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!
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.
There are a few pan cooked chicken breast "rules" you must follow to be successful:
- You must POUND
- NO peeking!
- Once more for the crowd in the back: NO PEEKING!
How to make pan seared chicken breasts
Ready to cook some super juicy chicken breasts?
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.
- 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
Now it's time to remember those guidelines laid out above.
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.
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!
Foolproof Chicken Breasts
Tools: wax or parchment paper, a meat tenderizer, a cast iron or metal skillet
- 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!
About Lori Murphy
Lori has over 30 years in the food industry as a marketing strategist, culinary instructor and chef for three kids with discerning palates. As the chief content creator at Josie + Nina, Lori is dedicated to helping home cooks create food memories through fresh ingredients and Italian flavors.