CultureFood
Indefinitely Wild

You've Been Cooking Chicken Breasts Wrong

With this simple method, you'll have moist, safe, and tasty chicken breasts every time

It's just a chicken breast. But we're going to show you how to make it good. (Photo: Wes Siler)
It's just a chicken breast. But we're going to show you how to make it good.

Look at a boneless, skinless chicken breast, and what do you see? About the leanest form of animal protein you can eat, obviously. But you also likely see something that’s boring, dry, and flavorless. That’s because most people don’t know how to cook it. Here’s an easy, quick, foolproof method to make delicious chicken breasts every time. 

Stuff You’ll Need

  • A pan or pot with a tight-fitting lid. I cook pretty much everything in a seven-quart Lodge Enameled Dutch oven
  • One boneless, skinless chicken breast per person, the higher quality, the better 
  • Olive oil. Get the real stuff if you can find it. 
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic powder

The breast, rubbed all over with kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil.
The breast, rubbed all over with kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and olive oil. (Photo: Wes Siler)

Getting Started

Make sure your breasts are fully defrosted if they were frozen. Remove all the packaging, and put them on something that can contain liquid overflow, like a rimmed plate. Apply a generous amount of the seasonings and enough olive oil to coat all sides of the chicken. Rub in everything. Wash your hands thoroughly, and set the chicken aside to rest. 

Put your pan or pot on the stovetop, add a drop of olive oil, and turn the burner on high. After a few minutes, that oil will start smoking, and that’s when you know the pan is hot enough. 

With the stove on high, add a small drop of olive oil to the pan, and wait for it to begin smoking. This drop of oil isn't for flavor, or for cooking (the chicken is already rubbed in oil), it's just there to indicate temperature, so you don't need much at all.
With the stove on high, add a small drop of olive oil to the pan, and wait for it to begin smoking. This drop of oil isn't for flavor, or for cooking (the chicken is already rubbed in oil), it's just there to indicate temperature, so you don't need much at all. (Photo: Wes Siler)

Cooking

With the burner still on high, add the seasoned chicken breasts to the pan, and cook them uncovered for one minute. (I just count Mississippis in my head until I get to 60.) 

After that minute is up, turn the heat to low, flip the breasts over, and put the lid on. Set a timer for ten minutes. 

Once the timer sounds, turn the heat off, but leave the pan covered. Don’t open it to check on the chicken—that’ll let heat and moisture out. Set the timer for another ten minutes. 

When you flip the breast after that first minute on high, the cooked side should be nicely browned.
When you flip the breast after that first minute on high, the cooked side should be nicely browned. (Photo: Wes Siler)

Serving

After that second round of ten minutes, move the breasts to a cutting board and slice them.

Prepared this way, chicken breasts will be cooked through, moist, and tender every single time. And because of that, they’re tasty enough to eat on their own, with your favorite vegetables as a side. 

If you want to mix things up, top a salad with the sliced chicken breasts, and dress them with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. If you’re hungrier, cook some rice while you’re doing the chicken, and add that to a bowl with some avocado, cherry tomatoes, and baby spinach. Top with the sliced chicken, along with some sriracha, and you have a chicken-veggie bowl. 

When you're done, the chicken breast will be cooked through, but perfectly moist. This method really is that simple, and it really does work perfectly every single time.
When you're done, the chicken breast will be cooked through, but perfectly moist. This method really is that simple, and it really does work perfectly every single time. (Photo: Wes Siler)

When I want to make a stir-fry, I also use this method. Just sauté some onions and garlic in a pan, add snap peas, carrots, spinach, and whatever else you might like, along with a splash of soy sauce, rice-wine vinegar, and maybe even a drizzle of sesame oil. When all that feels tender, stir in the chicken, and give it a minute to warm up and soak in the flavors before serving.

Chicken-fried rice? Pretty much the same as a stir-fry. Just crack some eggs in the pan as the vegetables become tender, and stir them around with the vegetables. Then add your cooked rice and the chicken breast, and you’re good to go. 

And there you have it. Healthy, tasty, lean meals you can easily cook several nights a week. 

My sous chef Wiley inspects our handiwork. It's probably not a good idea to feed your dog seasoned meat like this. And our dogs prefer their chicken raw anyways.
My sous chef Wiley inspects our handiwork. It's probably not a good idea to feed your dog seasoned meat like this. And our dogs prefer their chicken raw anyways. (Photo: Wes Siler)

Support Outside Online

Our mission to inspire readers to get outside has never been more critical. In recent years, Outside Online has reported on groundbreaking research linking time in nature to improved mental and physical health, and we’ve kept you informed about the unprecedented threats to America’s public lands. Our rigorous coverage helps spark important debates about wellness and travel and adventure, and it provides readers an accessible gateway to new outdoor passions. Time outside is essential—and we can help you make the most of it. Making a financial contribution to Outside Online only takes a few minutes and will ensure we can continue supplying the trailblazing, informative journalism that readers like you depend on. We hope you’ll support us. Thank you.

Contribute to Outside
Filed To: Indefinitely WildFood and DrinkEvergreen
Lead Photo: Wes Siler

When you buy something using the retail links in our stories, we may earn a small commission. Outside does not accept money for editorial gear reviews. Read more about our policy.

More Culture