For many, cooking a chicken breast is a challenge. Why? Because it has no bones, no fat, and -in many cases- no skin. In short, everything that could boost the taste of this meat simply…does not exist! Agreed. There is, however, a proper cooking-baking way that can lead us to the perfect -in terms of taste- result. In fact, there is not only one. There are plenty. Today, I will talk to you about 10 of them. They are tested, they have tips (which I will give you), and -almost like all things- they have their pros and cons. Don’t worry, I will talk about them too ;-) So, by the time you finish reading this blog post, you will know how to prepare the juiciest, tastiest, most delicious chicken breast you have ever tried! So, shall we go find out what our tests showed?
The process: Marinate the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place a frying pan over medium heat and wait until it is very hot. As soon as it is hot, add the chicken breast to the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. Cover the pan with a lid, lower the heat, and keep cooking for 8-10 more minutes, until your chicken is cooked through. Ideally, you want its temperature to reach 72-75οC (162-167ο F). Remove the meat from the heat, transfer it to a plate, cover it with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Finally, serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: We love this process since slow-cooking in a pan with a lid, gives us a tender -full of flavors- chicken.
Why we would reconsider: This process is not the most…carefree one can choose. Why? Because, this way, the chicken breast needs plenty of time to cook on heat, as well as frequent checking so that it does not burn or overcook.
Extra Tip: One of the reasons why chicken often loses its flavor and tender texture is the above cooking time. You see, to be sure that the chicken is done, we often cook it "a little longer" thinking that nothing will happen to it. And yet, it does, precisely because it is a piece of lean meat with no fat that could somehow save the situation in the event of a slightly longer cooking time.
#2 GRILL PAN CHICKEN
The process: Use a knife to carefully score the chicken breast fillet and butterfly it (Attention! You should not cut the meat all the way through). Brush it with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place a grill pan over medium heat until it is very hot. Put the chicken breast onto the grill pan and cook it for 2-3 minutes on each side. Lower the heat and keep cooking until its temperature reaches 72-75ο C (162-167ο F). Remove the meat from the heat, transfer it to a plate, and cover it with aluminum foil. Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes and then, serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: Because it is an easy and quick way to cook a chicken fillet. This is due to the thickness of the meat which is pretty thin and can be cooked faster.
Why we would reconsider: Since the meat is so thin, it is much easier to dry, which means that -the particular cooking method- requires further attention.
Extra Tip: The easiest - and most certain - way to check that your fillet is done is to use a cooking thermometer. The meat will be ready when the thermometer shows 72-75ο C (162-167ο F). Another way to tell that the chicken breast has been cooked is to observe the juices in the pan. When they start being "clearer", it means that the chicken is almost ready. In no case, however, do we eat the chicken if it still has a light pink hue inside, and -of course- we do not pinch it to see if it is done, as it will lose all its juices and our meat will dry out.
#3 OVEN ROAST
The process: Preheat the oven to 200ΟC (390Ο F) set to fan. Marinate the chicken fillet with salt, pepper, and olive oil, and add it to a baking pan with a rack. Roast you fillet for 30-35 minutes, until its temperature reaches 72-75ο C (162-167ο F). As soon as it is done, transfer your fillet to a plate, cover it with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Serve your chicken with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: Because it is an easy way to cook your chicken without constantly having it in mind.
Why we would reconsider: A deviation in the cooking time, but also in the time that will pass from the moment the fillet comes out of the oven until the moment you consume it, can dry your meat. So, to avoid this, simply follow the cooking times exactly and do not leave your meat uncovered while waiting for it to rest.
Extra Tip: Every time you take the meat out of the oven, it is important to give it some time to rest before cutting it to serve. Thus, it will be able to redistribute its juices throughout the fillet and your meat will remain juicy and delicious.
The process: Place a pot with vegetable or chicken stock to boil over medium heat. In fact, if you want, you can enhance the stock with several herbs or spices that you like. Then, your fillet will take all of their flavors and aromas. As soon as it comes to a boil, add the chicken fillet in, lower the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the fillet from the pot, transfer it to a plate, and let it rest for 10 minutes, after covering it with aluminum foil. Serve with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: Because it is a simple and easy cooking method with countless uses. Once cooked, your fillet can be used in soups or salads or -if you want- you can shred it using two forks, mix it with a little BBQ sauce, and add it to any sandwich.
Why we would reconsider: Because you may think that poached chicken is bland. However, if you add a few of your favorite spices into the water where you will boil it, as mentioned above, the result will change at once. In addition, if you use chicken stock, your fillet will have an even more intense taste of chicken.
Extra Tip: While waiting for your chicken to rest, make sure that you keep it covered so that the meat does not dry out.
The process: Use a knife to carefully score a chicken breast fillet and butterfly it (Attention! You should not cut the meat all the way through). Then, marinate your fillet with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Prepare your barbecue, place the chicken onto the barbecue, and cook it over medium heat until golden brown on the one side. Then, flip the fillet over and cook it for 5-7 more minutes, until it is cooked through. Ideally, you want its temperature to be 72-75o C (162-167oF). As soon as it is ready, transfer the chicken to a plate, let it rest for 10 minutes by covering it with aluminum foil, and serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: Grilling boosts the taste of the chicken – the same happens with many other kinds of meat.
Why we would reconsider: The preparation of the barbecue and -then- its cleaning are two of the reasons why we choose simpler cooking methods than grilling.
Extra Tip: If you decide to use a dry marinade with various herbs for your meat, you should remove them before starting to cook it. We do this because, during cooking, the herbs will burn and give a more bitter taste to your food.
