The different cuts of a chicken don’t just differ in where they’re cut from. The color and flavor of each are different which quickly started to display a clear preference for dark leg and thigh meat that tends to have a stronger or deeper flavor. If you want to know more about the different cuts of a chicken read this.
That being said, the versatility of the chicken breast is what makes it such a popular buy today. Its convenient, the boneless shape makes it ideal for pretty much anything from butterflying, dicing, stripping to perfectly cooking them whole in an oven or frying pan.
Some of the south’s best dishes use chicken breast or the tenderloin (inadvertently part of the breast) for things like chicken fingers (and by default dishes like chicken & waffles), countless stews, shredded for a wide variety of dishes, and just grilled or fried whole.
These are the three best ways to cook a chicken breast, plus an extra recipe to get you out of the chicken breast rut:
Pan-frying chicken breasts are the easiest way to prepare them because they have two even cooking surfaces. Start by seasoning the chicken on both sides with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.
Then, heat some neutral oil, like sunflower oil, in a frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Lay the chicken skin down into the hot frying pan. Starting with the chicken skin side down ensures you get delicious crispy skin!
How long you fry each side will depend on the size of the filet, so it’s always best to work based on temperature. Fry for 5-6 minutes on each side until an inserted thermometer reads 165°F. In a pinch, check the thickest part of the chicken breast by slicing into it – it should look opaque, creamy white and the liquid should run clear. If it’s still pink, it’s not done!
Baking chicken in the oven requires a few extra steps but ultimately lets you prepare tastier chicken, keeping it from drying out.
Start by preheating your oven to 390°F. While you wait for the oven to warm up, the chicken breasts on both sides with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.
When you’re dealing with high cooking temperatures be conscious of the oil you use. Refined olive oil, a very popular cooking oil, has a smoke point of around 370°F which would break down and smoke up your oven.
Place an ovenproof frying pan or skillet over medium-high heat, and add a tablespoon of neutral, high smoke point oil. Place the chicken breasts skin down and sear both sides until they develop a really nice toasty, golden brown color.
After a searing brush with your favorite BBQ or mop sauce for increased flavor.
Place the pan in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. Flip the filet midway through if one side gets too brown.
Rest the chicken, tented in foil for 5-10 minutes before serving or cutting into. After high heat is applied to muscle fibers they contract and expel water, letting the meat rest before cutting into allows these fibers to reabsorb some of that expelled moisture.
Diced or Stripped
Fajitas, chicken & dumplings, curries, stir-fries, and many other dishes, both southern or international, call for diced or stripped chicken. Breasts are best, not just because they can be easily diced, but because of the particular tender and delicious underside of the breast, the tenderloin. The downside is that each breast filet only comes with one tenderloin, so if you want to use them to make chicken strips for something like chicken & waffles, you’d need quite a few.
Most recipes that call for diced chicken will call for the chicken to be seared in hot oil. Heat some neutral oil in a skillet or frying pan then lay in the pieces and sear on every side for 2-3 minutes.
Take the chicken out of the pan, and continue to sear the rest of your spices and vegetables, before pulling the whole dish together.
How to Make Chicken Fingers
I don’t know about you, but making chicken fingers takes me back to a simpler time.
You’ll need quite a few chicken tenderloins to make this childhood snack, either buy them already separated, or you can plan ahead. Cut and freeze tenderloins off the chicken breasts until you have enough to make your chicken fingers.
Pour a cup of buttermilk and a couple dashes of your favorite hot sauce over the tenderloins and let them marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Take around a cup of breadcrumbs, mixing in salt, pepper, onion, and garlic powder Depending on your flavor preferences, you can add in optional things like paprika or cayenne pepper. Play around with it and discover new flavor combinations and, maybe you’ll develop your own secret spice mix.
To begin cooking your delicious chicken fingers, place a frying pan over medium-high heat and fill it with about an inch of neutral frying oil with a high smoke point.
Heat the oil to 350°F, lay the marinated chicken into the breadcrumb mixture then turn them over to evenly coat each tenderloin.
Gently slip the breaded tenderloin into the hot oil and fry on each side for 3-4 minutes until the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165°C.
Drain the excess oil off the tenders on some paper towels and serve hot with your favorite sauce or condiments!