Chicken breasts can be tricky to work with — you need to make sure the thicker end is cooked, but you also don't want the thinner end to overcook and become dry and tough. They can also take some time to cook since the chicken breasts sold nowadays are quite large.
With a long cooking time and the awkward shape of the meat going against you, how can you speed things up to get the cooking done quickly? Here are three easy tips to help you prep and cook a chicken breast so it cooks quickly and evenly.
1. Take the chicken off the bone.
Chicken on the bone, which some love because they think it's juicier than boneless, just takes longer to cook. If you find yourself with bone-in chicken breasts but not a lot of time, cut the breasts off the bone before cooking and it'll shave off precious minutes.
You can keep the chicken skin on there if you like, since it'll help keep the breast moist, but the choice is entirely up to you. Use or freeze the bones for your next batch of chicken stock so they don't go to waste.
2. Make the chicken an even thickness.
Chicken breasts are always thicker at one end, and this unevenness means that the thicker end will just take longer to cook. There are two easy options to remedy this: pound the chicken breast to an even thickness (you can use a jar, pan, rolling pin, or even empty bottle of wine), or butterfly (cut it in half width-wise) it open. Either way will yield essentially a chicken cutlet that cooks evenly and quickly.
3. Cover the pan while the chicken is cooking.
The last, and easiest, way to make sure your chicken cooks faster is to cover it while it's cooking. Even if you've browned the outside of the chicken already, you should still cover the pan or grill while it's cooking. This creates an oven-like environment that surrounds the chicken breast with heat so it's not just cooking from where it's in contact with the pan or grill.
Even if you didn't have time to take it off the bone, or pound or butterfly the chicken breast first, just covering the pan will help shorten the cook time needed — plus, you end up saving energy!
(Image credits: elena moiseeva/Shutterstock; Leela Cyd; Emma Christensen)