HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


need advice about cooking chicken breasts

I am an experienced cook, but need some basic advice about cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I am going to make a sun-dried tomato pesto over pasta and thought I would add some chicken. Grilling would be ideal, but it's pouring outside and I want to master making chicken breasts on the stove. Tell me your secrets. Seems like mine turn out dry, or over/undercooked every time. Thanks for your advice!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Since boneless skinless chicken breasts have so little flavor I generally poach them in seasoned chicken stock. It helps keep them moist and juicy. A little vermouth in the stock, maybe some herbs of your choice will all help in the flavor department.

    You are getting rain? Lucky you!

    1 Reply
    1. My first advise is to get yourself a grill pan to use indoors when it's raining...
      Here's what I do - can be done in a skillet as well -
      Season breasts with salt & pepper, heat skillet and add olive oil and a little butter, lay breasts down in pan and cook for 5 to 6 minutes on each side, or just until the meat gives a little when you press on it.. You can see the meat getting white-ish along the sides as it cooks. On the grill you would see grill marks.
      With tongs, remove from pan and let rest. At this point you can garnish with minced flat leat parsley, then slice as you wish and add to the pasta.
      Sometimes I marinate the breasts with any one of a number of receipes I have on hand, then grill.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Gio

        completely agree. grill pan is a must. 5 minutes each side. but i would season or marinade prior.

      2. Do you marinate them before cooking? I've found that makes a big difference...

        2 Replies
        1. re: a_and_w

          We buy free range chickens and they are very flavorful on their own. However, if I want to achieve a certain flavor, say Asian or Mexican, I marinate with the herbs and spices, etc. needed. Some of the recipes call for marinating anywhere from 30 minutes to overnight in the fridge.

          1. re: Gio

            I meant more a liquid (e.g., soy based) marinade that leaves the chicken moist.

        2. Yeah, I never use BS chicken breasts b/c they always dry out and have so little flavor. I prefer thighs... bone in or out they are much more flavorful. Dark meat and a little fat help out a great deal. Candy's chix stock w/ herbs idea sounds like a good one though... and maybe a little white wine.

          1. I've found that they'll always come out juicy if you coat them in some kind of spice rub and then broil. Also, let them rest for a good 10 mintues before you cut into them.

            1. Like Gio said, I also sear them...in a very hot pan just a few minutes per side, depending on the thickness. To prepare for searing, I remove the tenderloin (reserving for another use), then pound them out to the thickness I want. I would pound them fairly thin if you were going to slice them up for your pasta dish.

              And about that rain.....yes, you're lucky alright! Send it on our way!

              1. If I have time, I either brine them or marinate in buttermilk. It keeps them moist and juicy and doesn't affect the overall flavor. I assume you're just going to slice them up to add to the pasta? Either cut them in half (like butterflying them) or pound them thinner. This will reduce the cooking time and also prevent parts getting dried out while the thicker sections need to keep cooking. Then just pan fry them in a little olive oil or butter. If you want to get fancy, pound the chicken, do an egg wash and dredge in panko. Pan fry in a light layer of veg. oil until the panko browns on each side. Pour the tomato pesto over the chicken and add buttered pasta to the side (maybe with more pesto over it). It'll be really good, I promise. I used the idea from this recipe: http://www.leitesculinaria.com/recipe...


                1. When it's raining or cold out, I like to use my George Forman for chicken cutlet. Whatever method you use, you have to marinade first if you want juicy.

                  1. I put them between plastic sheets and pound them to a uniform thickness-- about 1/4 thick, salt and pepper them and saute them in a mix of 1/2 olive oil and 1/2 butter. With them being uniform and thin, they cook more quickly and don't dry out as much.

                    1. I have to strongly agree with the pounding to equal thickness suggestions. Once I did that my chicken came out so good.

                      If you marinate it in buttermilk, does it splatter all over the place after you throw it into the frying pan of oil? Even after patting dry?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: OysterHo

                        I third the pounding; they cook more quickly and the likelihood of dryness is heavily reduced, IMO. Think of cooking a thick chicken breast like a well done steak (as the chicken needs to be fully cooked): the outside is likely to become overdone to get the middle properly cooked.

                        Another great way, IMO, of making chicken if you want it grilled or under the broiler is to butterfly it, marinate it, and then cook it.

                      2. 1. Grill pan, cast iron.

                        2. Brine!!!! Chicken breast is a fairly bland piece of meat and needs all the help it can get. Think boneless, skinless thighs. Much more flavor and easier to get right.

                        3. Don't cook for time, cook for feel. Take them off while there's still some give in the meat and then let it rest. I would think that about 9 out of 10 people overcook chicken breasts.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bkhuna

                          The problem with grill pans for many of us is that we don't have adequate kitchen ventilation to cook with them. Unless you have a good vent that vents air outside of your house, cooking with a grill pan is just asking for your house to fill with smoke.

                        2. A grill pan is totally unecessary. It's just a cast iron skillet that puts marks on food.

                          Use a cast iron skillet to sear then finish in the oven, like a steak.

                          Or poach.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: C. Hamster

                            I actually think a grill pan does have a place in the home kitchen. First of all a GP, once seasoned, does not require oil or butter before tossing meat or veggies on to it. Plus, I believe the food is kept off the surface of the pan so it allows the fat to drain away. IJS.

                            1. re: Gio

                              You don't need much fat at all to cook a chicken breast in a skillet and it gives off very little fat of it's own. It doesn't "grill" either. I found mine to be utterly useless, but I know people like them.

                            1. poaching is a good technique that will result in soft tender chicken. I find there is little taste when poaching. I have had good success with pan roasting in a cast iron skillet. Season with nice amount of salt and pepper. Pan fry on med heat in olive oil to get a good crust and color on one side, flip and toss into a hot oven for another 5-7 min. The breast come out golden brown, juicy and the crust is what imparts a lot of flavor. The pan can be deglazed for extra flavor. I slice across the grain and I have not had dry tasteless BSCB using this method. Just don't over cook.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Why not cut them into stir fry pieces and just quickly stir fry them and then add the pesto and pasta to the pan to blend it all.