Photo: Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post
After countless meals of dry, bland chicken breast, you might think that’s just the sacrifice you have to make when you are trying to eat healthy. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Avoid these common mistakes when it comes to cooking chicken breast so you can ensure that it’s still crave-ably flavorful, tender and juicy every time.
Mistake #1 Cooking it right out of the package
A piece of skinless, boneless chicken breast is naturally tapered so it is considerably thicker on one end than the other. If you just toss it on the grill or in a pan like that, by the time the thicker end is cooked through, the rest will be overcooked.
To avoid this problem, take a moment to pound the chicken out to an even thickness before you cook it. Just put the boneless breasts on a cutting board between two pieces of plastic wrap, then use a mallet or rolling pin to pound out the thicker end so the whole piece is about the same thickness. It takes just a couple of minutes, it’s a great stress outlet, and you set yourself up for perfectly cooked chicken.
Mistake #2 Over-cooking it
It’s important to cook chicken all the way through so it is safe to eat (and to wash your hands and surfaces well after touching raw chicken) but that doesn’t mean you have to cook it until it is like a piece of leather. The best way to know if your chicken is perfectly done is to use a meat thermometer. If you don’t have one, please stop everything you are doing and go get one now. You won’t regret it.
Cook your chicken until the meat thermometer registers 165 degrees, then let it rest on a cutting board or plate for a few minutes to let the juices redistribute before cutting into it.
Mistake #3 Not seasoning it enough
When I get served a plain, unseasoned piece of chicken breast it makes me want to shed a tear. It doesn’t take much to bring some tastiness to the plate. At the very least, season your chicken on both sides with a nice sprinkle of flaky salt and lots of freshly ground pepper before you cook it. That will give you a solid flavor base. After that, the sky’s the limit. One very simple addition that adds so much is to squeeze fresh lemon juice over the chicken when it’s done cooking.
These steps alone practically guarantee a delicious chicken breast experience. But for more flavor inspiration check out these recipes: