How to: Cook Chicken Breasts

So when a recipe calls for X cups of cooked or shredded chicken, I usually just use leftover chopped Fauxtisserie Chicken. But what about those days when I don’t want to cook a whole chicken just to use the leftovers the next day? Or when, maybe, it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and I haven’t started a chicken and my 2-year-old is napping and I can’t go buy a rotisserie chicken at the store (which reminds me of the time when my husband and I were broke college students and I was supposed to be cutting back on the grocery bill. I did NOT want to cook one night, so I got a rotisserie chicken, put it in the crock pot with the juices, and discarded the evidence). Or what about just how to cook a chicken breast just right, to the point where it’s not going to make you sick but it’s not dry and tasteless, either?

I’m going to cover the major methods of cooking a chicken breast. And because I’m living like a hobo right now (tonight, my kids ate spaghetti from paper bowls with plastic spoons on a towel that was on the floor because we’re squarely stuck between two houses), the lovely Sara was gracious enough to take the pictures for today’s post. But first, regardless of your method, there are a few chicken basics:

1. Defrosting. If you’re using frozen chicken, it’s best to defrost it first. If you’re really on top of it, you can defrost it a few days ahead of time in the refrigerator. I can guarantee you 100% that I am never that on top of things. This leaves the microwave defrost setting or placing it in a Ziploc bag in cool water, changing the water regularly. I prefer the cool water method because I almost always end up accidentally cooking at least part of the chicken in the microwave and unseasoned, microwaved chicken is not good.

1. Rinse the chicken breast in cool water. Especially if you’re buying it non-frozen. Especially if it’s non-frozen with skin and bones. Even if your chicken is well before its expiration date, those liquids it’s sitting in don’t smell good and if you don’t rinse the liquid off, it will affect the flavor of your chicken after it’s been cooked.

2. Pat the chicken dry. Unless you’re poaching the chicken, it’s not a bad idea to dry it off, even if it’s going straight into a marinade. Just grab a few paper towels and blot the water off the chicken.

3. Be safe. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but just in case your mother did not instill the same fear of salmonella in you as mine did in me, I figured I’d do it for her. More so than many other meats, uncooked or undercooked chicken can make you sick. Make sure you’re keeping track of where those chicken juices are going and what you’ve touched. Designate a knife and plastic cutting board that will only be used for cutting up the chicken and then make sure they go straight into the dishwasher. Wash your hands well and often and if you get chicken or chicken juices on the counter, wipe them up right away with something that will kill the germs. If you’re marinating your chicken and want to baste it while it’s cooking, reserve some of the marinade that will never touch the raw chicken instead of using marinade with salmonella germs to baste the chicken.

4. Marinating. I almost always marinate chicken breasts because it’s a great, cheap way to get some flavor into the chicken. You can use anything that has a little bit of acid (not the drug…we’re not that kind of blog…) in it–your favorite salad dressing, lemon, lime, orange juice, etc. One of my favorites is just juice from a few limes, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a few cloves of garlic. It works great on fish, too, but that’s another post.
Generally, you want to marinate chicken in the fridge for 4-8 hours or overnight. If you go for longer than 24 hours, things might start getting a little weird.

Okay, now that we have the basics underway, these are the most popular methods for cooking chicken breasts:

Poaching or Boiling
I have a quick disclaimer about poaching or boiling chicken. I seriously can’t even remember the last time I boiled or poached chicken, even in recipes that call for boiled chicken. I just don’t like it and I don’t like how it makes my kitchen smell afterwards. I think there are methods that are just as easy and so much better, so I just never do it. So if you’re dying to know about the intricacies of boiling chicken, I’m probably not the best person to ask; I would feel dishonest because I don’t feel like, for me at least, that it’s the best way to cook a chicken breast. For those of you who are dying to know the best way to poach a chicken breast, I begrudgingly present you with a great tutorial… 🙂  Just take note that there is a big difference between properly poaching chicken, and just boiling the heck out of it.  One produces moist, tender, flavorful meat, and the other can just make stringy, flavorless, chewy meat.

Fauxtisserie Chicken Breast
So for those of you who like the taste of rotisserie chicken but don’t want to buy a whole chicken or don’t like dark meat, this method is for you. You use the same method as you use for Fauxtisserie Chicken, you just use bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts instead. Just form 3 balls of aluminum foil and place them on the bottom of your slow cooker. Season your chicken breasts as desired (use a salt-based seasoning like seasoning salt, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper, barbecue seasoning, etc.) and cook, breast-up, on low for 4 hours.

