Whether you’re working on making your weekly meal prep easier, or need a quick and simple recipe for weeknight dinners, this recipe has all my secrets for the best baked chicken breast guaranteed to come out perfectly juicy every single time.
The ubiquitous chicken breast could quite possibly be the most popular protein of any out there. Beloved by eaters for its neutral flavor and lauded by home cooks for its versatility, there isn’t much one can’t do—or many who won’t be pleased—when it comes to including chicken in the meal.
Unless it tastes like a piece of dry shoe leather.
This baked chicken breast recipe is the total opposite of some worn-out old loafer, and is about to become your secret weapon when it comes to easy eats.
This is my tried-and-true, tested-for-years basic baked chicken breast recipe that is easily mastered no matter what your skill level, and it’s the centerpiece of turning weekend meal prep into successful weeknight eats.
Because let’s face it, even if chicken breasts are easily dressed up to fit most any meal, they can be a bit boring on their own. Unless they’re cooked to juicy perfection. And this my friends, is how you nail baking the best baked chicken breast every time.
It’ll Be Juicy. Guaranteed.
There are four rules to follow that guarantee a juicy baked chicken breast every time:
- High heat
- Fat is good
- Test for temp
- Let it rest
Now let’s find out how they work together to make one killer baked breast.
How Long to Bake Chicken Breast
Whether you love stuffed chicken breast, crockpot chicken breast, grilled chicken breast, bone-in or boneless chicken breast, the keys to the kitchen are making sure it doesn’t come out of the oven overcooked and dry.
Over the years I’ve baked or roasted chicken breasts every which way to ensure a moist (why does everyone hate that word so much?), flavorful, and juicy bird. I’ve baked them at low temps, high temps, and a combination of the two. I’ve basted and I’ve brined. But what I’ve settled on is that simply baking at a high temperature through the entire cooking process ensures a crispy skin, golden outside that envelops a guaranteed juicy inside.
Wait! What??? Did you say skin??? Stay with me here friends, I’ll explain more about skin in a minute…
The best part of this high heat baking method is it’s pretty much hover-free so you’re not babysitting your bird while it cooks.
Simply set your oven to 450°F and the timer for 50-60 minutes—depending on your oven’s cooking speed and how many chicken breasts you’re cooking at one time.
How to Tell When a Chicken Breast Is Done
The number of minutes I’m estimating to bake your chicken is merely a gauge. The most important part in testing for doneness is using a meat thermometer. This one is my favorite because its lightning fast and extremely accurate.
To tell if the chicken breast is done, insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the breast, and if cooking a bone-in breast, be sure the probe doesn’t contact the bone. Safety guidelines say the chicken is done when it reaches an internal temp of 165 to 170°F and the juices are clear. If the juices have a tinge of pink to them, it’s not done. Put back in the oven and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so. I typically aim for pulling my chicken breasts from the oven between 160-165°F since they’ll continue to cook as they rest. More on that later.
Bone-In with Skin-On or Boneless and Skinless?
Choosing bone-in or boneless chicken breasts seems to largely be influenced by how mom used to make them—”They charge an arm and a leg just to take out the bone”—or by what you’ve heard through the media—”Beware! Chicken with skin will make you fat!”—and of course, the type of recipe you’re using them in—Agreed! Cheesy stuffed chicken breasts are a little harder to manipulate with a bone.
The thing is, when you’re cooking chicken breasts for meal prep or to include in recipes like slow cooker chilis, enchiladas, or in your daily salad for lunch, you want a basic, recipe that hasn’t been doctored up with a lot of other flavors.
Bone-in with skin-on chicken breasts aren’t a bit more difficult to cook, nor do they have to add a whole lot more fat if you don’t eat the skin. But for everyone I’ve served them to, the consensus is they have far more flavor, a juicier bite, and show off a prettier, more plump presentation.
Fat is Where the Flavor Is
Now, let’s get back to fat, skin, and flavor. If you’ve ever had the hankering to become a fitness and figure bikini competitor, sure, those few extra calories from leaving the skin on the chicken or adding fat to the bird might impact your chances of taking home a trophy. But if you’re like the rest of us, keeping the skin on and adding a tablespoon or so of fat for flavor might be worth the trade off of buttering your toast instead.
