Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breasts – Despite their reputation for being dry and impossible to cook, Chicken Breasts are, with a few simple tips and tricks, incredibly easy to cook and keep juicy! In this post, learn How to Cook Perfect Juicy Chicken Breasts each and every time and serve with your favorite sides including baked sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower!
Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts
If you’re anything like me, then you probably eat a lot of chicken. High in protein and low in fat, chicken breast is a great alternative to beef and chicken thighs- especially if you’re trying to eat healthier. Delicious served with your favorite pasta, tossed in a fresh salad, or meal prepped to last you the whole week, one thing is certain- chicken breasts are a convenient and economical source of protein (and my personal favorite!)
Unfortunately, one of our favorite qualities of this low-fat, high-protein superstar, also makes it somewhat tricky to cook. Lucky for us, I have cooked a LOT of chicken breasts in my day and have learned a thing or two about how to do it right.
So today I have for you guys a post all about How to Cook Chicken Breasts. Easy and simple, this is my go-to baked chicken breast recipe that guarantees moist, juicy, and flavorful chicken every single time!
Prefer chicken thighs? Head over and check out this recipe for perfectly Baked Chicken Thighs.
Steps to Bake Perfect Chicken Breasts Every Time
Hands down, the best way to cook chicken breasts is in the oven. I find that it is the most guaranteed method in achieving juicy and flavorful results every single time. Pan-frying and grilling are often susceptible to burning or drying out while poaching lacks flavor. Not only that, baking is the most forgiving method should there be any user error (i.e. overcooking, wrong cooking temperature, etc).
So how exactly does one go about cooking chicken breasts?
There are 5 main steps in achieving the best, most flavorful, baked chicken breasts. For best results, you’ll want to follow all the steps start to finish.
- Brine the chicken for at least 20-30 minutes.
- Rinse the chicken in cool water and dry completely with paper towels.
- Coat your chicken in olive oil and rub with your favorite seasoning.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the oven and let it REST for 5 minutes.
- Brush with olive oil or butter and herbs and cut into pieces.
Some of these steps you must do. For example, you must bake the chicken. And, if you did brine your chicken please, you guys, don’t forget to rinse them off and pat them try. As far as the seasoning and brushing with olive oil after baking? That’s all optional (but recommended).
Tools needed to make perfect baked chicken breasts
Fortunately, the list isn’t long. And I’m guessing that if you do at least some cooking, you probably already have most of the items.
- Digital thermometer. If you are still cooking meats without a digital thermometer, you need to stop. One of my most-used kitchen tools, the digital thermometer saves me from butchering my meat before it’s finished cooking just to check if it’s finished cooking (I know, it makes no sense to me, either). And then there’s the whole food safety thing.
- Baking sheet. You can also use a rectangular casserole baking dish.
- Parchment paper. One of those kitchen essentials, parchment paper will help with clean-up and help ensure that your baking sheets last longer.
- Mixing bowls.
- Pastry brush. My other kitchen must-have, this little kitchen tool is so super handy for brushing on olive oil! I highly recommend that you choose one with silicone bristles as they are much easier to clean.
How to cook chicken breasts
Now that we have all the necessary tools and we have a basic overview of the steps we’ll be taking to bake our chicken breasts, let’s actually do it.
Step 1. Brine the Chicken
After some experimenting and researching and testing, I’ve determined that, if time allows, you should try to brine your chicken. You only need to let the chicken set in the brine for 20-30 minutes or up to 6 hours.
What is a chicken brine and why do you need it?
Much like a turkey brine that you would use on Thanksgiving, this simple chicken brine is just a solution of salt and water. Often, turkey brines will contain sugar and will first be boiled (to dissolve the sugar), but this one is as simple as it gets. Why do you need it? Well, the simple answer is that it is believed to keep your chicken juicier by drawing in small amounts of liquid into the meat. Of course, there are other, more scientific reasons, but I’ll save that for my upcoming brining post.
Do you have to brine your chicken breasts?
No. Because here’s the thing- brining is not a be all end all step to juicy chicken breasts. There are other important factors to consider. So, if it’s a Wednesday night and dinner needed to be on the table 10 minutes ago, skip it.
Things to keep in mind- some chicken comes sold pre-brined. Keep a look-out at your local supermarket because there really is no point in repeating the same process twice.
Step 2. Rinse the chicken
Remember, you’ve just soaked your chicken breast in a water and salt solution. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m thinking that probably wouldn’t taste awesome or help with the cooking process if we didn’t rinse it off with some fresh water.
