6 Easiest Ways to Cook Chicken Breasts—Including Grilled, Fried, and More

Try these simple ways to cook chicken breasts for delicious results every time.

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A plate of grilled chicken with carrot salad on white background
Photo: Claudia Totir/Getty Images

Winner, winner, chicken dinner! It's got its own slogan for a reason. Chicken is easy to prepare and cook, and chicken breasts are an all-around favorite in many cooks' homes because they're quick-cooking and lean. Chicken breasts are versatile and can be dressed up or down, say for entertaining or a weeknight dinner. They're total champs for meal prep and make-ahead lunches. Plus, chicken welcomes seasonings and sauces from all over the world. When cooked right, chicken breasts are juicy and succulent. The downside is that they can dry out quickly from overcooking, but when you're armed with knowledge, cooking chicken breasts at home will yield stellar results every time.

Boneless chicken breasts are a go-to because they cook quickly, faster than chicken thighs and bone-in chicken breasts. They're often found skinless, which makes them leaner than their bone-in counterpart, which usually comes with the skin on. Boneless chicken breasts are of course fine on their own, yet preferred for dishes where chunks or shreds of chicken will be added, such as salads, stews, soups, or casseroles. That's not to say you can't cook a bone-in chicken breast for these types of dishes and cut around the bone once cooked.

The major perk of bone-in chicken breasts is that they can result in juicier, more tender meat. The rib bone is still attached, which helps to distribute heat evenly, yielding the sought-after tender meat. This is why you're more likely to spot it on a menu of a nice restaurant. And as previously noted, bone-in chicken breasts are not as lean as boneless due to the fatty skin, but the skin imparts flavor and locks in moisture in the bone-in option—think of it as a protective shield. They also happen to be less expensive than boneless chicken breasts since the latter requires more processing. Bone-in chicken breasts are a great option when it's taking center stage on a plate and served whole or sliced.

It's important to note that chicken must reach a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees. It's fine to pull the chicken at 160 degrees, as the temperature climbs the needed five degrees (and up to 10 degrees) after cooking and while the chicken rests.

How to Broil Chicken Breasts

Because broilers can vary, make sure to keep a close eye while broiling to avoid burning and overcooking. If opting for bone-in chicken breasts with the skin on, poke the skin with a fork or create a few slits with a paring knife and start broiling skin side down. This will help the fat render into the drip pan. Remember that bone-in breasts take a bit longer to cook, add five minutes to the cooking time before checking the temperature. Broiling, although effortless and quick, might not yield the juiciest chicken, so be sure to brush with oil before broiling, use your favorite marinade, or/and pair with a creamy sauce for serving.

  1. Preheat broiler with one oven rack in the middle position. If broiling skin-on chicken, position another rack 6 inches from the heat source. Line a drip pan with aluminum foil and set the broiler pan on top. Coat the pan with vegetable oil.
  2. Lightly brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Broil on middle rack, turning halfway through, until chicken is golden in spots and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of breast registers 165 degrees, 12 to 18 minutes depending on thickness. If broiling skin-on chicken, move the pan to the upper rack halfway through cooking with the chicken skin-side up.

How to Poach Chicken Breasts

Cooking breasts gently in just simmering water, along with a handful of aromatics, keeps the meat juicy and tender sans any added fat. Adding sliced lemon, chunks of carrot and celery, or/and half a yellow onion boosts flavor. Both bone-in and boneless are fair game here.

  1. Place chicken in a saucepan or straight-sided skillet and add enough water to cover by 1 inch.
  2. Add aromatics to saucepan, such as bay leaves, peppercorns, sprigs of fresh parsley, thyme, or rosemary, and a pinch of salt.
  3. Bring to a gentle simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and keep a gentle simmer at a temperature between, 170 to 180 degrees. Cook, skimming any foam from the surface, until breasts register 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 15 to 18 minutes.

How to Grill Chicken Breasts

The secret to succulent chicken breasts on the grill is gently pounding them to an even thickness. Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and they'll be ready in a snap. Great for cookouts or a speedy weeknight summer dinner.

  1. Preheat grill to medium‐high (375 to 450 degrees). Brush grates with vegetable oil.
  2. Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts between two layers of plastic wrap to an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Brush chicken breasts with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook until grill marks appear, about 2 minutes. To create a cross-hatch pattern, rotate chicken 45 degrees and continue cooking, until grill marks appear, about 2 more minutes. Flip and grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of breast registers 165 degrees, 3 to 5 minutes more.

How to Fry Chicken Breasts

Hands-down delicious, the one and only way to fry chicken breasts is to coat them in a seasoned breadcrumb mixture. Enjoy them as is with a squeeze of lemon or over a salad, or let it be the start of a satisfying sandwich or chicken Parmesan. Pro tip: If you have a deep-fry thermometer, the oil temperature should hit between 350 to 360 degrees.

  1. Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts between two layers of plastic wrap to an even thickness of about ½-inch.
  2. Beat 2 large eggs with a pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper in a shallow dish. Stir about 2½ cups panko, a generous pinch of salt, and several grinds of pepper in a separate dish. Dip one chicken breast at a time in egg mixture and turn to coat. Let excess drip off. Dredge chicken in panko, pressing gently to coat.
  3. Fill a large heavy-bottomed skillet with about 1-inch vegetable oil and heat over medium-high. To test if the oil is hot enough, add a pinch of panko into the oil. If it sizzles immediately, it's ready to go.
  4. Add chicken in batches to hot oil. Cook, turning once and adjusting heat to retain temperature (if it's smoking, it's too hot), until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a wire rack and season with a pinch of salt. Repeat with remaining chicken, adding more oil if needed.

How to Bake Chicken Breasts in the Oven

A hands-off method is always a good one, and this roasted chicken breast method is one to keep on hand. Try it with either boneless or bone-in chicken breasts, but remember that the skin on the chicken acts as a protective shield, locking in moisture and yielding lots of flavor. Add even more flavor by mixing ground spices with olive oil before brushing on the chicken, or simply roast with lemon slices and woody herbs, like thyme or rosemary.

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place chicken on a large rimmed baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of breast registers 165 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

How to Pan-Sear a Chicken Breast on the Stove

Although not a must, pounding boneless chicken breasts to an even thickness will ensure even (and faster!) cooking. However, it's best to leave a bone-in skin-on chicken breast as is, but there is some light prep to be done to make sure the breasts fit flat in the skillet. Cut away the row of rib bone with kitchen shears or a paring knife, and find the little parts of the wishbone along the center where the breast was split and cut in half. If cooking a bone-in breast, start searing skin side down, and flip once the skin is golden brown, about 5 minutes.

  1. Pat chicken breasts dry with a paper towel. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a generous drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium. Add chicken breasts and cook, undisturbed, until golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Flip and continue to cook, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest portion of breast registers 165 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes depending on thickness and if cooking bone-in breasts. Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
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