Fat is where the next layer of flavor occurs and for this recipe it’s kept in place by the chicken skin. Just like in my ever-popular oven-roasted whole chicken with lemon rosemary garlic butter and my juicy roast chicken breast, I rub a tablespoon or so of room temperature butter under the skin of the breast to hold the butter in place as it cooks and flavors the meat. If flavored compound butters are your thing, use them if their flavor profile match your recipe needs. I also drizzle and evenly rub a teaspoon or so of olive oil over the whole breast.
Why do I use both butter and olive oil? I’ve tested this recipe using them both together and on their own, and my final decision is to use both. The butter adds flavor and produces a golden crust, where the olive oil alone doesn’t. The olive oil makes the skin crisp, while the butter alone is golden but a bit flimsy. And for those who want to indulge in the skin—because who can resist sneaking a bite—crispy skin is the true hallmark of a killer chicken.
All that’s left is sprinkling with salt and pepper. I always use kosher salt and season with a liberal hand. Don’t be shy with the salt! There’s a reason those rotisserie chickens from the grocery store taste so good. Salt! Freshly ground black pepper is a favorite because of the fineness of the grind. Plus it adds a bit of color and richness once it’s cooked.
Let ‘Er Rest
Now that you’ve pulled your bird from the oven, it’s time to let it rest for at least 5 minutes, maybe 10. This gives you time to get the rest of the dinner ready, or if you’re doing meal prep, check in on the telly to see which Real Housewife has been misbehaving this time. There’s no need to tent or cover the breast with foil, this will only make the skin soft, and we don’t want that!
Once you see a bit of the chicken’s natural juices puddling around the breast, it’s time to cut. Use a sharp, thin knife to cut between the plump breast meat and the rib cage to make one large boneless breast. Hey! It looks just like the boneless chicken breast you’re used to. At this point, you can either slice and serve for dinner, or for meal prep, dice into chunks to be added to other recipes and eaten during the week.
But What If I Really, Really Only Want a Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast?????
Of course you can use this same cooking method with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. If using the butter, it may slide off a bit sooner as it cooks since the skin won’t be there to keep it in place so you may want to consider basting with the pan drippings mid-way through. Or if you aren’t concerned about adding that extra bit of flavor, go ahead and use just the teaspoon of olive oil instead.
You’ll also want to reduce the cooking time to 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts and your oven’s internal cooking temps given they all cook a bit differently.
- 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
- 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
- 2-3 teaspoons olive oil
- 3-4 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Trim the chicken breasts of any extra fat tendrils and gently work your fingers under the skin and work half of the butter under the skin of each chicken breast, working it so spreads evenly. Drizzle each chicken breast with half of the olive oil and lightly pat so it evenly covers. Season each chicken breast with half of the kosher salt and black pepper.
- Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165-170°F and the juices run clear, then let rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for 3 months.
Meal Prep Recipes That’ll Put Your Baked Chicken Breast to Work
The glory hallelujah of meal prep is having all the ingredients ready to go and all you have to do is assemble. Here are a few suggestions for how to use your chicken breast in more ways than one.
- 5 Ingredient Chipotle Chicken Tacquitos (incredibly easy to make)
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Avocado and Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad
- Creamy Chicken and Mushroom Stuffed Peppers (one of our all-time family favorites)
- Slow Cooker Chicken Fajita Chili
- Cheesy Chicken and Broccoli Whole Wheat Pasta
- Chicken Caesar Salad Recipe
- Avocado Cream and Chicken Suiza Enchiladas
- Chinese Chicken Salad with Pasta and Sesame Dressing (my favorite for serving to a big crowd)
- Buffalo Chicken Fettuccine (sub for the skilllet-cooked chicken)
- Chicken Pot Pie Pizza
- Strawberry Avocado and Chicken Spinach Salad (swap out the grilled chicken with the baked chicken breast)
What’s your favorite dish to add cooked chicken? We’d love more ideas, so share it in the comments below!
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