Oven Roasting
Okay, for this one, you can use bone-in or boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Boneless skinless is quick and easy, but bone-in will give you chicken with more flavor and it tends to be juicier.  But they both work great.  If you’re after a particular flavor, marinating is a great way to go. However, if you’re after a more neutral flavor for something like chicken salad or a casserole, rub the chicken with a little extra-virgin olive olive oil

and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

If you want to meet somewhere in the middle, you could go the salt-based seasoning route from the Fauxtisserie Chicken method again–just sprinkle it on there.

Preheat oven to 350.  If you’re using bone-in chicken breasts, place chicken, breast side up, on the baking sheet and roast for about 35-45 minutes (depending on the size it may less or more) or until the juices run clear and, if you’ve somehow magically found a meat thermometer that works (see diatribe here), the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

If you’re using boneless skinless chicken breasts (wow, I feel like I’m using the word “breast” a lot in this post…I hope I’m not attracting the wrong kind of audience from Google!), it will take less time.  Depending on the size, about 20-30 minutes.  Again, the juices running clear and the internal temperature are the best ways to be sure!

Whether you use boneless or bone-in chicken, remove from oven and allow to stand about 5 minutes before serving. This keeps the meat juicy and flavorful (and hey, not burning yourself is a positive side benefit).  You can just toss the skin from the bone-in chicken.

This is hands-down my favorite method. It’s quick and easy and I just think nothing else tastes as good as grilled chicken.
It’s largely the same as roasting, although I pretty much always marinade the chicken and sometimes I use a spice rub as well. But really, once your chicken is seasoned the way you want it, preheat your grill on high for about 10 minutes. If you have a temperature indicator, it will probably be around 450. Place seasoned chicken, on the grill and turn heat down to medium. Cook bone-in chicken breasts for about 8-9 minutes per side and boneless skinless chicken breasts for 7 minutes per side (don’t ask me where this 7 minutes came from, but it has never, ever failed me). Remove from grill and allow to stand 5 minutes before serving.

pictured: Taco Chicken

So are you all excited about chicken breasts now? Here are some of our favorite recipes to practice with:

Taco Chicken
Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken Tortilla Soup

Lemon-Herb Zucchini Fettuccine
Teriyaki Chicken Salad Sandwiches
White Chicken Chili
Chili-Lime Mango Chicken Skewers
Asian Cabbage Salad
Thai Peanut Noodle Salad



  1. Thanks for this post! I'm always overcooking my chicken because I'm afraid of getting sick. I'm going to have to try your slow cooker method. Looks easy, tender and flavorful.

  2. I've been buying a couple whole chickens when they go on sale ($.98 or less a pound) and freezing them. Then I pull one out and do fauxtisserie chicken in my crockpot and either freeze packets of shredded chicken or start making meals right away. Last week I used some to make the Baked taquitos and froze them for later (tonight actually). I liked the frozen ones because they weren't trying to unroll when I put them on the baking sheet.

  3. Great info!! I always have the hardest time with chicken. And I am so, so excited about the Fauxtisserie chicken breasts. I wanted to try your Fauxtisserie chicken but my slow cooker is too small for a whole chicken. So I'm way excited. Thanks!

  4. SWEET!!! I don't know why, but I just struggle with how to cook chicken. I'm bookmarking this post! And I am looking forward to trying the Fauxtisserie chicken – yum!

    Thanks for the info!

  5. Thanks for this post! Great info to have. This is exactly the problem I have when I want to cook my pot pie, or creamed chicken or other such dishes with leftover chicken when I don't have leftover chicken. And I defrost and bake chicken breasts, and never do it well, so I'm so bookmarking this!

  6. i rarely cook chicken because i am so afraid of it. i dont have any sort of mental disorder, unless raw chicken is involved. i am an absolute freak about chicken. i dont know where i got it from either. my mother taught me to be practical about it. wash up and use some sort of antibacterial just to be safe. if i make chicken i have to wear rubber gloves, and even then i have to wash my hands and arms and used about 10 Clorox wipes on the counter, and faucet! i wont even order a dish at a restaurant if it has chicken in it, because im so scared that it will be under cooked (and i dont usually like the quality of commercial chicken)! the funny thing is…i make perfect chicken every time!

    1. I am the very same way. Good to know I’m not the only one LOL. But hey, at least the chicken is perfect each time right!

