Chicken breasts are one of the most accommodating foods you can cook. They are healthy, lean and full of protein. They are also easy to cook and tasty; you could sauté, broil, bake, deep/shallow fry or even microwave them. In this guide, we will discuss some of the easiest and healthiest ways to cook chicken breasts. Before we do so, here is a brief section on prepping the chicken for novice cooks.
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Prepping the chicken
Before using any of the best ways to cook chicken breast, you need to wash them in cold water and pat them dry with a cloth or paper towel. Next, pound the breasts flat by placing them in between sheets of waxy paper and beating them with a mallet or a rolling pin so that they cook easily on the grill, pan etc. You can then marinate the chicken with any sauce of your choice based on the recipe you are following. Marinating the chicken for a few hours or over night kicks up its flavor and makes it tender and juicier. You can use milk, butter-milk, mayo, salt, pepper and Dijon mustard to marinate it. Next, roll the chicken in some bread crumbs when making crispy coated or fried breaded chicken.
If you want smaller pieces, you can cube the chicken or even buy pre-cubed meat that is readily available in the market. One pound of boneless, skinless chicken will yield up to 2 cups of cooked chicken cubes.
1. Microwave method of cooking chicken
The microwave method may not be the tastiest way of cooking chicken breasts but it is indeed the easiest. Take a large microwave safe dish and place the chicken breasts in it. Cover the dish with a plastic wrap. You can either fold one corner or make some holes in the wrap to vent out the steam. Microwave on high for a few minutes, remove and check if the meat is still pink. You will take 8-10 minutes to cook 1 ½ pounds of chicken though the times will vary based on the microwave power. Always test the chicken in the thickest portion to see if it is done. You must also rotate the dish midway.
2. Grilling chicken
Grilling is one of the healthy ways to cook chicken breast. Here are the easy steps to grilling chicken:
- Brush the rack with vegetable or olive oil spray.
- Prepare the grill as per the manufacturer’s instructions. We have covered details of grilling in this article. A gas grill will take 10 minutes to heat while charcoal based grills take 30-40 minutes.
- Place the chicken breasts on the medium heated part about 4-6 inches from the heat. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes. Finish cooking on cooler part. The juices should not be pink any longer-that’s when you know the chicken is cooked well.
3. Sautéing chicken
The best way to cook chicken breast on stove is to sauté it. Sautéed chicken is healthy and flavorful provided you use healthy cooking oil for the purpose. Olive or coconut oil is the best or you can use clarified butter (called ghee which is obtained by heating butter until its whey is separated). Use about a tablespoon of oil of your choice in a pan or skillet (cast iron pan is the best as it enhances the flavor and also increases the iron content of chicken). Use at least a 10-12 inch skillet or pan when sautéing 3 to 4 chicken breasts. Add the chicken and cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn it once and cook until browned. Test the chicken to see if it is pink in its thickest portion. Cook for 2-3 minutes more if so.
4. Ways to cook chicken in the oven
- Broil-The best way to cook chicken in the oven is to broil it. Position the rack 4-6 inches below the coil of the oven. Set the oven to broil setting. Brush the rack with cooking oil or spray. Place the oven in broiler pan and broil for 15-20 minutes. Test with a knife to ensure the thickest portion is white and done.
- Bake– Baked chicken is softer, tender and juicier than all other ways of cooking chicken breasts. You can bake chicken breasts or thighs as is or flour them first. You can even bake them by coating them in sauces of your choice (Ranch, Pesto, Caesar etc). Baking times will vary but the methods are same. Bake boneless, skinless chicken thighs at 350 F for 20 minutes and boneless skinless chicken thighs for 40-50 minutes. Bake an entire chicken for up to 1 hour. Bone in and skin on chicken will bake in approximately 35-45 minutes.
Whichever of the above ways you use to cook chicken breasts, do make sure that the meat reaches a final temperature of 170 F (checked using a food thermometer if you have one).