You also want to completely dry your chicken breasts before moving to the next step. The easiest way to do this is to grab a few paper towels and pat them completely dry.
Step 3. Season
I’ve found that the easiest way to season chicken breasts evenly is to add them to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with your favorite spices and seasonings.
In this particular batch of baked chicken breasts, I rubbed them with salt, pepper, sweet paprika, and Cajun seasoning (my favorite). Get in there, use your hands and mix it up- just make sure you thoroughly wash them (your hands) after.
Step 4. Bake
Baking chicken breasts at the right temperature is KEY.
Now, you’ll hear different things when it comes to oven temperature, cooking time, and chicken breasts. Some prefer to cook low and slow, while others find better luck roasting chicken breasts high and fast.
From personal experience, I firmly believe that high and fast is the way to go to get delicious, juicy chicken breasts.
What is the best temperature to cook chicken breasts?
425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
Naturally, cooking time will vary depending on the size of each individual chicken breast and why I highly recommend using a digital food thermometer to determine if your chicken is fully cooked (160-165 degrees F).
Step 5. Let your chicken rest
Allowing your chicken breasts to rest for 5-10 minutes after baking is probably the most important step in the whole cooking process. This means removing the chicken from the oven and leaving it alone to finish cooking before slicing.
Why is it important to allow chicken brests rest after cooking?
A lot of juices build up during the cooking process. If you cut into your chicken breasts right away, all those delicious juices that help keep your chicken moist and juicy will leak right out. When you let your chicken breasts rest, it allows the juices to reabsorb back into the muscle fibers. Worried about your chicken getting cold? Simply tent with foil.
Step 6. Brush with olive oil and season (optional)
This step, unlike the previous two steps, is completely optional. I can’t say for certain that it contributes to the overall moistness of the chicken, but it does taste pretty awesome.
All you need is a couple of tablespoons of finely minced parsley, a pinch of salt, and a few tablespoons of olive oil (or butter!). Simply mix it all together and brush over the top of your chicken breast.
How to store and freeze oven-baked chicken breasts
Bake these beauties in bulk, my friends, because they are awesome leftover AND frozen.
- To refrigerate: Once your chicken has been fully cooked, store in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. For best results, wait to chop/slice/shred any leftover chicken breasts until ready to enjoy.
- To freeze: Once your chicken breasts have been fully cooked, allow them to rest until cool enough to handle. You may freeze your chicken breasts whole, or chop/slice/shred and then freeze. For best results, enjoy within 2-3 months.
What to serve with baked chicken breasts
The beauty of these oven-baked chicken breasts is that they can be served with just about anything you can imagine. From salad to pasta, soup to ramen bowls, mixed-in or stand-alone, there is no wrong way to eat this chicken.
For starchy sides, I like to serve this recipe with Mashed Potatoes (or Mashed Cauliflower), Baked Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Wild Rice Pilaf, One-Pot Mushroom Rice Pilaf Recipe, or Garlic Roasted Potatoes.
But what about vegetables?
You guys, these juicy chicken breasts are delicious with ALL the vegetables including, Roasted Carrots, Roasted Asparagus, Roasted Cauliflower, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Beets, Zucchini Noodles. Basically, any and ALL vegetables love baked chicken thighs.
More chicken recipes,
- Bruschetta Chicken Recipe <– a reader favorite!
- Chicken Tikka Masala Recipe
- 15-Minute Lemon Honey Ginger Chicken Recipe
- Easy Chicken and Dumplings Recipe
- Chicken Cacciatore Recipe
- Hungarian Chicken Paprikash Recipe <– a family favorite!
- Baked Harissa Chicken Recipe
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How to Cook Chicken Breasts
For the Brine
- 5 cups cool water
- 1/4 cup salt
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Fill a large mixing bowl with water and salt and whisk to combine. Add the chicken breasts to the salt bath and set aside. Allow the chicken soak in the brine for 20-30 minutes.
- Drain the salt water brine and rinse each chicken breast under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Transfer the chicken to a dry mixing bowl. Drizzle with approximately 1 tbsp olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, and Cajun seasoning (if using). Rub the olive oil and seasoning all over the chicken breasts.
- Transfer the chicken to your prepared baking sheet. Cook chicken for approximately 20-22 minutes, or until internal temperature reads 160-165 degrees F with a digital thermometer. Time will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken breast.
- Meanwhile, as the chicken cooks whisk together the olive oil, chopped parsley, and salt. Set aside.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before brushing with the parsley and olive oil sauce and slicing.
- Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.