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How to Bake the Best Chicken Breast
Juicy baked chicken breasts can either be baked in the oven, or seared on the stove-top first, and finished in the oven. Either way, the key to perfect crispy-on-the-outside, juicy-on-the-inside oven-baked chicken breasts is:
- A high temperature
- A quick cooking time
Especially for leaner cuts, high heat crisps up the outside and cooks the inside before it goes dry. Some people swear by an initial blast of high heat, followed by a low and slow treatment, but experiment on your own and see what you prefer. Just like with any other roasted meat, chicken needs to rest after it comes out of the oven. That way, the juices settle in the meat (instead of running out all over your cutting board).
Considerations for Baking Tender Chicken Breasts
- Size. Look for tender chicken breasts with an even thickness, and keep in mind that the larger the size, the longer the cook time may need to be. A 10-oz chicken breast may need 20 minutes, while a 5-oz one might only need 12.
- Bone-in/boneless and skin-on/skinless. It’s general opinion that bone-in meat carries more flavor, but it also takes longer to cook, due to the way heat radiates throughout the meat. Boneless, skinless chicken breast has no barrier to retain moisture, or internal conductors of heat—it will cook faster, but will also dry out much quicker. There’s a reason a whole roasted chicken is so succulent—all those bones and crackling, salty skin are the full flavor expression of the bird.
- Stuffed. Stuffed chicken breast is a classic technique, achieved by either cutting a deep horizontal slit in the meat or by pounding it thin and then rolling it into a roulade. Choose a stuffed chicken breast when you’re low on time; since stuffing is usually either fully cooked (like rice) or a light vegetable that doesn’t require too much additional heat (like asparagus), cook times are usually quite low.
- Breaded. Add an additional layer of flavor with crispy, crunchy breading. Start with 30 minutes at 350°F and monitor every 10 minutes thereafter. Higher heat will scorch the delicate breadcrumbs on the outside of the meat.
What Equipment Do You Need to Bake Chicken Breast?
- Instant-read meat thermometer. Tracking internal temperature gives you a confidence just eyeballing it can’t beat. Undercooked chicken is dangerous, not to mention a culinary tragedy: When it hits 160°F, you know you’re good to go.
- Salt and pepper. If you’re not using a spice rub or a brine to prepare your chicken, be sure to season the meat well on all sides with salt and pepper. It helps draw out the flavor, and without it, even perfectly-cooked chicken will be bland.
Easy Baked Chicken Breast Recipe With a Basic Spice Rub
Serves1 chicken breast
Prep Time10 min
Total Time40 min
- 4 tsp paprika
- 4 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 4 boneless chicken breasts
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Combine the paprika, brown sugar, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl to create the rub.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Drizzle olive oil over chicken breasts, then coat in the spice rub. Place chicken on a baking sheet or in a shallow baking dish.
- Cook chicken breasts for 10 minutes, then flip and bake for another 10 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest parts reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
- When chicken is cooked through and juices run clear when poked, remove from the oven and set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes, covering with a sheet of aluminum foil. Slice against the grain, and serve with mashed potatoes or Chef Gordon Ramsay’s pomme purée.