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What Is Chicken Breast?
The chicken breast is a lean cut of meat taken from the pectoral muscle on the underside of the chicken. Each whole chicken contains one chicken breast with two halves, which are typically separated during the butchering process and sold as individual breasts. Given its desirable white meat and health benefits, boneless chicken breast meat is the most expensive cut of chicken in comparison to chicken thighs, wings, and drumsticks.
This versatile cut can be grilled, baked, roasted, fried, barbecued, and boiled in countless ways. No matter the cooking method, chicken should always be handled with care, and the areas, utensils, and hands that have been in contact with the raw chicken should be washed thoroughly with soap and hot water to prevent food safety risks.
Chicken Breast Nutrition Facts
The chicken breast is a particularly healthy part of this already nutritious bird, as it is low in fat and a good source of protein. The majority of chicken fat is concentrated in the skin, so chicken breasts are typically sold skinless and boneless.
According to the USDA, the average 4-ounce serving size of raw boneless skinless chicken breast contains approximately:
- 110 calories
- 26 grams of protein
- 1 gram of fat
- 75 milligrams of cholesterol
- 85 milligrams of sodium
In comparison, the same portion of skin-on chicken breast—like that of a rotisserie chicken—contains 172 calories, 9.3 grams of total fat, and slightly reduced levels of protein. On average, one small chicken breast contains 55 percent of a person’s recommended protein intake, based on the suggested daily values for a 2,000 calorie diet. The exact nutritional value and calorie count of an individual chicken breast can fluctuate depending on the size and whether the bird was pasture raised, free range, cage free, or caged.
What Are the Health Benefits of Chicken Breast?
This type of poultry is an excellent source of lean protein. Chicken is also a good source of vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc, and trace amounts of vitamin A and vitamin C.
In comparison to most red meats, chicken contains two to three times more polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat—healthier fats than those found in red meat. Chicken also has a total carbohydrate count of 0, no trans fat, and is low in sodium. It is not a source of dietary fiber.
Nutritional and Flavor Differences Between White and Dark Meat
There are two types of meat in every chicken—white and dark meat—which vary in color, flavor, and nutritional value. These distinctions are due to the type of muscle and use of that muscle. Dark meat comes from the chicken legs, which are put to work frequently and require more oxygen, whereas white meat comes from the parts of the chicken that get less exercise, like the breast and chicken wings.
Dark and white meat chicken are both equally good sources of protein and B vitamins, however they differ in calories, fat content, and minerals. While white meat has less fat and fewer calories than dark meat, the majority of chicken fat lives in the skin rather than the meat, so the main source of fat and calories of dark meat chicken comes from the skin that covers pieces like the drumsticks and thighs. Dark meat chicken tends to be juicier and a better source of iron and zinc due to the increased oxygenation of those muscles.
22 Recipe Ideas Using Chicken Breasts
- Easy Chicken Vindaloo - Chicken breast cooked in a rich, flavorful Indian sauce, served with basmati rice or naan.
- Thomas Keller’s Chicken Paillard - Boneless, flattened chicken breast seasoned and sautéed in vegetable oil.
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Oven Roasted Chicken - The signature dish at Bouchon and what Chef Keller would want for his last meal.
- Elevated Chicken Piccata (also known as Chicken Milanese) - Boneless chicken breasts breaded and cooked in a sauce of stock and lemon juice.
- Indian Butter Chicken - Pieces of tandoori chicken cooked in a tangy, velveteen tomato paste or tomato sauce..
- Barbeque Chicken Breast - Chicken breast marinated in a barbecue mixture of ketchup, brown sugar, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, ground mustard, vinegar, and seasonings, and grilled over medium heat.
- Chicken Soup with Noodles - A simple, fortifying soup of cooked chicken breast, chicken broth, onions, celery, and carrots with egg noodles.
- Chicken Tikka Masala - Cubed chicken breast marinated and cooked on skewers, served in a rich, creamy tomato sauce, served with naan and rice.
- Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken - Chicken breast cut into 1-inch pieces and marinated in a mixture of lemongrass, fish sauce, jalapeno, garlic, and brown sugar, cooked until brown and served with rice.
- Chicken and Vegetable Stir-fry - A simple stir-fry made with sliced chicken breast, bell pepper, broccoli florets, garlic, and green onions cooked in a soy-based sauce.
- Chicken Katsu - A traditional Japanese-style fried chicken, pounded flat, breaded with panko, and fried until golden brown.
- Thai Chicken - Chicken breast coated in a glaze of garlic, fish sauce, ginger, soy sauce, chile sauce, and lime. Roasted and topped with chopped peanuts and cilantro.
- Stuffed Oven-Baked Chicken Breast - Chicken breasts sliced part-way through the middle, stuffed with a mixture of spinach, parmesan, cream cheese, and herbs, and baked in the oven until golden brown.
- Spicy Chicken Tacos - Shredded cooked chicken breast coated in a sauce of crushed tomato, chipotle pepper, and Mexican seasonings. Served with fresh corn tortillas.
- Chicken Club Sandwich - A riff on a classic club, with thinly sliced chicken breast, thick-cut bacon, avocado, tomato, and lettuce.
- Chicken Parmesan with Pasta - Chicken breast breaded in Italian bread crumbs and parmesan, fried until brown, baked in layer of marinara sauce, and topped with mozzarella. Serve over fresh homemade pasta and more marinara sauce.
- Chicken Salad - A simple cold salad of chopped chicken breast, mayonnaise, chopped celery, sliced almonds, salt and pepper.
- Chef Thomas Keller’s Best Fried Chicken - Ad Hoc’s famous fried chicken recipe (great for all parts of the chicken!).
- Grilled Chicken with Jerk Seasoning - Chicken rubbed with a classic jerk seasoning mixture and grilled over flame.
- Crispy Sesame Chicken - Cubed chicken breast fried in an egg and cornflour mixture, and coated with a sticky sauce of sesame oil, honey, sweet chile sauce, brown sugar, soy sauce, and garlic.
- South American Chicken Chupe - A traditional South American dish consisting of chicken breast served in a thick stew of roasted peppers, green beans, corn kernels, evaporated milk, shallots, and celery.
- Simple Roast Chicken - Chicken breasts marinated in olive oil, Italian seasonings, black pepper, and salt. Roasted in a 400 degree oven until cooked to a temperature of 165ºF.
Learn more techniques for cooking protein in Chef Thomas Keller’s MasterClass.