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Baking Chicken

I find myself eating a decent amount of chicken breasts. I decided to try and find a few decent recipes for baking it. Something I can put together quickly, come back 30-60 minutes later and have a delicious meat.

So after reading a few recipes, I found that everyone has a different way of baking it. Sometimes in a pan with foil over it, sometimes open to the oven. Each time a different heat, in turn, changing the length of time.

So I was curious about the fundamental process of baking chicken.

What is the ideal way? Does this way vary depending on the other ingredients?

My goal is cook some skinless chicken breasts, and keep them very moist. So which is the best way to cook these?

Any ideas? Recommendations?

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  1. There is no such thing as "moist, baked, skinless" chicken breasts. Those breasts are gonna dry out, sure as shooting.

    Perhaps poaching in chicken broth....

    But otherwise I'd leave the skin and bones intact, every single time. And, honestly, I would use thighs, not bressessess.

    1 Reply
    1. re: uptown jimmy

      I agree baked is very tough, and I don't like thighs, so I agree that poaching is a great alternative. I poach in chicken broth often, and they're always wonderfully moist, and heartily chicken-y.

    2. Just don't overcook it. There's a real narrow window between undercooked and dried out. As you get close, take test slices off of a "tester" breast every 2-3 minutes until you learn where that threshold is.

      You can get a literal feel for doneness by pressing the breast with your finger. When the meat is still underdone, the meat will still feel squishy. When it's cooked enough it'll feel different. Firmed up, but not dense like the instep of a work boot. Easy to show this in person. Difficult to explain in writing.

      Also: chicken breasts will cook more evenly if you pound it to the same thickness prior to cooking. Lay meat between saran wrap, and use a meat mallet or the side of an empty wine bottle to pound it out. Use a "smearing" motion until the meat's the same thickness throughout.

      Baking, frying, grilling, poaching, really the cooking method doesn't matter. All of them will dry out chicken breast if you're careless. All of them will yield moist juicy meat as long as you're paying attention and pull the meat when it's just cooked through.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Professor Salt

        To monitor the doneness of chicken breast, use a probe thermometer or other thermometer and cook until internal temperature reaches 160 F.

      2. Since the skin has been removed, you need to protect the meat from the dry heat of the oven. Possibilities are: 1) Cut slices of bacon in half. Lay a couple of pieces of bacon on each boneless skinless chicken breasts so that the meat is tucked inside the bacon. Bake. This will keep the meat moist and impart a nice flavor to the chicken. 2) I know how gross and unchowhoundish this sounds but it is actually edible and if you are in a hurry and are on a budget, it's an option: lay the b sk chicken breasts on a baking dish and dump a can of Campbell's Cream of (Mushroom, Chicken, or Celery) soup over them. Don't dilute the soup and for goodness' sake don't add any more salt as the soup is super-salty. As the chicken bakes it will exude chicken juice which will combine with the soup and make a not-bad gravy. It's a good idea to put a potato or sweet potato in the oven to bake at the same time. 3) Sprinkle the b sk chicken breasts generously with soy sauce and garlic powder. Cover with foil or a lid. Bake for half an hour then remove the cover, add a small can of crushed pineapple, and finish baking for another half-hour; serve with rice. You can always bake b sk chicken breasts successfully if you cover them with something to keep them moist (canned gravy, spaghetti sauce, any of Trader Joe's "Simmer Sauces", salsa, etc). You can also wrap them in foil (with or without additions). Or you can brown them first, add mushrooms and wine or cream or whatever, and bake them covered ("smothered chicken").

        1. Hey AnomalyEE,

          Prof. Salt is spot on with the mechanics of cooking chicken breasts. But, this much-maligned portion of poultry also has a culinary savior for moistness and flavor...brining.

          Chicken breasts are the perfect medium for a quick, (1-2 hours) immersion in your favorite brine solution. Moistness, tenderness, and most importantly flavor will enhance the quality of the meat. And, brining will give you a bit of a grace period between wonderfully moist and Sahara dry.

          Yoroshiku,
          Andy

          1 Reply
          1. re: AndyP

            Totally agree with the idea of brining, but I'd also recommend that the OP should seriously consider bone-in breasts.

            Also, a nice soak in buttermilk is a good way to improve the flavor of any chicken parts. Last night we marinated skinless boneless breasts (husband bought them, I normally buy thighs or bone-in breasts) for 2 hours, then breaded them in panko and sauteed. Very tasty.

          2. This is how my Mom solves the dry problem. I usually cut this down for my small family, although the leftovers make great sandwiches (sliced).

