How to cook chicken breast

Here's our guide on how to cook the most delicious, succulent chicken breasts...
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  • Follow our simple guide on how to cook chicken breast including how to cook it in the oven, in a pan, and in an air fryer too.

    Wondering how to cook chicken breast? Chicken breast is a lean cut of meat taken from the underside of the chicken. An average chicken breast has around 165 calories and 31g of protein per 100g and is considered low in fat too.

    When it comes to cooking, chicken breast is a versatile meat that can be paired or cooked with a variety of different ingredients; infused with lemon and garlic, stuffed with cheese and bacon, or simmered in a rich Indian curry.

    Chicken breasts can be sourced from most supermarkets or butchers. We’d recommend opting for organic, free-range chicken. If you’re buying from your local butchers you can find out more about the chicken and where the meat came from. They can also prepare the chicken for you too.

    To help you cook perfect chicken breasts every time, we have put together the following information:

    How to prepare chicken breast
    Marinating chicken breast
    What is the difference between a chicken breast and a chicken fillet? 
    How to cook chicken breast
    How to cook chicken breast: in the oven
    Cooking chicken breast in a pan on the stove
    Poaching chicken
    How to cook chicken breast: slow cooker
    Cooking chicken breast in an air fryer
    Can you cook chicken breast from frozen?
    How do I avoid overcooking chicken breast?
    Storing leftover chicken breast 

    How to roast chicken breasts

    How to prepare chicken breast

    There are many different ways to prep chicken breasts before you cook them. Firstly, you’ll need to take the chicken breast out of the fridge for about 15 mins before cooking. Allowing the chicken breasts to come to room temperature will ensure that they will cook through evenly and that you don’t end up with raw meat in the middle.

    Unless you are using a chicken marinade or poaching it, it is useful to pat it dry with a kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture, so that you get a nice crust to your chicken when it is roasted or fried. If you don’t do this the chicken could steam on the outside and end up a grey-ish white colour rather than an attractive golden brown. Please note that this step is different from washing your chicken, which you should never do as it puts you at risk of food poisoning through the spread of bacteria.

    Once your breasts are ready it is important to season them generously with salt, and any other seasonings that you want to add. As it is such a lean cut you do not get any fat-produced flavour so it is essential to season.

    When it comes to cutting chicken breast you can leave the chicken breast whole, butterfly it, slice it or cut it into chunks depending on what the recipe calls for.

     How to marinate chicken breast

    Adding a marinade to meat is a great way to tenderise it and to add flavour. For a marinade you need the following:

    • Salt – an essential for adding flavour to all food
    • Acid e.g. lemon juice, vinegar, or wine: to tenderise the meat
    • Flavourings e.g. paprika, rosemary, or garlic: to build up a depth of flavour to the meat
    • Fat e.g. olive oil, vegetable oil, sesame oil: to keep the meat moist, add colour and flavour to it when cooking and to stop it sticking to the cooking receptacle.

    You should ensure that you have at least one of each of the above elements in your marinade, then pour it into a dish or bag, add the chicken breast and massage the mixture into the breasts. Then leave the breasts covered in the marinade in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, but preferably overnight for the most enhanced flavour.

    What is the difference between a chicken breast and a chicken fillet?

    Chicken breasts are the entire piece of meat that is cut from the top of the chicken, there are two per chicken and then tend to be thicker on one end than another.

    A chicken fillet is essentially a chicken breast, or a slice of chicken breast, that has been bashed into an even thickness. It is useful to have an equal thickness throughout so that it cooks at an even cooking time and temperature.

    How to cook chicken breast

    If you are cooking an average-sized whole chicken breast it will take about 15-25 minutes to cook. If you are cooking sliced or diced chicken breasts it generally takes 8-12 mins. However, do not just use timing as a guide, and remember to always check the chicken is cooked through rather than blindly removing it from the oven after 20 mins.

    How to cook chicken breast: in the oven

    Ingredients

    • 1 chicken breast 
    • 1/2tbsp oil, olive, or sunflower 
    • Salt 
    • Seasonings (you could try paprika and oregano, thyme and lemon zest, or rosemary and garlic.) 

    Method

    How to cook chicken breast: Step 1

    How to cook chicken breasts

    Heat the oven to 200C, 180C Fan, Gas 6. Line a baking tray with foil, greaseproof, or oil lightly. Coat each chicken breast with 1/2tbsp of oil, salt, and seasonings of choice. 

