How to Cook Perfectly Juicy Chicken Breasts Every Time

Fail-proof method for making delicious juicy chicken breasts! The sear and bake method is the best for cooking chicken breasts that are so flavorful, moist, and perfectly cooked, every time.

A juicy piece of perfectly cooked chicken breast on a fork.

Chicken breasts are a dinner staple, and knowing how to cook them right is a necessity! Chicken is a versatile ingredient and can be used for so many recipes. Cook it New Orleans style like Blackened Chicken Breast or Blackened Chicken Tenders. Use it for salads like in Greek Chicken Salad. It’s perfect with pasta like in One Pot Cajun Chicken and Broccoli Alfredo.

Why is This The Best Method for Cooking Chicken Breasts?

There are a ton of methods for cooking chicken breasts out there, and I’ve tried them all. This method for cooking chicken breasts combines searing in a hot skillet with baking in the oven for the best overall texture and flavor

I call this the sear and bake method. Searing chicken breasts first in a hot pan creates a super flavorful browned outer crust, while finishing baking the chicken in the oven provides a more gentle heat so they don’t get overcooked and remain juicy.

The result is super juicy, moist, and flavorful chicken breasts. This will be your new go-to chicken breast cooking method!

Recipe Quick Notes

TLDR: The BEST method for making juicy perfectly cooked chicken breasts every time. 

Lauren’s Take: Chicken breasts are staple for easy weeknight dinners. They are easy to make, but can get boring fast if you’re not cooking them properly. I think learning how to cook chicken breasts the right way is an essential home cook skill!

Taste: Savory, herby, and properly seasoned. 

Texture: Tender, moist, and juicy. Everything you want in a chicken breast. 

Time: 30 minutes plus about 10 minutes of rest time. 

Testing Notes: I have extensively tested multiple different ways to cook chicken breasts over the years, and this is the best method I have found. Searing chicken breasts only can cause them to be more dry with the outer edges overcooked. Baking the chicken breasts alone doesn’t develop the flavorful crust. The combination of searing and baking is perfection! The chicken breasts are juicy every time. 

Expert Tips for Cooking Chicken Breasts

The secret to cooking perfectly juicy chicken breasts every time –
use a meat thermometer.
Overcooking is the number one culprit for dry tough chicken breasts. Using an instant read thermometer ensures your chicken is perfectly cooked every time!

  • Stock up on chicken when it’s on sale and freeze for later. A vacuum sealer is really handy for this!
  • Pat chicken dry before seasoning with paper towels. This will help it get a better sear. 
  • Season generously and salt chicken properly for the best taste. Use ¾ to 1 teaspoon of salt per pound. Use less if using kosher salt. 
  • Take note of the thickness of the chicken breast before cooking. Total cooking time will depend on the size. Larger breasts will need more time to cook. You can remove smaller chicken breasts first when cooking. 
  • Preheat the skillet before adding the chicken and sear at a medium-high heat. This helps lock in a flavorful crust. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the pan to give the chicken room to brown. If you have more chicken than can fit in the pan, cook it in batches then transfer it to a baking sheet in a single layer to finish cooking in the oven. 
  • Use an instant-read thermometer to know exactly when your chicken is cooked. This is the best way to prevent overcooking. 
  • Always let the chicken rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing and serving for best results. This lets the juices redistribute into the chicken so they don’t all leak out. 
  • Touch the cooked chicken with your finger to get a feel of what a cooked chicken breast feels like. Eventually you won’t have to rely on the thermometer!

Tips for Beginner Home Cooks

If you are new to cooking chicken, I recommend getting a leave in meat thermometer. This thermometer has a heat safe cord so you can keep it inserted in the food while it is cooking in the oven. It comes in handy for making chicken and prime rib. 

Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken breast before cooking. Set the alarm to go off when chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), and remove it from the heat promptly. 

Once the chicken is done, let it rest with the thermometer inside. After it rests for about 10 minutes, you can remove the thermometer and slice the chicken. 

Before slicing, press into the chicken with your finger to get a feel of what a properly cooked chicken breast should feel like. Once you get the feel of cooking it, you won’t have to rely on the thermometer as much anymore!

How to Defrost Chicken

If you’re using frozen chicken, I recommend thawing it fully before cooking, especially with this sear and bake method. It will help the chicken cook more evenly. 

Leave the chicken in the package while defrosting. 

  • If you have time, transfer the chicken from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before you want to cook it. Place it in a rimmed baking sheet or large plate to catch any drips that may happen as it defrosts. 
  • If you have less time, place the frozen package of chicken in a large bowl filled with cold water. Running cold water over the chicken package will help it defrost quicker. 

Never defrost chicken with hot water. This may put chicken in the temperature danger zone – between 40°F and 140°F where bacteria most rapidly multiply.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Ingredients needed to make perfectly cooked chicken breasts.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.

Chicken breasts – Use boneless skinless chicken breasts for this method. You can use frozen or fresh chicken, but make sure to fully defrost frozen chicken breasts before cooking. For the best texture, use chicken breasts that have not been injected with any kind of salt solution. 

Oil – The best oil for this method is a high heat cooking oil like avocado oil. Olive oil can be used too, but will cause more smoke than avocado oil. 

Seasonings – You can season your chicken breasts however you like! The poultry seasoning in this recipe uses salt, black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, and cayenne pepper. You can also use Italian seasoning, Cajun Seasoning, or Blackening Seasoning. Just make sure whatever seasoning you use, it either has salt, or you add salt to properly season chicken. 

You will need about ¾ to 1 teaspoon of salt per pound of boneless chicken breasts. 

Optional seasonings – Topped cooked chicken with chopped fresh herbs, or squeeze some lemon juice on top. Bake topped with lemon slices or sun dried tomatoes. Melt goat cheese on top of the breasts in the last few minutes of cooking, or drizzle melted butter on top. You can dress them up however you like! But this seasoning recipe included is very flavorful.

Equipment Needed

How to Cook Chicken Breasts

This is the best method for cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts. It ensures the outside is seared and flavorful, while the inside is tender and juicy. 

Seasoned chicken breasts in a stasher bag.

Step One: Season

Mix together ingredients for chicken seasoning, and season the chicken breasts evenly. 

Chicken breasts in a skillet before searing.

Step Two: Sear

Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Place seasoned chicken breasts in the skillet and sear for a few minutes on each side until a browned crust forms. 

Chicken breasts in a skillet after baking.

Step Three: Bake

After the breasts are browned on each side, transfer the whole skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C).

Juicy chicken breasts on a cutting board sprinkled with flakey sea salt and parsley.

Step Four: Rest

Transfer chicken from the pan to a cutting board and rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing or serving. Slice chicken against the grain.

You can use this same method for cooking bone-in chicken breasts and chicken thighs! Bone in chicken will require longer cooking time. Use a leave in meat thermometer to know when chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat. 

Try this dijon mustard chicken recipe for a different way to cook chicken breasts!

Storage & Make Ahead

How to store leftovers: Once it has cooled, store leftover chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 

How to freeze: Freeze in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months.

Make ahead: Chicken breasts are usually best when first cooked, but you can definitely prepare some chicken breasts for meal prep that will last you a few days! Prepare chicken as normal, and store in the refrigerator once cooled. Reheat per directions below. 

Best Way to Reheat Chicken Breasts

Often reheating chicken breasts will cause it to become overcooked and dry. I have tested multiple methods of reheating chicken and this is the best method to prevent chicken from drying out when reheating. 

  1. Pull chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes. 
  2. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. 
  3. Slice the chicken breast into thick 1 inch slices. 
  4. Add a little oil to the pan with a splash of water or chicken broth. 
  5. Once the liquid is simmering, add chicken pieces to the hot pan, cover, and cook for 1-2 minutes each side until reheated. 

This method of quick reheating at a high heat helps prevent the chicken from drying out too much. 

How to Serve Chicken Breasts

The possibilities are endless when it comes to serving chicken breasts. I often keep it simple and serve the sliced chicken breasts over a salad, or as the main course with two side dishes. Here are some more ideas for serving your deliciously juicy chicken breasts!

