It doesn’t take long to realize there are zillions of boneless skinless chicken breast recipes out there.  And in trying what seemed like millions of them over the years ... I decided to focus on the technique, or the method --- finding a systematic way that I could rely on so that my chicken --- was always perfect.

To start with ... I love it when a recipe specifies what SIZE of chicken breast they use.  I have purchased so many different ones - and it’s such a relief to find a way that WORKS for me!  So here goes ....

On average - my boneless, skinless chicken breasts weigh 5 ounces.  Trust me, I’ve weighed more chicken breasts than I ever care to admit.  So - this is a very important factor when it comes to having your chicken turn out beautifully!  So - when you look at the timing I use for my chicken, keep in mind that mine are 5 ounce breasts ... and start to adjust accordingly once you weigh your chicken.

And ... the other important factor is the THICKNESS (Or Height) of your boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  On average, mine are slightly under to 1/2 inch in the thickest area of the chicken breast.  When it comes to Skillet-Cooking and Indoor-Grilling boneless chicken breasts - the thickness is also important.  The thinner the breasts are - the less time they have to be in the hot skillet or on the hot grill ... and therefore, the less chance you will have of serving dry chicken breasts to your friends, family, guests, etc.

If my chicken is noticeably uneven in thickness - I cover it with plastic and gently pound the thicker parts so that my chicken is now even.  And often it is at this time when I would pound the chicken (gently again) to get it closer to 1/4 inch thickness.  Depending on how thick your chicken is to begin with - you can often use your fingers to push and flatten the uneven areas.  The chicken is delicate and doesn’t need to be pounded to death in order for it to flatten effectively.  The less you flatten, the better the texture of the chicken will remain.

Once my chicken is prepared - it’s time to season it!  Yesterday, I did a post where I shared a little insight on my routine to get the maximum amount of flavor from my lean meats.  Seasoning them hours in advance - with the spice rub of my choice - gives me lots of flavor!  You can use salt and pepper as your seasoning too!  But - on most days - I use the spice(s) that will compliment my meal and rub them into the meat - sometimes with a little bit of oil if needed.  My meat, first of all, is always DRY - I just use a paper towel to remove any moisture.  Then the seasoned meat goes into the refrigerator - and I pull it out about 20 - 30 minutes for it to come to room temperature before the cooking begins.

When I’m ready to cook - I place a small amount of oil - usually canola or vegetable - in a skillet and heat the skillet.  I use my Infrared Thermometer (the one I got at the hardware store) to check the heat of my pan.  I am looking for somewhere between 350 and 400 degrees.

Once the oil and the skillet are nice and hot, I gently lay the chicken breasts in the skillet.  If you have a lot of chicken to cook, be careful not to crowd the pan or the chicken will steam and you won’t get a nicely seasoned, brown crust on the chicken.  I’ve learned through tons of documenting all the above over and over again - that when my chicken is less than 1/2 inch thick, weighs right around 5 ounces ... and are being cooked in a skillet heated to over 350 degrees (but less than 400 degrees) ... That my chicken needs 4 minutes to cook on the first side ... (I literally set a timer) ... and the best part it is - it will flip/release from the pan easily!  When it comes to the second side - it takes 3 minutes to fully reach 165 degrees (which I check with my Instant-Read Thermometer, not my Infrared Thermometer).  The only real exception I’ve found is I may pull it off the heat at the 2 minute or 2 min and 30 second mark if it’s going to be sitting under a tent of foil while I am finishing the dish.  Because “carryover cooking” will take place as the heat is locked in with the foil covering.  OR - of course, if your chicken is really uneven in thickness - you’ll likely need the full time.  Always, always, always - Use your thermometer to check ... and if you’re like me - start documenting so that you can do more “auto-pilot” cooking :) 

** Helpful Hint(s) for those of you who can only find slightly larger chicken breasts - when you flip to the second side, put a lid on your skillet to help speed the process along.  It may be trial & error your first couple of tries - but document the length of time it takes to reach 165 degrees, this way you will know for the future!  And if you chicken breasts are really thick and large ... after browning them in the skillet - there is always the option to put it in the oven.  But more on that later ... because I have a technique from America’s Test Kitchen I’ll try when I find the larger chicken breasts on sale!

And that is really the basics of how I can quickly whip up some fabulous chicken breasts!  With the brown bits left in the pan, you can make one delicious pan sauce ... or you can slice the chicken and add it back to the pan and simmer with the remainder of your ingredients - something to serve over pasta or rice, perhaps.  Or you can slice the chicken up and add it to salads, wraps, pizzas or pasta!  Seriously - many, many options.  And ... make extra ... and freeze the slices - because they don’t take but a few minutes to thaw ... and you’ll speed up dinner, lunch or even brunch to almost no time flat!  ENJOY!!!