            6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 lb.)
            2 T. butter
            1/2 c. (2 oz.) grated Parmesan Cheese
            1/4 c. dry bread crumbs
            1 t. dried oregano
            1 T. chopped fresh parsley
            1/4 t. paprika
            1/4 t. salt
            1/4 t. pepper

            Melt the butter in a 15 inch pyrex pan(while the oven is pre-heating). Mix parmesan, crumbs, and seasoning. Dip chicken in butter, coat with crumb mixture. Spread out on pan. Bake at 400°F for 20 -25 minutes until lightly browned and chicken is done.

            1 Reply
            1. re: dkenworthy

              thank you for your moms recipe. Didnt have parsley and I used panko crumbs. The chicken did not dry out.

            2. My latest method to spice up chicken breasts is to butterfly them and rub them with a paste of jerk seasoning. Roll and tie and then dredge in egg wash and Panko bread crumbs that have been spiked with poultry seasoning. I bake them covered for 30 minutes and uncover them until brown, and you get a minimum internal temp of 160°.

              Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.

              1. Well my recipe takes 1 and 1/2 hours at 350 F. We have a chicken factory close to us so we use a lot of frozen chicken breasts. In a dutch oven 40 cloves of garlic, 4 chicken breasts (we get 5 oz ones) pour a half or 3/4 bottles of beer over the frozen chicken and sprinkle with thyme. (chicken broth works too but I find the results a bit salty)

                1 Reply
                1. re: Alacrity59

                  I just marinated the chicken breasts with dijon mustard, sage, honey and curry powder. Noting from your remarks I wonder how long I will have to bake the 2 pieces of chicken without letting them dry out and what temperature would be suitable.

                2. keep the skin on during cooking to keep moist and protect the meat. Then remove when serving.

                  jfood's baking method is 425 degrees for about 35 minutes depending on the thickness of the breast. He shoots for internal temperature of 165. For moist skinless breast (de-bone yourself to save some money) make sure you pound the breast and then jfood throws on the grill (if you have available) for about 3 minutes per side.

                  In either case do not overcook.

                  Enjoy

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jfood

                    I find that careful cooking eliminates the dryness problem for boneless skinless chicken breasts. Through trial and error I've settled on grilling for 4 minutes per side: 2 minutes, then flip, 2 minutes, then flip and rotate 90 degrees, 2 minutes, then flip, 2 minutes, then it's done. I don't pound them before grilling. If I'm going to bake it, I would go for bone-in.

                  2. I bake boneless skinless chicken breasts quite often and don't have problems with them drying out. I think it is very important to marinate them well and mine are always marinated in liquid for at least 6 hours, but typically about 24 hours. Then, before I put them in the oven, I heat a skillet to high, put in a smidge of OO and give them a quick sear on both sides, they should be golden. This gives great texture and color, I hate pale oven chicken, but also works to seal in the juices. My favorite way to do chocicken in the oven is to make chicken gravy, put a layer in the bottom of my baking dish, sear the chicken with lots of pepper and bake in the gravy for about 45 minutes. About 10-15 minutes before they're done I whip up a batch of drop biscuits, and drop them right on top of the chicken and gravy in the dish. Not a meal I have often, but oh so comforting. Makes me wish we had some cool weather here in MS so I felt like eating such a meal.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ArikaDawn

                      arika, searing does not seal in any juices. if anything it cooks more juices out.

                      1. re: thew

                        I never notice any juices coming out in the pan, and since being taught and beginning to cook it this way, it always comes out incredibly moist. I also like the fact it browns the outside of the meat so it isn't pallid.

                        1. re: ArikaDawn

                          Searing creates flavor, but thew is right, it does not seal in anything.

                          It's a good thing to do.

                          2 things you can do to prevent dry chicken breasts are (1) to brine them, and (2) to cook them to 150-155 remove and cover them and let carryover heat finish the job.

                      2. re: ArikaDawn

                        AD, you do chicken breasts (when I bake boneless medium sized skinless) the same as I do. I sort of press them out first, not to make thin, more so to even the thickness out then marinate. Different marinades, but not that long. Maybe 4 hours,but anyway. I find the quick browning the pan does wonders. I knew you were going to get flack about the searing thing, when I do it, I just quick fry for browning not expecting to sear juices since they're not in the pan that long, but more so to brown the chicken and get some caramelziation going. Then I bake. Carmelized onions are a great way to get additional flavor and color, then bake as you would for about 35 mins.

