Boneless skinless chicken breasts used to be the bane of my existence. They’re seemingly easy enough to cook so every friend and family member I knew often cooked the bird as an easy weeknight dinner. I’ve had dry bland chicken breasts for most of my life so you can understand my thinking that it was the chicken’s fault. I count my first moist perfectly cooked boneless skinless chicken breast as a kind of “a-HA!” moment. At that point I was determined to find out how to guarantee a perfect protein every time. And you know what? It’s easier than you’d think.
While this lists off like a recipe it’s more of a process, so if you’re cooking only one pound of chicken or four you can still follow the steps, just increase or decrease the amounts.
4 tablespoons salt, dissolved in 6 cups of warm water
2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter, melted
seasonings: optional but I like them
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon paprika
- Brine the chicken. For a long brine, mix room temperature water with the salt. Submerge the chicken breasts for 4-8 hours and store in the refrigerator. For a quick brine instead, mix warm water with the salt and submerge the breasts for 15-30 minutes, unrefrigerated.
- Preheat your oven to 450°F and remove the chicken from the water. Pat it completely dry with a couple of paper towels and place the chicken in an oven safe baking dish.
- Brush the chicken with the melted butter on both sides and coat with the spices.
- Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size of your pieces, until a thermometer stuck in the center reaches 170°F. The government recommends 170°F in order to kill off any salmonella bacteria but I find that really moist chicken occurs between 160-170°F. If your chicken was brined in the refrigerator for a long time they may take closer to 35-45 minutes as they are starting out much colder. If you take them out and they are not yet ready return them to the oven until the thermometer registers 170°F.
- Remove the chicken from the oven and allow it to rest. This is a must for moist chicken. Cut into it now and all the juices will escape! Let the chicken sit for 5 minutes for small cuts, 10 minutes for large ones. Serve after the resting period.