How to Cook Chicken on the Stove

Easy chicken breast recipes are always a win for busy weeknights, and you can also cook chicken on the stovetop for an elegant dinner that you can whip up in no time at all. Best of all, this pan-seared chicken recipe is a healthy main dish option for your family.

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For dinner-time staples, chicken is a classic. However, chicken can become too dry if you don’t cook it carefully. You can avoid dried-out chicken by pan-searing it on your stovetop. This cooking technique adds tons of flavor to your chicken while also making sure the meat stays tender and moist. Heat management is the secret to this chicken recipe.

Chicken breasts need sufficient time to turn a rich golden brown, then you can reduce the heat to allow the chicken to finish cooking. Mastering this easy technique will help you cook all types of meat that’s juicy and tender. You can use your cooked chicken for chicken salad, for meal prep, as a main dish entrée, make shredded chicken for recipes, in casseroles, and in healthy eating soups.

Types of Chicken to Use

For this skillet chicken recipe, we use boneless skinless chicken breasts. Each breast should be between 6 and 8 ounces in weight. If your boneless chicken breast is more than 8 ounces, your boneless chicken breast will be too wide when you flatten it. If this is the case, simply cook your juicy chicken breast in two batches.

how to cook chicken

You can also modify this recipe to cook chicken thighs (a chicken thigh recipe is juicy), chicken tenderloin, chicken cutlet, chicken legs, or chicken strips. Stove top chicken thighs are delicious. If you do this, use boneless skinless chicken thighs. If you use frozen chicken breast for this recipe, you need to thaw them first.

Flatten the Chicken Pieces

Cooking chicken breast can be challenging because it’s awkwardly shaped. A chicken breast is thicker on one of the sides, and they become thinner and taper off on the other side. The best thing to do is flatten the thick part of the chicken, then the whole chicken breast is even and level.

To flatten your chicken, put the breasts into a large plastic bag. Using a rolling pin or meat mallet, pound the chicken gently, trying to avoid breaking the bag. Continue flattening the chicken until it’s approximately 1/2 of an inch thick (or 3/4 an inch).

Chicken Seasoning Blend

This chicken recipe calls for seasonings such as freshly ground black pepper, sea salt, herbs, and garlic powder. Dried herbs are more concentrated, so use those. Keep in mind that you don’t need a ton of herbs. You can use whatever herbs you have in your pantry. You can also prepare this pan-seared chicken breast recipe using nothing but sea salt and black pepper.

We like using smoked paprika because it gives the chicken breasts a deep golden brown color and delicious flavor. You can also use sweet paprika. Don’t use too much, and don’t turn the heat up too high or the spices will burn. For a deeper brown color, don’t use paprika. The first side of the chicken should be cooked over medium-high heat.

Preparing the Chicken

Once you have flattened your chicken breasts, be sure to dry them completely with paper towels on both sides. This will ensure that the moisture is out of the chicken. Why is this important? If there’s moisture, the chicken will steam instead of pan-searing.

Sprinkle the seasoning blend evenly over the chicken, using about 1/2 teaspoon for both sides. Don’t let the chicken breasts sit for a long time because the salt will bring the moisture back to the surface of the chicken. If this occurs, blot the chicken with paper towels again.

The Best Pan to Use

We like using a heavy cast-iron skillet for pan-searing chicken, but you can also use a stainless steel pan. Be sure you preheat whichever pan you use. Also, before you add the chicken, the oil should be hot but not smoking. Doing it this way makes sure you have a better surface that’s non-stick.

how to make chicken

Pan Seared Chicken on the Stovetop

Are you wondering how to cook chicken on the stove? For pan-searing chicken, we recommend using a high-smoke point oil such as avocado oil or extra virgin olive oil. The oil needs to be hot, but don’t let it start to smoke. When the chicken breasts go into the pan, press them down hard so that they are in full contact with the pan’s surface. Then, don’t move them. Let them sear.

how to cook chicken on stove

The preheated oil and medium heat will remove the excess moisture from the chicken breasts and activate the browning reaction. Watch the chicken closely and allow the seasonings to create a nice crust. Then, it will be easy to flip them over.

Butter for More Flavorful Chicken

Butter makes most things better, but it’s completely optional for this recipe. After you flip your chicken breasts, add about a tablespoon of butter. Let it melt in the skillet, then use it to baste the chicken breasts using a pastry brush. Doing this allows the butter to coat the chicken’s surface. Besides adding flavor, butter helps keep the chicken perfectly moist. AT this point in the cooking, you can toss in some sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary for more herbal aromatics.

butter

Once the butter starts to brown, it will also add more color to your chicken, and it will stick to the meat. You can wait for the first sear because the water in the butter can interfere with browning.