                        Your meal sounds really delicious, By removing the skin,I guess you're trying to cut animal fat right? I love a nice gravy done this way, and amazingly one can do a pretty decent one without using cream or milk. I am now craving chicken and dumplings. thank you very much!

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Yes, I do the skinless to cut the fat. Perhaps searing was not the right word, but I'm glad you knew what I'm talking about =)
                          The caramelzed onions sound great, I am sort of an onion fiend, but it is one of those simple things I can never get right. I think I may do them over too high a heat or something.

                          1. re: ArikaDawn

                            I think caramelized onions are easy to get wrong, but once you figure it out you should be OK. I read a Cook's Illustrated article once that said that caramelized onions should take about 20 minutes--less than that and you've got the heat too high, more than that and you've got the heat too low. I think for my stove this means medium heat (maybe medium to medium-high). Try doing them over a lower heat, and if after about 17 minutes you're not seeing them start to brown, turn the heat up a little.

                            1. re: Nettie

                              The time would depend on the quantity of onions that you are camelizing, no?

                            2. re: ArikaDawn

                              Yes you need a lower heat, I make French onion soup so often I have it down. Low and slow, you don't have to use butter, you can use an oil. I am using more vegetable oil for these types of applications (Olive oil not the flavor for that soup I want, and canola has a taste and smell that I don't care for.) So I use safflower or corn. But it does take a while and because I use them in so many of my dishes (think onion confit) I always have them around. Once you get past the pesky peeling and cutting, just put them in a heavy pan and let them go, turning them around every ten mins. Let them get nice and dark golden. (no burned onions) They not only add flavor, but moisture to anything you add them to.

                        2. One reason food tastes juicy: we produce extra saliva when we eat fat. Lean chicken breasts benefit from rich sauces, cheese, avocado, etc. These items will help mask any dryness resulting from accidentally overcooked chicken.

                          Also, watch out for carry over cooking. Food will continue to rise in temperature and can overcook after being taken off the heat.

                          One Jacques Pepin recipe I've had success with: Cook 6 oz spice rubbed chicken breasts on medium high for 3 minutes per side. Then finish on a platter in a 200 degree oven for at least 10 to 15 minutes to finish cooking, or hold for up to 45.

                          1. Is there a reason they must be skinless and boneless? Split breasts are cheaper and you get much more flavor and succulence cooking them on the bone and with the skin. If you want to remove the bone and skin afterwards for presentation and calorie saving, be my happy guest.

                            If you must go boneless and skinless, thighs have much more resilience than breasts.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Karl S

                              It was for the sole reason of simpleness. I tend to stay pretty busy and I'm far from a well-versed cook.

                            2. If you want a really easy, quick cheat try this: get one of Trader Joe's many varieties of cooking sauces that come in a jar, including Thai green chili, Cuban mojito, or one of the Italian or Indian varieties. They are all very good. Poor over chicken breasts assembled single layer in a roasting pan, add slice mushrooms, scallions, or another ingredient if you wish. Bake at 325 until done but not overdone. The amount of time depends on the thickness of the breast. The result is delicious, company-worthy chicken, no sweat!

                              1. Just like City Kid said - One of my easy minimal clean up meals - Baked "BBQ" chicken.

                                Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, sear to golden brown on both sides (beautiful) color and nice crust) in a hot cast iron skillet with a few tablespoons of oil. Pour in a jar of sauce (I LOVE Bone suckin' Spicy BBQ Sauce - no hfc's!) The sauce should cover at least 3/4 of the chicken. Top with slices of onion and tomato (grape tomatoes/cherry tomatoes even easier) Put the pan into a 375 oven and bake. Turn chicken once and move the onions and tomatoes around to coat with sauce. Bake for 35 mins. Sauce keeps the chicken moist and allows you to bake for even longer with out ruining the dish. Serve over rice or with crusty bread to soak up the yummy sauce and sweet onions and tomatoes.

                                Replace the BBQ sauce with any other type of sauce you like. marinara with zucchini and squash. Or a curry sauce with bamboo shoots and bell peppers. Or Mojo sauce with onions served with black beans and rice. Or chicken broth with white wine garlic and leeks. Of course if you have time, all of these sauces are better if home made, but Trader Joes and Whole foods have some great quality, all natural versions. Good Luck!

                                1. Wow, quite a few responses. I've been reading them at work, but I can't reply there. Thanks for all the information, I'll give a few of these methods a try. Maybe even steer away from the easy to cook skinless chicken breasts as well.