Chicken is a delish source of lean protein, also full of vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and vitamin A. With lower cholesterol than many other types of meat, a chicken dinner can be a simple option that the whole family can enjoy.
What is the best way to cook chicken breasts? In the oven is the best way to cook chicken breasts evenly and thoroughly with that oven-roasted flavor.
There’s just one question: how do you bake chicken breasts without drying them out? Just follow my simple, never-fail steps to get perfect juicy, flavorful baked chicken breasts every time!
How to Make Oven-Baked Chicken Breasts
Looking for how to make juicy, flavorful oven-baked chicken breasts? It comes down to these simple steps. And once you master this easy technique, you’ll be able to quickly cook up tons of recipes – from salads to soups to sandwiches – any weeknight.
Whether it’s your first time or you’re raising the bar on baking chicken, here are the essentials for the best chicken breast recipe:
Use fresh, high-quality chicken breasts. Organic or air-chilled chicken tends to be the best texture once cooked.
Prep your chicken breasts with healthy fat and your favorite seasonings. My go-to is extra virgin olive oil.
Bake this easy recipe at high heat. This quicker baking method helps to avoid dry chicken. Cut large breasts in half to make sure the outside doesn’t overcook.
Don’t undercook (or overcook). Use a meat thermometer to tell you when your chicken breasts have reached the optimal 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Overcooking can turn a juicy baked chicken breast into a crispy disaster. Chicken is best cooked to temperature, not time. Always cook chicken to a 165°F internal temperature.
Let your breasts rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing for the juiciest results. Resting the meat prevents the juices from running out.
How to Pick Your Chicken Breasts?
When choosing chicken, I prefer using organic, air-chilled chicken breasts whenever possible. Organic chickens are fed a better diet, so they taste better. Plus, they’re free of antibiotics and added hormones. And air-chilling means they aren’t processed with water, diluting their flavor and making the skin soggy.
But size is also a consideration. The larger the chicken breast, the longer the cooking time will likely be. And an 8 to 10-ounce chicken breast may need 30 minutes to cook, while a 5-ounce one might only need 18 minutes. I almost always cut anything that looks larger than my hand in half width-wise for this reason. Again, we cook the chicken to temperature, not time! Ballpark estimates are 18 minutes for a small piece, 30 minutes for a larger one.
Tip: If your boneless chicken breasts are large, you can slice them lengthwise with your knife blade parallel to the cutting board to get two thinner chicken cutlets. Thinner pieces will cook much faster and will be done often within 14-18 minutes.
How do I cook chicken breast without drying it out? You can cook chicken breast without drying it by using high heat until the inside reaches 165°F. This helps to cook the lean chicken breast meat before the inside goes dry.
How to Pick Your Chicken Breasts?
When choosing chicken, I prefer using organic, air-chilled chicken breasts whenever possible. Here’s why:
Organic chickens are fed a better diet, so they taste better.
Organic chickens are also free of antibiotics and added hormones.
Air-chilling means the chicken breasts aren’t processed with water, diluting their flavor and making the skin soggy.
The other aspect to consider when picking your chicken breasts is cooking time. The larger the chicken breast, the longer the cooking time will be to get a juicy chicken. An 8- to 10-ounce chicken breast may need 30 minutes to cook, while a 5-ounce one might only need 18 minutes.
Tip: If your boneless chicken breasts are large, you can slice them lengthwise with your knife blade parallel to the cutting board to get two thinner chicken cutlets.
Boneless Skinless or Skin-On, Bone-In Chicken Breasts?
I am a fan of both types of chicken: boneless skinless and skin-on, bone-in. With this recipe, you can use either type for your juicy oven-baked chicken breasts.
In general, bone-in meat is more flavorful (thanks to the fat from the skin), but it also takes longer to cook. In some cases, 20-30 minutes longer.
On the other hand, boneless skinless chicken breasts cook up faster but have no barrier to retain moisture. That means they’ll need a little extra help staying moist. A light spray or coating of extra virgin olive oil will do just that.
How to Season Chicken Breasts
For this recipe, I’ve seasoned my oven-baked chicken breasts simply with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. I also added a few lemons and garlic cloves (not garlic powder) to the baking dish to add a little more flavor and moisture.
Better yet, this recipe is easily adaptable. Feel free to substitute in your favorite seasoning! I also like to use taco, Cajun, or Italian seasoning. If you want to turn up the heat, some people like throwing in a little black pepper, oregano, or paprika as well.
You can serve these flavorful chicken breasts with a healthy side dish like some air-fried veggies for a low-carb dinner that’s packed with flavor.
How Do I Know When My Chicken Breasts are Cooked?
Knowing when your chicken is cooked enough (and not too much) can be a bit tricky, especially since cooking time recommendations are only estimates. The best way to ensure that your chicken is cooked enough is to use an instant-read thermometer or meat thermometer.
What temperature should I cook my chicken breast to? Tender chicken breasts need to be cooked until they reach an internal temperature of 165° F at the thickest part.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you’ll want to make sure all the juices that come from the chicken run clear, not pink. This is true for chicken thighs as well.
A Few More Recipe Tips:
Start with Room Temperature Chicken: Allowing your chicken breasts to sit out for about 15 minutes before baking will ensure that they cook more evenly.
Trim Your Chicken Breasts: If the tenders are still attached to the breasts, make sure to remove them before baking. If you’re using large boneless chicken breasts (over 5 ounces), you can also slice them lengthwise with your knife blade parallel to the cutting board to get two thinner chicken cutlets.
Storing Cooked Chicken: Cooked oven-baked chicken can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. You can throw last night’s leftovers into a small bowl of chicken salad or shred them for an easy addition to soup.
Prep the chicken breasts by removing the tenders if they are still attached to the breasts. If you’re using larger boneless, skinless chicken breasts (over 5 ounces), you can also butterfly then cut with your knife blade parallel to the cutting board to get two thinner chicken cutlets. Or, if desired, cut large breasts in half width-wise make two smaller thick pieces.
Place chicken breasts in a large baking dish and drizzle or spray both sides with olive oil. Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.
If you like, add lemon slices, fresh garlic cloves, and herbs to the dish.
Bake until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F, about 20-25 minutes. (Note that the cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of the chicken breasts.)
Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or clean plate.
Loosely tent with aluminum foil and let the chicken rest for at least 5-10 minutes. This keeps the juices from running out.
Store any leftover cooked chicken breasts in the refrigerator in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. You can also freeze it for up to 3 months.
Remember, cook chicken to temperature, not time. Always cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. This generally takes 20-25 minutes. If you don’t have a thermometer, cook until the center is opaque and the juices run clear.