Check the Chicken for Doneness

By this time, the chicken’s surface should be completely opaque and golden brown. If the juices are slightly pink, this is fine, but you don’t want your chicken breasts to be raw in the middle. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Let the Chicken Rest Before Slicing

Before you slice your chicken, allow it to rest so that the flavorful juices will redistribute. When you allow your chicken to rest, it also keeps the meat nice and moist.

FAQ

Can you brine chicken breasts before you cook chicken breast?

You can. If you have some time to do this, brining the chicken breasts will increase the juiciness and flavor. To create a brine, dissolve 1/2 cup of table salt or 2/3 cup of kosher salt in two quarts of room-temperature water. Add the chicken breasts, and put them in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Be sure you dry the surface with a paper towel to pat the raw chicken before you cook the chicken.

How long does chicken breast need to cook in a skillet?

Chicken breasts require about 5-7 minutes for each side. Larger chicken breasts will need more cooking time. The chicken is done when a meat thermometer says that the meat has an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Can you make sauce or gravy from the chicken’s pan drippings? 

Yes, you can! The fond that’s left in your cooking pan is great for making gravy or sauce. You can use the drippings as they are, or you can add a tablespoon of unsalted butter. Add a couple of tablespoons of all-purpose flour to create a roux. Then, add chicken broth or chicken stick to thin out the gravy. Whisk continuously and cook over medium heat until it becomes perfectly thick.

Can you use a marinade to cook pan-seared chicken breasts? 

Certainly, you can use a marinade if you want to add deeper flavor dimensions. A marinade can have salt, citrus juice, soy sauce, and garlic to create a delicious umami flavor. The acid in the marinade makes it easy to do a short marinating time.

how to cook chicken on stove

Cook Juicy Chicken Breasts on the Stove

When you cook chicken breasts on the stovetop, you have tender and juicy chicken that your family will request again and again. This easy chicken recipe may become one of your favorites.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 176 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 4 6-10 ounce boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika or sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Put one of the chicken pieces in a large Ziplock bag or between two sheets of plastic. Flatten the chicken until it's about 1/2-inch thick. Repeat this process with the rest of the chicken pieces. If you have thicker chicken pieces, cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally to create 8 pieces that are 1/2 inch thick.
  • Combine the salt, paprika, freshly ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, and Italian seasoning in a small bowl. Mix with a fork.
  • Pat both sides of the chicken dry with paper towels. Be sure to remove all of the moisture from the chicken's surface.
  • Sprinkle the seasoning mixture on both sides of the chicken breasts. You'll use approximately 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning per side.
  • Heat a heavy skillet on the stovetop on medium high heat. Add the extra virgin olive oil until it's hot but not smoking. Add the chicken breast to the skillet with the presentation side facing down. Using tongs, press the chicken into the pan so that as much surface as possible is touches the skillet. Cook on this side for 5-7 minutes until the chicken turns golden brown.
  • Your chicken breasts may be large after you flatten them. If this is your situation, cook skinless chicken breast batches with two chicken pieces at a time. You may need to clean your pan in between batches.
  • Flip the chicken breasts and add the butter to the pan. Swirling the pan, melt the butter, so it's evenly distributed. Baste the chicken with the butter occasionally, and continue cooking until a kitchen thermometer says that the chicken's internal temperature is 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will take between 5 and 7 minutes. When the chicken is done, transfer it to a clean pan or plate. Allow the chicken to rest for about 5 minutes before serving.
  • You can serve your chicken breasts whole or slice them crosswise to create diced chicken or chicken strips.

Notes

Storing Cooked Chicken Breasts: Allow your chicken to completely cool, then place it into an airtight container. It will keep well in the fridge for as long as 5 days. You can also freeze your cooked chicken in freezer bags in the freezer for as long as 3 months.
Seasonings: When you use Italian seasoning, you get herbs such as oregano, rosemary, thyme, and basil. You can also use Herbs de Provence, which has lavender. You can use any herbs you like for this chicken recipe.
Paprika: Using smoked paprika or sweet paprika will give you a deeper golden color. However, you can leave out the herbs and paprika.
Whole30 Chicken Recipe: To make this recipe friendly for the Whole30 diet, you can leave out the butter. Alternatively, you can use clarified butter or ghee.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcalCarbohydrates: 72gCholesterol: 76mg
Keyword how to cook chicken, How to cook chicken on the stove, juicy chicken breasts on the stove
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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