#6 SOUS VIDE
The process: After marinating the chicken with salt, pepper, and olive oil, add it to a vacuum bag and close it with the vacuum sealer, removing all the air from the bag. Fill a pot with water, place the sous vide machine inside, and adjust it to 72οC (162ο F). When the water reaches this temperature, add the bag with the chicken in and cook for one hour. Once the chicken is ready, take it out of the bag and pat dry it with kitchen paper (it should be dry when you add it to the pan). The next step? Place a pan over medium heat and wait until it heats up well. Add the chicken fillet to the pan and let it cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, until it turns golden brown on both sides. Finally, remove the fillet from the pan, transfer it to a plate, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: Since sous vide allows us to cook chicken with absolute precision (and ease), achieving the perfect result both in terms of texture and taste. In addition, through this cooking method, our meat does not lose any moisture, maintaining its original size.
Why we would reconsider: Because the equipment needed for this cooking method is a bit expensive and many people do not have it at home.
Extra Tip: Cooking sous vide can save us effort and time. You see, if you want, you can cook chicken, refrigerate it, and -when you need it- take it out and just heat it up and give it a little color before serving. To do this, as soon as you cook it in the sous vide, remove the bag from the water and stop the cooking process by putting the bag into a bowl filled with water and ice. Then, since it is airtight, put it in the refrigerator until needed. It can remain there for about 2-3 days with no problem at all.
The process: Marinate the chicken with salt and pepper. Fill a pot with water to boil or -if you want- use a steam cooker. Place the chicken fillet onto a rack (which should fit in the pot) and put the rack into the pot, making sure that the rack is a few centimeters away from the water. If you use the steam cooker, simply put your fillet in. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, with the lid on, until your chicken reaches 72-75οC (162-167oF). As soon as it is ready, transfer the fillet to a plate, cover it with aluminum foil, and let it rest for 10 minutes. Finally, serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: It is an easy and healthy cooking method, without much fat.
Why we would reconsider: Because we may not have a steam cooker and cooking in a pot this way may seem more complicated than just boiling or baking in the oven.
Extra Tip: You do not need to try marinating your fillet beforehand, since the taste of the marinade will not remain οn the meat following the specific cooking method. However, if you want, you can add various herbs to the water. Your fillet will not get much flavor from them, but -then- you can boil some rice in this water and use it as a side dish for the chicken fillet.
#8 STOVETOP TO OVEN
The process: Brush the chicken fillet with olive oil and sprinkle it with salt and pepper. Place a frying pan over medium heat and wait until it is very hot. Transfer your fillet to the pan and sauté it on both sides. At the same time, take a small baking pan -big enough to fit just the fillet- and place 2 sprigs of rosemary, 2 sprigs oregano, and 5 sprigs thyme to the bottom of the pan. When the chicken is golden brown, add 1 clove of garlic and 1 tablespoon butter to the pan, and keep cooking for 1-2 more minutes. Then, transfer the fillet to the pan, on top of the herbs. This way, during cooking, all the aromas will go into the chicken. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. When it is ready, remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes.
Why we like it: Because, through this process, we can give even more flavor and aroma to our chicken by using any herbs we like.
Why we would reconsider: Because it is an even more complex procedure that combines two cooking methods.
Extra Tip: The amount of herbs we have given in these recipes correspond to 350 g of chicken breast fillet. In case you want to cook more meat, you can increase the ingredients. Also, if you want, you can slightly change the process by using a piece of parchment paper. How will you use it? Before adding the herbs and the fillet in the pan, cover the bottom of the pan with the parchment paper, spread the herbs, place the chicken on top, and wrap the parchment paper by twisting its edges like shaping a candy. This is the so-called "en papillote" baking. Thus, the aromas and the taste of the herbs are enclosed even more into the meat, while it remains very juicy during baking thanks to the steam that is “trapped” in the parchment paper.
The process: Marinate the chicken fillet with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Put it on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave at 800 Watt, for 4-5 minutes, until its temperature reaches 72-75oC (162-167oF). Remove the plate from the microwave and leave it covered for 10 minutes. Finally, serve your fillet with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: It is a very easy and quick cooking method.
Why we would reconsider: Because you may not be so familiar with using the microwave to cook your food.
Extra Tip: If you want, before covering the plate with plastic wrap, you can add a little fresh thyme and 1 clove of garlic to enhance the taste of your fillet.
The process: Marinate the chicken fillet with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Place a non-stick pot over medium heat, until it gets very hot. Add the chicken to the pot and cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides, until it is golden brown and half-cooked. Then, add some chicken stock into the pot, just enough to cover the fillet completely, and add a little fresh thyme. Cover the pot, lower the heat as much as possible, and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set it aside for 10-15 minutes (without removing the fillet from the pot). After 10-15 minutes, remove your chicken from the pot and serve it with any garnish you like.
Why we like it: With this cooking method, the fillet does not dry and the meat becomes very tender and juicy.
Why we would reconsider: Because boiling chicken is not one of our favorite ways to cook this particular meat. We prefer a grill pan, in the oven or -even better- a barbecue.
Extra Tip: If you want, apart from thyme, you can add any spices, herbs, or other ingredients that you like (such as wine, tomato juice, mushrooms, etc.) to the stock, so that you have an even more delicious result.
So, comparing all these cooking methods, which one is the best? "The one that each one likes the most", I will answer you. But I have to tell you which of them is my favorite. So, I choose #8 which is cooking STOVETOP TO OVEN. This, in my opinion, is the best way to cook your fillet as it always leads to a juicy, full of flavor chicken fillet. How does that happen? By combining the two cooking methods, by adding herbs and -of course- butter which has this magical property to transform the taste of any food.
*/ Cooking times may vary from stovetop to stovetop and from oven to oven. A cooking thermometer, however, can help us be constantly in control.