This is the cooking method that made me realize that boneless, skinless chicken breasts can be pretty darn delicious. They don't have to be dry and boring. They can, in fact, be moist, tender, and full of flavor — something I actually look forward to having for dinner.
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I learned this way of cooking chicken in culinary school. It's technically called "dry-poaching," but that sounds fussy for what is essentially an incredibly simple technique. Here's how you, too, can make the best-ever chicken breasts in just a few steps.
Why This Method Is So Good
There is so little fat in a boneless skinless chicken breast that it's hard to cook it without the meat ending up dry or just plain tasteless. With this method, we take advantage of the steady, all-surrounding heat of the oven, but just before putting the breasts in to bake, we cover them with a piece of parchment paper. The paper acts almost like the chicken's missing skin, protecting the chicken and preventing it from drying out.
Think of this method as a cross between braising and roasting. The chicken bastes in its own juices and the result is tender, juicy chicken breasts that are succulent and never dry.
A Versatile Method
This way of cooking chicken is incredibly easy and it's never failed me. I also love it for when I want to cook several chicken breasts all at once, as when I'm cooking for a big family meal or to prep lunches for the week. In the recipe below, I season the chicken with just salt and pepper, but you can use any spices you wish or adapt it to your favorite recipes.
Super versatile, super dependable. If you've struggled with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, this is definitely the method to try.
Heat the oven to 400°F and prepare the pan: Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Rub the pan with butter or olive oil; this prevents the chicken from sticking.
How To Cook the Best Chicken Breasts in the Oven
Makes 1 or more chicken breasts
What You Need
Butter or olive oil
1 or more boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
Other spices or seasonings
Heat the oven to 400°F and prepare the pan: Heat the oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle position. Rub the pan and one side of the parchment paper with butter or olive oil; this prevents the chicken from sticking.
Prepare the chicken: Pat the chicken dry and rub with a little butter or olive oil, if desired. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and any other favorite seasonings.
Transfer to the baking dish: Place the chicken breasts in the baking dish, spaced slightly apart. You can also tuck herbs or lemon wedges around the chicken for extra flavor.
Cover with the parchment: Lay the parchment, butter-side down, over the chicken. Tuck the edges into the pan and press the parchment down so that it's snug around the chicken. The chicken breasts should be completely covered with the parchment.
Bake until the chicken is 165°F: Transfer the chicken to the oven until the chicken is completely opaque all the way through and registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer. Start checking after 20 minutes; total cooking time is usually 30 to 40 minutes.
Serve: Serve the chicken immediately, or let it cool and refrigerate for up to a week.
(Image credits: Leela Cyd)