How To Cook Moist & Tender Chicken Breasts Every Time Cooking Lessons from The Kitchn
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (aka BSCBs) — is there anything more boring? They are all too often overcooked until dry and chewy, and I generally prefer more succulent boneless, skinless thighs. But for lunch and dinner favorites like chicken Caesar salad and chicken pasta, sliced juicy chicken breasts can’t be beat. They’re a great staple for quick lunches, too.
Fortunately I have one method that makes unfailingly juicy and tender boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Need some chicken for a salad, or to top some pasta? This is the method. It takes some trust, but believe me — it works flawlessly every single time.
This method takes trust; you can’t check the chicken breasts or watch them cooking. The method isn’t searing, sautéing, broiling, frying, or baking; it heats the chicken breasts quickly on the stovetop then lets them essentially poach from the inside out in their juices in a covered pan.
So you can’t peek, and you have to trust us. But I promise that if you follow this method exactly, you won’t be disappointed. I learned this cooking method from an old edition of Joy of Cooking, which gives this method its special label: Cockaigne, reserved for only their personal favorite and best recipes.
This method alone makes plain, simple chicken breasts — a blank slate to be used on top of salads, rice dishes, and tacos. But you can season the breasts any way you like; make them spicy, or flavor them with fresh herbs.
You don’t need to brine or marinate the chicken, but a quick brine does make them even juicier! Watch the video below for instructions on how to make a super-quick 15-minute brine. (If you use a brine, make sure to pat the chicken very dry before proceeding with the cooking method below.)
Since we originally published this a few years ago, I’ve been surprised at the number of people who have written or commented to say they really love it. It’s truly reliable!
There have been questions about it too — for instance, do you adjust the cooking time if the chicken breasts are extra big?
I don’t; I find that this works across a spectrum of size and weight, provided the breasts are separated into individual halves and they are flattened to even thickness during the prep.
I also originally published this very close to Joy of Cooking’s method, which calls for you to dredge the breasts in flour. I’ve found this is unnecessary, and also undesirable for those who eat gluten-free. I’ve adjusted the method below to not include flour — just salt and pepper. But you are free to tweak and adjust; there are some great suggestions in the comments for dredging in alternative flours like chickpea, and seasoning with all kinds of spices or herbs.
This is truly just a blank slate method; it makes nicely cooked and juicy chicken breast for topping salads and other dishes. I usually make about one pound of chicken breasts at a time, which gives me enough chicken for a few days of salads and lunches. But if you want to turn it into a meal on its own, get creative! No matter how you season them, you’ll have juicy, tender chicken breasts. — Faith, September 2014
1 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, of similar size Salt and freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon olive oil, unsalted butter, or combination of both
Heavy Mason jar or wide drinking glass Wide (10-inch) sauté pan with lid Tongs or spatula