  7. Oh my goodness! I had chicken thawing this morning and wasn't sure what I was going to do with it for dinner tonight! I cooked it in the oven and it was PERFECT! Not dry at all. This post was very informative! Thanks so much for sharing such simple "fool proof" steps! 🙂

  8. Hey, thanks! That was a very informative and helpful post. I'm one of those whose mother scared the heck out of her, (about chicken and salmonella)which lead to me cooking the heck out of my chicken. This lead my children to believe they do not like chicken. I'm getting better and they're starting to believe chicken can be tasty and not tough.

  9. I was wondering if you had a fantastic oatmeal raisin cookie recipe.
    They're my husbands FAVOURITE and it would mean SO MUCH to have a 'tried and true' recipe to have forever and make him whenever he wants.
    My email address is

  10. Just wanted to stop by and tell you that I'm sharing a few of your recipes on my blog this week. I love finding good recipes, and then tweaking them a bit to fit our family better, then sharing them with others. I think a good recipe should be shared. Tomorrow I'm posting about the honey chicken salad. (FABULOUS!) Then later in the week, the coconut chicken and the baked taquitos. Thanks for giving me some new recipes! And of course, I've given you credit by linking to you!

  11. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I remember you telling me once that you never boiled chicken and I have forever been perplexed as to what you actually DID do. I guess I could have just asked you… oh well. Either way, now I know! And I owe it all to you. You're awesome.

  12. I have serious issues making chicken and hate having to do the 45 min in the oven so thank you so much! Made the oven roasted just as you explained and it was super yummy. Is it possible to do a breaded chicken this way as well or would it burn the "breading"? Also wondering if I'm baking it in a glass dish with the oil, do I still need the foil? Not certain if the purpose of that is to increase the heat or help it not stick. Thanks!

  13. When I need cooked chicken for a recipe (like your fab taquitos), I use a simple method that turns out great. I used to cook them in the oven but this is faster and easier, and the chicken comes out very moist.

    Heat some chicken broth over medium heat in a saute pan big enough to accommodate all the chicken with room to spare. Wash and trim the chicken breasts; cut into 1-inch cubes. Put cubes in broth; the broth should completely cover the chicken. If it doesn't, add more broth. Cook over medium heat until done, stirring occasionally (don't turn up the heat and allow the broth boil, as that will make the chicken tough). Scoop out chicken with a slotted spoon.

    If I need shredded or finely chopped chicken, I throw the chicken in a bowl and use this to chop it:

    This is a great tool that I use all the time for quick chopping that doesn't need to be "pretty".

  14. I just used your directions for oven roasting, adding a little garlic powder for good measure and my husband was absolutely raving about it.

    I've always had a hard time getting my chicken cooked all the way through before getting dry and now I realize why – I was cooking it on way too low a temperature! Thanks for this post!

  15. I followed your directions for roasting boneless skinless chicken breasts, and ran into two major difficulties:

    1. My kitchen filled with smoke from the burning chicken juices on the foil every time I opened the oven door, and I had to open it numerous times, because

    2. It took longer to cook than 7 minutes, flip, 7 minutes. It actually took 7 minutes, flip, 7 minutes, flip, 5 minutes, flip, 5 minutes, flip, 5 minutes for the juices to stop running red.

    Am I missing something here? What am I doing wrong?

  16. john_d_corr- the juices shouldn't burn so I'm not sure what's going on there! You may have some residue on your pan, or did you use a seasoning mix that might have some other ingredients that don't stand up to the oven heat? Just olive oil salt and pepper wouldn't cause any sort of burning.

    As for the cooking time- I actually think there were some typos in the post! It does take longer than that- especially if you have large pieces of meat. I've changed the instructions just a bit to be cooked longer at a slightly lower temperature. That should help both of your issues. Sorry!

  17. Thank you, Sara for your reply, and for the corrections: I'm going to try it again, this time using the new instructions.
    You might be interested to know that the OLD instructions are still floating around out there – so far I've found them at,, and I don't know if you're in any kind of position to do anything about that, but, anyhoo…
    I'll leave another message to let you know how my next attempt went.

  18. I posted over on “Fauxtisserie Chicken” but feel like I need to chime in here, too: the crockpot method makes a PERFECT chicken breast. The meat is tender and juicy, with no toughness like I get with boiling, and no overcooking like I get in the oven. I’ve done a breast once a week for a month, keeping meat for whatever and making broth from the remains (add water, an onion, and a celery stalk to the bones/skin and cook on low overnight). DELICIOUS every time. I let it go 4.5 hours in my crock pot, which seems just about perfect for mine. I will add this to my “perpetual rotation” recipes.


