Master the steps to cooking this healthy source of lean protein!
Baked chicken breast is one of the staples of a healthy diet, and even if you’re brand new to the kitchen, we promise it’s a task you can conquer. Learning how to bake a chicken breast doesn’t have to be hard. When seasoned and baked properly, chicken breast can be a flavorful, juicy, and delicious way to add lean protein to any meal. Now let’s get cooking!
1. Defrost Your Chicken (if necessary)
If you aren’t working with a fresh chicken breast, the first step is to defrost it. The best way to defrost any meat is overnight in the fridge. Why? Well, the cold temperatures of the fridge keep the meat safe from bacteria that thrives at warmer temperatures, and you don’t risk the rubbery texture that can come from defrosting meat in the microwave.
To defrost in the fridge, place the chicken on a plate and keep it wrapped, or covered in plastic wrap. If you’re running low on time, you can also defrost the chicken by submerging it in cold (not warm!) water in the sink. Just make sure you change out the water every 20-30 minutes to make sure it stays cold.
As a last resort, you can microwave defrost your chicken breast by using the defrost setting on your microwave or by microwaving it at 20-30% for 1-2 minutes at a time, until defrosted.
2. Preheat The Oven
We like baking chicken because it’s one of the healthiest ways to prepare meat, and the method keeps the chicken flavorful and juicy. Bonus: it doesn’t require babysitting. No flipping or turning. Just pop it in the oven and forget it. We bake our chicken breasts at 350° F.
3. Season the Chicken
A high-quality chicken breast that is cooked “well” needs a little more than a good dose of salt and pepper on both sides, so if you’re more adventurous, now is the time to experiment with other herbs, seasonings and flavors. Try a sprinkle of cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper (plus a squirt of lime juice) for a Mexican-flavored breast. Or sprinkle on some dried oregano, basil, and Parmesan cheese for an Italian twist. Once you’re more advanced, you can dive into the world of marinating—letting the chicken “soak” in a flavorful solution for 30 minutes or more before cooking.
Place the chicken breast on an un-greased, oven-safe baking dish, and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken breast. You’ll need to add a bit more time for bone-in chicken breasts.
5. Test the Temperature
A lot of cooks swear they can tell when chicken is cooked by texture or appearance, but the only real way to know your chicken is cooked is by using a meat thermometer placed in the thickest part of the breast. Chicken is done when it hits 165°, but a lot of cooks bring chicken out of the oven at about 160°. Why? Well, the next step (see below) is to let the chicken rest. And during that resting time, the chicken will continue to cook. If you continue to cook until 165° in the oven, the chicken will overcook during the resting time.
6. Remove and Rest
If the chicken breast is done, pull it out, and let it rest for at least five minutes before serving. This resting time allows all the juices to redistribute throughout the breast. That way, when you cut into the breast, the juices stay in the meat instead of making a puddle on your plate. If you removed the chicken from the oven at 160°, go ahead and cover the chicken to keep the heat in while it rests.
Serve immediately with a side of your favorite veggie, or, if you prefer, you can slice the chicken, let it cool and stash in the fridge for an addition to lunchtime salads.