When I first began cooking for myself, I had the hardest time with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Every time I attempted to pan-fry or bake them, the thinner edges near the tips dried out quickly while the middle remained pink. By the time I had the middle properly cooked, the rest was tough and chewy. For a fledgling cook (or any cook) this is extremely frustrating!
So, why did this happen?
Well, boneless skinless chicken breasts these days are HUGE. They're generally 12-16 oz a piece (3/4-1 lb.), which is waaaay too big a portion for one person. Especially if you're eating the chicken as a part of a larger meal. One nutritional serving is 4 oz!
What's the solution?
You have a two basic options:
1) Cover the breasts with plastic wrap and pound them with a flat, heavy object (like a cast-iron pan) until they are all uniform in size. Prepare them as you normally would. This time, the middle and outer edges should finish cooking at the same time.
2) After you've flattened them (as described above), cut each breast in half horizontally, forming two thin cutlets. These will cook very quickly on the stove-top or in the oven.
I can attest to both methods. HOWEVER, if you're like me and hate pounding chicken, there is a third option.
The Third & Best Option for Smart Lazies Like Me:
3) Slice the ginormous breasts in half horizontally, forming two slightly-thinner-than-normal-and-half-the-size-of-a-cutlet pieces. Season them thoroughly and bake them at 400 degrees for 35-45 minutes.
Viola! Now you can do what you will with them. Eat the cooked chicken as is, use it to make a chicken sandwich, cut it into slices for salad, pasta or gyros, etc. There are a bazillion possibilities.
Personally, I season the hell out of mine and my boyfriend loves it. Every time I go out of town, I bake 6-8 pieces for him to use throughout the week. He likes to melt a piece of Swiss cheese over each breast, smother it in spicy jalapeno mustard and eat it as a sandwich.
Most importantly, season the breasts however you want, but make sure to do it liberally! This is important. You don't want bland, flavorless chicken. See the recipe below for my favorite seasonings. :)
Easy Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)
1-2 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil OR your favorite cooking oil
Sea salt (I recommend Pink Himalayan, Celtic or Utah sourced salt)
Cracked black pepper
homemade lemon pepper seasoning (or your favorite seasoning blend)
Cayenne pepper (optional)
large rimmed baking sheet
sturdy cutting board (these bamboo boards are made with renewable resources)
large sharp knife (this is the basic one I use every day)
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1) Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with foil and grease it with a bit of olive oil or butter. Cut each boneless skinless chicken breast in half horizontally (try to keep both slices even and the same size). Place the breasts (with a bit of space in between each piece) on the sheet.
2) Drizzle with olive oil. Rub the oil so it covers each breast. Sprinkle the tops of each breast with sea salt, cracked black pepper, granulated garlic and all-purpose seasoning. If you like a bit of heat (I highly recommend this), season with cayenne pepper. Eyeball the amount or start with 1/8 teaspoon and go up from there.
3) Flip the breasts over and repeat step 2 on the other side.
4) Bake at 400 degrees for 35-45* minutes, flipping the breasts halfway through the cooking time.
*NOTE: Once it hits the 30 minute mark, you will need to keep an eye on them. Depending on the size of the breasts, if you have a small piece, it may only take 30 minutes. Medium or normal sized pieces generally take 35 minutes, while larger pieces take 40-45 minutes. If necessary, cut the chicken in half to look for pinkness or use a meat thermometer.
More Chicken Recipes from The Rising Spoon:
- cast-iron baked peach chicken
- how to roast a whole pastured chicken
- chicken piccata with artichokes, onion, garlic & capellini
- panko & nutritional yeast crusted oven baked chicken thighs
- crock-pot chicken with salsa, black beans & green chiles
- cast-iron chicken pot pie with a cheesy garlic biscuit crust
- 20 ideas for using up leftover roasted chicken
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Question for Discussion: What's your favorite seasoning to use on boneless skinless chicken breasts.
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