When it comes to chicken breasts, if it’s done right, it’s done RIGHT. It’s flavorful, it’s juicy, and it makes a perfect focal point for any entree from a light salad to a hearty pasta dish. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
When it’s not cooked right, though… well, we’ve all had it. It’s tough, it takes forever to chew, and it’s slightly reminiscent of shoe leather (except the leather might have a little more flavor). That’s precisely what you want to avoid, and that’s why I’m writing this recipe.
The first thing you want to do is brine your chicken. There’s nothing wrong with a simple salt-water solution, but this gives you a chance to infuse your chicken with extra flavor. I went with a fairly classic combination for my brine recipe, mixing garlic, oregano, thyme, and black pepper. But if you want to try something new, the sky’s the limit!
Also, you’ll want to coat the chicken with a thin layer of oil or butter. This will help seal the juices in and create a little bit of a crust. If you want to add more seasonings before baking, the oil acts as a perfect glue for the seasoning to stick.
High heat baking is going to be a huge help for ensuring a juicy chicken. In conjunction with the oil, the high heat will help sear the chicken enough to keep the juices from evaporating. Plus, it takes less time!
Finally, let the chicken rest before you cut into it. It’s the same principle as any other cut of meat. Resting the chicken for a few minutes will allow the juices to redistribute inside the chicken, and keep them from going all over your cutting board. (Seriously, you worked hard to get it to this point. A little bit of patience will make it all worthwhile.)
If you’re in the mood for something light, give this a shot!
Perfect Baked Chicken Breasts
3 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 cups water
1/4 cup salt
3 TBSP sugar
1 TBSP dried thyme
1 TBSP dried oregano
1 TBSP black peppercorns
2 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP olive oil
Seasoning salt to taste
Trim the chicken breasts, and if needed, use a meat mallet to flatten them to the same thickness as each other.
In a saucepan, combine the water, salt, sugar, and spices. Bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for about a minute, then cool to room temperature. Once cooled, pour over the chicken breasts in a zip-top bag, and refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Lightly grease a 9×13 baking dish with olive oil. Drain out the brine, pat the chicken breasts dry, and arrange them in a single layer on the pan. Brush a little olive oil over the tops, sprinkle on the seasoning salt, then bake for 22-25 minutes, until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165F. Remove from the oven, cover the pan with foil, and let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
Serves about 6 people.