better than therapy).
    You are trying to even them out so that the thickest portion is closer in depth to the thinnest. The chicken will grow quite a bit but don’t go too crazy because they have to fit in the pan.
salt and pepper seasoning chicken breasts
3. Generously season the chicken with kosher salt and ground black pepper.
first side of chicken breasts browning and being seasoned
4. Place the chicken seasoned side down in a heated skillet that has olive oil in it and season the tops of the breasts…generously.
  • Season the facing side of chicken breasts while on the parchment paper with lots of kosher salt and black pepper. (You’ll season the second side once you lay them in the pan.)
  • Heat a stainless or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add a drizzle of olive oil and using tongs, place the chicken breasts seasoned side down and season the other side.

The juicy chicken breast cooking method

white plate of golden and juicy chicken breasts

Now it’s time to remember those guidelines laid out above.

  • Set a timer for 1 minute or alternatively, count to 60.
  • After one minute, grab some tongs and flip the chicken. It should release easily.
  • Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Lower the heat to a simmer and re-set the timer for 10 minutes.
  • After one minute, flip the chicken breasts over. Grab a tight fitting lid, put it on the pan and leave it there. I repeat: LEAVE IT THERE.
  • Re-set the timer for another 10 minutes.

After the 21 minutes have passed, you’ll remove the lid to the most beautiful, luscious cooked chicken breasts. I dare you not to eat a bite or two.


DO THIS!

Pretend the lid is super glued to the skillet. DO NOT PEEK. Set a timer so you don’t blow it. I believe in you.

Use the chicken broth

I love two-fers. And this chicken breast cooking method is one of them. Because it not only produces really moist chicken breasts, it also produces a rich broth that you can use for other recipes.

I save it and freeze it in a ziploc. Or toss into a super quick chicken pastina soup. There are so many uses for it. You can even add a little butter and white wine to make a sauce to serve the chicken over rice or pasta with some seared broccolini.

Do you have a favorite recipe that would work with Foolproof Chicken? Make it and let us know in the comments!

Storage, freezing and make ahead tips

Store leftover cooked chicken breasts up to 3 days.

Chicken breasts can be frozen in freezer safe containers or bags for up to 3 months. Defrost completely in the refrigerator before using in a recipe.

You can cook the chicken the day before you plan to use it.


Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


cooked chicken breasts in a skillet with tongs and a light blue napkin.
5 from 6 votes

21 Minute Pan Seared Chicken Breasts

Perfectly cooked chicken breasts – in exactly 21 minutes. A long time Josie + Nina reader favorite, especially among college-aged students who are just learning the basics. This foolproof, simple method for pan seared chicken breasts produces moist, juicy chicken…every time. Your chicken pasta dishes, chicken enchiladas, and homemade chicken soup will all taste better than ever thanks to this easy technique!
Prep Time:1 minute
Cook Time:20 minutes
Total Time:21 minutes
Servings 3

Ingredients
 

Tools: wax or parchment paper, a meat tenderizer, a cast iron or metal skillet

    Instructions

    • Between two pieces of parchment wax paper, pound chicken breasts with tool of your choice until even across the top. You want them to be of consistent thickness. They should get quite large.
    • Salt and pepper one side of chicken – don’t be shy w/the pepper especially.
    • Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil or a large drizzle in a large skillet over medium high heat (I recommend cast iron or stainless over non-stick)
    • Place the chicken breasts, seasoned side down, into pan. Don’t crowd the pan – you want to get a nice sear – not a steam.
    • Quickly season the tops of the chicken and cook for one minute.
    • Flip to the other side (they should release cleanly if your pan is heated properly).
    • Reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover the pan with a tight lid and cook for 10 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID ANY TIME DURING THIS STEP!
    • Turn off the heat and cook for an additional 10 minutes. I REPEAT: DO NOT REMOVE THE LID ANY TIME DURING THIS STEP!
    • That’s it!
    Course: Main Course
    Author: Lori Murphy
    Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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    10 Comments

    1. It’s really the only way I make chicken now. My new college grad (aka our new roomate!) now is cooking one dinner weekly and uses this recipe to make his dinners—as a matter of fact, this is what he requested for his birthday dinner!5 stars

    2. You literally read my mind. Just 2 days ago I was hoping you would post how to best cook chicken breasts. And here it is! Can’t wait to try your method.5 stars

      1. Yay! This is a method that once you use, you’ll use it over and over again! I’ve taught all my kids, their friends and more…it’s perfect for college students especially!

    3. I would normally grill my chicken but as I’m renting right now and don’t have access to a grill I tried this recipe. I purchased seasoned chicken breast from the meat counter and pounded them out and followed this recipe (minus the salt and pepper). So simple and came out perfect with very little effort on my part. Roasted some potatoes and veggies and dinner was done! Thank you for sharing5 stars

      1. Thanks Lynda – so happy that it’s working for you especially given the change in your living situation 😃I use this anytime I need chicken for anything like enchiladas or chicken salad. Love that you tried a seasoned chicken breast – I’ll have to do that next time! Miss you, my friend!

    4. I also will put my chicken inside of a zip loc bag that is Almost closed and then pound it out. No splatter!