  19. Hi! Thanks for posting these basics for cooking chicken. I need it! I wasn’t sure if the lid should be closed or not when grilling the chicken. I assume it is because you had us preheat the grill. I’m grilling the chicken up right now. Pretty soon I guess I will have my answer!

  20. I’ve been trying a few of your recipes and finding that I may actually enjoy cooking after all! I like to eat chicken, but I hate cooking it, because I feel like it always turns out gross, but I’m so excited to try these new (and easy!) ways. I really want to try the Fauxtisseri, but I just wanted to clarify that you don’t need to put any water or anything in the bottom of the pot, right? I know that’s probably such a dumb question, but I’m quite inept at cooking, (which is why I’m loving these tutorials!)

  21. Thanks for helping me become a better cook. My husband is a little older than I and has been married before to a complete domestication goddess. And although I come with my own set of strengths, cooking is not among them. I have applied your tips and tricks with great success!

    Thanks again,


  22. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post – I’m not the best cook to begin with, but no matter what I do, I cannot seem to get chicken right… I so excited to start using some of these suggestions!!

  23. Awesome post! My track record for cooking chicken is pretty dismal. Whenever I tell my wife that I’m cooking chicken for dinner, I just hear crickets chirping. I don’t blame her, so I’m really trying to improve.

    The foil/fauxtisserie trick is genius, and I’m definitely trying that soon =)


  24. I just have to say THANK YOU so much for posting how to bake chicken breast in the oven! I used to just boil the life out of my chicken, and I didn’t really like it. Now I bake my chicken with the olive oil every chance I get and it comes out perfect everytime! I even have to keep an eye on my husband to make sure he doesn’t steal pieces of the chicken before I can use it! Thank you for creating a new tradition in my family!

  25. thanks its kinda hard to cook when moms not around like she use to be i use you guys for tips on cooking foods now so i might just have more questions later i really want to learn how to make some good lemon pepper chicken

  26. I googled “how to cook chicken” and this was the first hit. While I don’t think I learned anything, this was an entertaining read and I’m glad I found it.

  27. Thank you for giving just the basics for oven roasting chicken breasts.. No one gives just the basic they are always doing some crazy dish. I have a friend who doesn’t like ALOT of foods so to be able to just find a good simple oven roast was a breath of fresh air. Thanks

  28. Love love love this post! Very helpful for a new homemaker. I love to cook but I have a very busy work schedule so getting good, tasty shredded chicken has always been a difficult thing for me, cause first I wasn’t sure what the best way to do it is, and second I never had time to experiment!! By the way, you mentioned the whole “breat” thing.. Well my mother always said “chicken chest” when I was growing up because she said “chickens don’t have breasts!!” Anyway, that gave me a good laugh. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!!!

  29. I suck at cooking. I’m 18 years old and want to suprise my mom from work and give her a good meal.and make something I won’t be afraid that would probably kill her. I was joking but this tips came in handy.THANK YOU!!!

  30. I can’t thank you enough for this blog! I’ve been so happy with
    everything I’ve made and you aren’t intimidating like so many
    recipe sites can be.

  31. No Sara, Ur not using the word breast to much, lol. This sounds really good, think i’ll go try it, RIGHT NOW, lol. Seriously, right now sounds good to me.

  32. It looks like the links at the bottom of the article are missing the “:” from “http://www….”. These in particular:

    Lemon-Herb Zucchini Fettuccine
    Teriyaki Chicken Salad Sandwiches
    White Chicken Chili
    Chili-Lime Mango Chicken Skewers

    The last picture looks yummy!

  33. Great info!! I always have the hardest time with chicken. And I am so, so excited about the Fauxtisserie chicken breasts. I wanted to try your Fauxtisserie chicken but my slow cooker is too small for a whole chicken.

  34. Thanks for helping me become a better cook! my son is a bit older than yours and i had to learn to cook for him! he loves this 🙂 delicious

    Thanks again,


  35. I just wanted to say thank for posting all of this. I was terrified of cooking chicken (before this I only knew how to cook it via saute). I got it right the first time!!! This is great. Thank you.