    How to cook chicken breast: Step 2

    How to cook chicken breasts

    Place it on the baking sheet and then roast it in the oven for 15-25mins until the juices run clear and the internal temperature is 70C. You can use a meat thermometer to check this.

    How to cook chicken breast: in a pan on the stove

    Cooking chicken in a pan on the stove is quicker than in the oven and can produce better flavour due to the surface area contact with the heat and the fat. 

    1. Place the chicken between sheets of baking parchment and hit it with a rolling pin so it is an even thickness throughout of about 1cm. 
    2. Season generously with salt and your other seasonings. 
    3. Heat 2tbsp of oil in a non-stick frying pan and bring up to medium-high heat.
    4. Place the chicken into the pan and cook, without touching it for 8 mins until golden brow.
    5. Flip the chicken over and cook it for a further 6-8 mins until cooked through.

    If the chicken is browned on the outside but not cooked through you can lower the temperature down to low-medium for a couple of mins until it is cooked the whole way through.  

    How to cook chicken breast: poaching

    Poaching is a healthy and simple way to cook chicken breast.

    1. Place the chicken breast in a large pan of water with 1tsp of salt and whatever aromatics that like, e.g. onion, garlic, peppercorns, herbs, celery, lime juice, spring onions, soy sauce.
    2. Bring up to a simmer and then cook for 10-12 mins until the meat is firm to the touch and juices run clear.

    How to cook chicken breast: in a slow cooker

    Slow cookers are a wonderfully low maintenance piece of equipment and can be used to cook chicken breast. It can create a lovely pulled chicken texture, which is great for adding into tacos or stirring through a pasta bake. Pop it in the morning and then return to dinner after work.

    1.  Add 4 chicken breasts and 250ml chicken stock into the bowl of a slow cooker, as well as any other flavourings that you want to use.
    2. Cook for 5 hours on the low setting.
    3. If you want to get that pulled chicken texture: use two forks to gently shred the meat.

    How to cook chicken breast: in an Air fryer

    Air fryers are growing in popularity as they can give your food some of the texture and flavour of fried food without the same amount of fat or calories. Chicken breasts can be cooked in an air fryer easily.

    1. Coat the chicken in 1tsp oil and your seasonings of choice.
    2. Place the breast in the basket and cook it at 180C for 15 mins.
    3. Turn the breast over and cook for a further 6-8 mins until cooked through. 

    How to cook chicken breast

    Can you cook chicken breast from frozen?

    You can safely cook chicken breast from frozen if you follow a few simple rules. You’ll need to cook them for 50% longer than you would do normally. You will need to check the chicken is cooked through before serving.

    It is best not to leave the meat in the freezer for more than 6 months. Do not re-freeze chicken breasts once they are cooked.

    Follow the same steps as we did for cooking chicken breast in the oven:

    1. Set the oven to 200C, 180C Fan, Gas 6.
    2. Coat each chicken breast in 1/2tbsp of olive oil plus seasonings of your choice.
    3. Lay on the foil-lined tray and cook it for 30-45 mins until cooked through

    How do I avoid overcooking chicken breast?

    The best way to ensure that your chicken is done is to first feel the chicken breast, it should be firm but still a little springy, and then insert a sharp knife into it, if the juices run clear then it is cooked through.

    Another way to check, which will also help you prevent the chicken from being overcooked and drying out, is to buy a meat thermometer. The chicken breast is cooked when it has an internal temperature of 70C for 30 seconds.

    Other useful tips for preventing the drying out of your chicken are to marinade it, tenderise it, wrap it in bacon or parma ham, and let it sit for 5 minutes before you serve it; this allows the fibers to relax which makes it juicy.

    How to store leftover chicken breast

    Once your chicken breast has cooled down a little you should transfer it to an airtight container and then place it in the fridge, it will keep for two days.

    Even though it is great to avoid food waste, it is better to play it safe with leftovers so if the chicken looks or smells off, even within two days, it is best to throw it out. For this reason, you may want to freeze your leftover chicken breast instead. Keep it in the freezer in an airtight container for up to three months. The texture of the chicken will stay at its best if you freeze it in a sauce.

    Once you have defrosted the chicken breast in the fridge you must either eat it or bin it, do not re-freeze.

    Two great ways to use up chicken breast is to either chop it up and stir it through a salad, or slice it and add it into a stir fry with veg and a sauce. If you want further inspiration for how to use up leftover chicken breasts take a look at our leftover chicken recipes.

    We’ve also got lots of delicious chicken breast recipes to choose from too including stuffed chicken with Parma ham, Cornflake chicken dippers, and more.