Side Dishes for Chicken Breasts

For more ideas on what to serve with chicken, check out What to Serve with Blackened Chicken

See more Side Dishes.

Troubleshooting

  • Why are my chicken breasts coming out dry? If chicken breasts come out dry, they are probably overcooked. The absolute best way to prevent a dry chicken breast is to use a meat thermometer. Remove chicken from heat as soon as the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165°F (74°C). You can also place a pad of butter on top of the chicken while cooking to help keep it moist.
  • Why is my chicken tough? Tough and dry chicken usually go hand in hand. If your chicken is coming out tough, it’s probably overcooked. Use the meat thermometer method to cook just until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165°F (74°C).
  • Why is my chicken rubbery? Rubbery chicken is usually a quality problem. Chicken that has been injected with fluids or salt water often comes out rubbery with an unpleasant texture. Start with high quality, antibiotic and hormone free, vegetarian fed chicken and rubbery texture shouldn’t be an issue.
Chicken breasts on a serving platter topped with fresh herbs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much boneless chicken breast per person?

The size of chicken breasts can vary greatly, but most boneless chicken breasts are between 5-8 ounces. This means there are 2-3 chicken breasts per pound. One pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts is enough for 2-3 servings, so aim for ⅓ to ½ pound of chicken breasts per person. 

How to keep chicken moist while cooking?

To keep chicken moist and juicy, cook it at a lower temperature in the oven, at 350°F after searing each side. Be careful not to overcook which will make it dry. Bake until the internal temperature just reaches 165°F. Don’t forget to rest your meat for 10-15 minutes before cutting into it. This lets the juices redistribute through the meat instead of running out on your cutting board.

How to cook frozen chicken breasts?

I don’t recommend cooking chicken breasts from frozen. Completely thaw the chicken breasts before cooking for a more even cook. 

How to slice chicken breasts?

Slice chicken breast against the grain of the meat (the lines of muscle usually running in one direction), starting at the fattest end and working your way down to the tip. Cutting in the opposite direction as the muscle fibers of the meat will help to break it down even further and be more tender. Don’t forget to let the meat rest 10-15 minutes before cutting!

More Chicken Recipes

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This post was updated in 2023 with all new photos, new text, and improved tips, directions and recipe.

A fork holding a juicy piece of chicken breast.

Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breast Recipe

The best method for cooking juicy, tender, flavorful, and perfect chicken breasts every time!
4.88 from 57 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Rest time 10 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 298 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

Poultry Seasoning

Instructions
 

  • PREP: Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Trim excess fat or cartilage from chicken breasts. Pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Pre-heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  • SEASON: Mix together ingredients for chicken seasoning, and season the chicken breasts evenly. I like to add the seasoning to a large resealable bag with the chicken and shake it around for about 30 seconds until the breasts are well coated.
  • SEAR: Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Place seasoned chicken breasts in the skillet. Sear for 2-3 minutes on each side until a browned crust forms.
  • BAKE: After the breasts are browned on each side, transfer the whole skillet to the oven and bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) at the thickest part, about 10-15 minutes.
  • REST: Transfer chicken from the pan to a cutting board and rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing or serving.

Notes

  • If you double the recipe, or have a smaller cast iron skillet, you will have to sear the chicken in batches and bake on a baking sheet. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. After you sear the chicken on both sides, transfer it to the baking sheet. Then bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), about 10-15 minutes.
  • If you’re not using a cast iron skillet, make sure the pan you are using is oven safe. 
  • Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. 
  • Freeze in a freezer safe container for 2-3 months.
  • Make ahead: Prepare chicken as normal, and store in the refrigerator once cooled. Reheat per directions below. 
  • Reheat: Pull chicken out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 10-15 minutes. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Slice the chicken breast into thick 1 inch slices. Add a little oil to the pan with a splash of water or chicken broth. Once the liquid is simmering, add chicken pieces to the hot pan, cover, and cook for 1-2 minutes each side until reheated.

Nutrition

Calories: 298kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 49gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0.03gCholesterol: 145mgSodium: 1137mgPotassium: 880mgFiber: 1gSugar: 0.1gVitamin A: 181IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 35mgIron: 2mg
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Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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