Any of these methods will result in juicy, moist, and tender chicken breasts. Follow the instructions carefully with a meat thermometer in your hand and you'll always have success.
You can season the chicken with lots of ingredients in these cooking methods. I like adding thinly sliced lemon to any method, along with fresh thyme sprigs for more flavor.
Brining pulls water into the chicken flesh and helps flavor it too. I don't brine my chicken because of the food safety risk of handling the raw meat so much, and the need to rinse the raw chicken after it's brined.
To brine boneless, skinless chicken breasts, in a large bowl mix 4 cups of water with 3 Tbsp. of salt and 2 Tbsp. of sugar, if desired, and stir until the salt and sugar dissolves. Add thawed chicken breasts to this mixture, cover, and refrigerate for one hour. When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold running water (this is the only time I recommend rinsing chicken in the sink), and cook according to one of the following methods.
You can brine frozen breasts as well. Mix up the brine solution and add the frozen boneless skinless breasts. Place in the refrigerator, covered, and let stand overnight until the chicken thaws. Rinse well under cold running water, pat dry, and cook. Sanitize your sink and the surrounding area with a bleach solution after you rinse the chicken. Wash your hands well, and change your clothes, since the bacteria on the chicken is probably on them.
Baking in Parchment
I really like this moist heat method of cooking, as there is a greater margin of error, and the breasts cook without being rearranged. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spread parchment paper or heavy duty foil on your work surface and arrange thawed boneless, skinless chicken breasts on them. Top with lemon slices, bay leaves, or other spices and herbs. Bring the edges of the paper or foil together and fold together (making sure to keep chicken in a single layer), then crimp to hold in the steam. Bake at 425 degrees for 15-25 minutes, depending on the number of chicken breasts you're cooking. Use the longer time if you're cooking more than four breasts.
Frozen chicken breasts can be baked with this method too. Simply place them in paper or foil, allowing space for heat expansion, and bake according to the package directions. The two kinds of frozen chicken breasts I buy have different cooking times; one cooks for 35 minutes, the other for 50. I test at the shorter cooking time with the thermometer.
To poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts, place them in a large skillet and add 1-2 cups of water or chicken broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and cook for 9-14 minutes until chicken reaches 160 degrees F. about 15 minutes. You can also poach in the oven. Place chicken in a single layer in a roasting pan. You can add lemon slices, peppercorns, or any other spices or herbs. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and immediately pour over chicken. Cover and bake at 400 degrees F for 20-35 minutes, checking for an internal temperature of 160 degrees F.
You can grill chicken breasts, but you need to pay attention. Build an indirect fire. Grill the breasts on the hotter side of the fire first, with more coals, turning them as soon as they release easily from the grill. Move to the cooler side to cook through. Make sure you use an instant-read meat thermometer to check the temperature, and remove the chicken as soon as it reaches 160 degrees F. For quicker grilling, pound the chicken until it's about 1/3" thick. This will help the interior cook before the exterior gets too brown or burns. For more detailed information on grilling chicken breasts, please see Grilled Chicken Recipes
It can be risky cooking chicken in the microwave oven because the oven cooks unevenly. The same piece of chicken can be several different temperatures at the same time! If you have healthy people over the age of 5 in your household, this is an easy method for microwaving chicken. Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a glass dish with the thin side of the breasts in the center. Pour 3/4 cup cup buttermilk over the chicken, sprinkle with herbs and spices of your choice, cover plate with plastic wrap, and cook on high for 3 minutes. Check the chicken, then cook for 2 minutes longer. Rearrange the chicken using tongs, cover again, and microwave for 3-5 minutes longer until internal temp is 160 degrees F. Discard buttermilk mixture.
The crockpot is a wonderful way to cook chicken as long as it isn't overcooked. For fresh chicken breasts, stack the chicken in the crockpot, add 1/2 cup water or chicken broth, cover, and cook on low for 5-6 hours, rearranging once during cooking time. For frozen chicken breasts, arrange in crockpot, add 1/2 cup chicken broth or water, cover, and cook on low for 8-9 hours, rearranging once during cooking time.
Nancy H. wrote me about steaming chicken breasts she sprinkles with Mrs. Dash. She says that steaming boneless skinless breasts on the bottom rack of a steamer for 20 minutes for thawed and 30 minutes from frozen produces a juicy result.
This dry heat method is quick and easy. If you pound the breasts thin, they will cook for about 2-3 minutes a side over high heat. Unpounded breasts take a bit longer to cook; about 4-5 minutes per side. Coat a skillet with olive oil, heat over high heat, add breasts, cook for 4 minutes without moving them, then turn and finish cooking.
This is a moist heat method of cooking. Add thawed chicken breasts to the cooker, add sliced onions and lemons for flavor along with 1/2 cup water, cover and lock the cooker, and bring the pressure up to high. Cook for 12 minutes, release pressure, and check internal temperature. You can cover, bring pressure back up, and cook for 2-3 minutes longer if necessary.
Chicken Breast Recipes
- Chicken and Pepper Coleslaw
- Creamy Chicken and Veggies Casserole
- Buffalo Chicken Salad
- Spinach Chicken Bacon Salad
- White Bean Chicken Soup
- Tex Mex Chicken Fettuccine
- Chicken and Asparagus Stir Fry
- Creamy Mexican Crockpot Chicken
- Chicken Divan Casserole
- Chicken Tortellini Casserole
- Chicken Potato Pie
- Enchiladas Verdes
- Santa Fe Chicken Casserole