The best chicken breast must have the following three characteristics:
- It must be flavorful
- It must be tender
- It must be juicy
If you have all three of those characteristics, you will have a chicken breast that anyone will admire and you will get tons of compliments. It’s not hard to do, you just need to follow a process.
How to make chicken breast flavorful
It’s not that hard to make a chicken breast flavorful by grilling it or smoking on a charcoal grill. It’s a little more challenging to achieve a similar level of flavor by baking chicken breasts in the oven. However, it’s not an insurmountable task.
1 – pick skin-on chicken breasts for baking
Chicken skin has fat. When cooked the fat flavors the meat. Chicken skin also browns really well. That browning, that caramelization on the skin adds a lot of flavor. Check out some of the best and very easy baked chicken breast recipes for cooking bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts at the link below.
2 – pan sear chicken breasts before baking
Pan searing will brown the skin and the meat, creating a caramelized crust which is super flavorful. If you pan sear you chicken breasts before cooking them in the oven they will acquire a lot of flavor which will be retained. Plain baked chicken breasts will be much less flavorful. Check out my Crispy Oven Roasted Chicken Breast recipe for more details.
3 – cook at high temperature
This, of course, applies only to skin-on chicken breasts. Low and slow baking will result in tasteless, fatty and rubbery skin. But, cooked at high heat, chicken breast skins will nicely brown and become very flavorful. Check out my 12 Best Bone-In Chicken Breast Recipes post for some interesting ideas.
If towards the end of baking chicken breasts are not crispy enough on the surface, broil them for a few minutes. This will help them brown really nicely.
4 – marinate your chicken breasts before baking
Marination will not only tenderize your chicken breast meat but will also make more flavorful. If you have the time, marinate your chicken breasts overnight or even up to 24 hours. Here are some of my favorite marinade recipes that I use for grilling and baking chicken wings, breast and thighs, that are also great for cooking chicken breasts in the oven:
How to make baked chicken breast tender
Experience shows that chicken breast tenderness is a function of cooking the meat just right, to 165F internal temperature. You can also use marination to tenderize chicken breast meat. However, no mater how well a breast is marinated, overcooking it will make for a very tough piece of meat.
How to make baked chicken breast juicy
Same as with tenderness, cooking your chicken breast to the right temperature will ensure that it stays juicy and succulent. Chicken breast meat is unforgiving. Overcook it by just a few degrees and it will become dry and rubbery.
I’ve seen quite a few recipes recommending cooking chicken breasts to 160F, explaining that the internal temperature will rise to the safe level of 165F during a 5 minute rest. My experiments showed that the temperature typically rises by 3-4 degrees and never by 5 degrees. To be on the safe side, I now bake my chicken breasts to 162F and let them rest for 5 minutes and come up to 165F. If the temperature rises to 166F, it’s not a big deal. This approach gives me the juiciest chicken breasts. The results are superb!
The best and the surest way to make sure you don’t bake your chicken breasts too long and overcook them is to use a BBQ thermometer. Forget an instant read thermometer. I used to use it all the time when baking chicken breasts but not anymore. Get yourself the very popular and really good ThermoPro TP07 single probe or the ThermoPro TP08 dual probe thermometer.
My wife and I have recently started using in the kitchen our thermocouple BBQ thermometer that I normally use for high heat grilling and for smoking. This thermometer is an overkill for cooking in the kitchen oven, but the idea is the same – it makes cooking chicken breast and other things so much easier. You set it and forget it. It will alert you when the food is done. Simple as that. I love using it for baking just about everything.
Cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the oven
So far we have looked at how to cook skin-on chicken breasts in the oven. But what about boneless, skinless chicken breasts? How do you make skinless breasts tender, juicy and flavorful?
Baking skinless chicken breasts is a little more challenging but using a few tricks you can get outstanding results. I did a lot of experimenting before I came up with the Tender and Moist Baked Chicken Breast In 3 Easy Steps recipe that proved to be very successful and super popular. To make the skinless chicken breast flavorful and succulent, I bake it low and slow with butter and chicken stock.
Let me explain why this works. Skinless chicken breast is not protect by skin and will dry out easily at higher temperatures. Through some experimentation I found that 325F works gives me optimal results. Chicken stock keeps the chicken hydrated throughout the entire baking time and keeps it from drying out. The butter and the chicken stock add flavor to the chicken meat. Finally, same as with skin-on chicken breasts, you are advised to use a BBQ thermometer to get the best results.
How long to bake chicken breasts?
I see this question asked a lot. Years ago I myself was asking this same question. The answer is not simple as there are so many variables involved.
Cooking duration depends on several factors:
- Oven type (gas vs. electric)
- Oven temperature
- Mode (regular vs. covection)
- Chicken breast size and thickness
- Bone-in, skin-on vs. boneless and skinless
- Dry baking vs. baking in liquid
I now think that the problem is not with the answer but rather with the question itself. This is not the right question.
The right question question is to what temperature should a chicken breast be baked. The answer is 165F. Or 162F considering that the temperature will continue rising by about 3-4 degrees during rest period.
Still, the question of ‘how long’ is a valid question when you need to know approximate baking time to plan things out.
Here are some approximate chicken breast baking times relative to the baking temperature and the cut of the meat:
|Bone-in, skin-on breast||(small, 140 g)||350F||25 min|
|Bone-in, skin-on breast||(large, 250 g)||350F||45 min|
|Boneless, skinless breast||(small, 140 g)||350F||20 min|
|Boneless, skinless breast||(large, 250 g)||350F||40 min|
These baking times for chicken breasts are to be used as a guidance only. The meat must reach the internal temperature of 165F to be safe to consume. To ensure that the meat is properly cooked use an instant read or a BBQ thermometer.