  36. Loving this site! I am only learning to cook properly now (I’m 27), and I’ve had a few disasters! But I’ll keep on trying 🙂 I have a really nice recipe that includes green tabasco and worcestershire sauce, garlic, paprika, vinegar and some mayo in it. It’s a marinade I suppose and you use either boneless, skinless strips or breasts. Then you’re supposed to fry it. Now, I need to know what would be a good temperature for this? Cause the sauce is really nice, the chicken not always! This is for a eating plan I’m on, so no extra fats and so on allowed…

  37. We love chicken breasts, but my husband always prefers I use a stovetop method because it never dries out. I just don’t always have the time to stand over the stove with five kids running amuck, so I was looking for tips on oven baking. Thanks for posting this. And I had to laugh at the comment about typing the word “breast” a lot because the ad on the sidebar right now is for nursing bras at 🙂

  38. The author of this post turned me away by unnecessarily likening their language to strange things, in fact boobs and narcotics, which did not help me cook my chicken. I shall presume, therefore, it was a male individual; potentially a pervert; potentially having a drug problem.


  39. Hi there, I found this page by googling “how to cook chicken breasts”. Great ideas!

    I have a question: do chicken breasts need to be tenderized? I feel like I’m getting different information from different parts of the internet…I found one recipe where it looked like they basically pounded it flat, but it doesn’t look like that in your pics. I’d rather not go at a hunk of meat with a hammer if I don’t have to. :o)

    By the way, it’s so nice to see that other people have trouble cooking chicken too! I was raised in a vegetarian household and am just now (at 24) learning to cook chicken – I felt like I was the only one who was clueless!

    1. I made some today using her citrus/vinegar/garlic marinade and oven method, I did not tenderize or flatten them and they were delicious and juicy!

  40. I used lemon, red wine vinegar, and garlic to marinate chicken breasts for about 4 hours today, and cooked them using the oven method. Before baking I sprinkled them with some season all. They came out so juicy and tender! I have been trying to cook a proper chicken breast for years, and they almost always come out either under or overcooked. I am amazed at how easy it was to make. Thank you so SO much!

  41. Thank you for posting such an easy and delicious baked chicken recipe! I have tried to bake chicken before and it never tasted good. I think washing the chicken was the key! Thank you I will follow this method religiously.

  42. Maybe someone already brought this to your attention, but when I tried to click on the link to “Chicken & Dumplings” it connected with “Chicken Tortilla Soup.” I cannot find the first recipe, although I am rather new to your website.

    You two ladies are pretty impressive. I am in awe at the way you tweak things and create some amazing recipes. I was never really taught to cook, especially with things like chutneys, Sriracha, fresh limes and lemons, etc. But I plan on changing that. Don’t feel really confident when it comes to experimenting with recipes. So this is a godsend. Last night I made your “Chicken Legs BBQ” and that sauce is incredible. I am excited to try other new recipes here. I appreciate the relatively easy recipes, the step-by-step directions, the photos, and the personal stories. Nice work!

  43. Thanks for an extremely informative and amusing post. I’ve been cooking for over 40 years and I learned more from your post in 10 minutes than I have in hours of reading recipe books and watching TV cooking programs. I was laughing big time and learning at the same time. What could be better!

  44. I’ve been married 14 years now and we finally bought our first grill! (half off from Target!!!) and I’m really excited and nervous about grilling chicken, but it does taste better grilled for sure so I appreciate your thorough instructions!

  45. Thanks so much for this awesome recipe and (fingers crossed) it comes out well! I hope you guys get back on track in life and live while you’re young! Viva la Hawaii and keep on cooking guys!

  46. I love your blog and your sense of humor, right now I am making your grill chicken. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with everyone.

  47. Awesome peice about cooking chicken, loved the humorous parts too (like the part about using the word breasts too much and the audience you would attract) Gave me a smile and good laugh. I am over roasting my marinated chicken as I write this.


    -Antoinette Belton

  48. THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU! You’ve just made my life easier, I’m a broke collage student who want to cook his own food, and you helped me, THANK YOU AGAIN

  49. Thank you for the tips, tricks, and humor in your post. I came to your site to look for how to roast boneless, skinless chicken breast. I enjoyed the information. Thank you.

  50. DO NOT wash off the chicken! It will spread bacteria (salmonella and e coli being the biggest concerns) within TWO FEET of your sink! It also actually doesn’t do your chicken any favors.

  51. Dumb question, and it might not get answered because I’m a little late to the party, but would the fauxtisserie style work on chicken thighs?

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