Unless you don't eat meat, chicken is an absolute staple in most diets. Chicken is consumed all over the world and is easily one of the most versatile meats out there. Chicken can be fried, grilled, baked, roasted, and poached. It goes in soups, sandwiches, pasta, pizza - you can add chicken to almost anything! But one of the most classic (and healthiest!) ways to consume chicken has got to be the good old-fashioned lone chicken breast.
Whether you're just starting out on your cooking journey or you're looking for a refresher on the basics, we've got a foolproof method for cooking chicken breast that's simple, effective, and won't take too long.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Select a baking dish that will fit all 4 breasts but will also give them enough space to be turned over and spread out. For the purposes of this recipe, a 13" by 9" baking dish will work the best.
Lightly pound the chicken breasts so they are of approximately even thickness.
Measure out 2 tablespoons of olive oil and distribute evenly in the pan. Lightly coat the chicken breasts in the olive oil, then lay them side by side (leaving some space in between) in the pan.
Sprinkle salt onto the chicken, flipping to salt both sides. Make sure to distribute your salt evenly and not oversaturate.
Slide the pan into the oven and let your chicken bake for 10 minutes. Remove the pan and flip each chicken breast. Bake for another 15 minutes. Your chicken is fully cooked when you can cut into the center and see the flesh is thoroughly white instead of pink. Please note that thicker chicken breasts will take longer to cook throughout than thinner breasts.
Cover with tinfoil and leave cooling for 5-10 minutes to allow meat juices to settle. (If your chicken is fully cooked, the juices should run clear.)
If you're pressed for time, consider baking your chicken for fewer minutes at a higher temperature. As a general rule, baking chicken at a lower temperature for a longer period of time tends to produce a dryer end result, whereas baking at, say, 450 degrees for 20 minutes will make your chicken breast slightly juicier.
Note that the ways of determining whether the meat is cooked are the same, no matter what temperature you set your oven to. There should be no traces of pink on the inside, and the chicken breast juices should come out clear.
Chicken is lower in fat and calories than most other proteins, so it can be paired with many more indulgent side options. Consider pairing your chicken breast with potato wedges, macaroni and cheese, or bacon-wrapped Brussels sprouts.
Alternatively, to keep your meal as healthy as possible, you can always add a side of green beans, lentils, couscous, or a light salad with cranberries and pistachios.
White meat tends to be quite versatile, so leftover chicken breast can be added to pasta, made into quesadillas or lettuce wraps, and of course, saved for future sandwiches.
Chicken is a great source of lean protein, and has less fat than other meats. The kind of protein chicken contains is great for muscle growth and development, and also helps you maintain a healthy body weight. The protein in chicken breasts also happen to fight bone loss, and helps to keep your eyes, teeth, kidney, liver, and nervous system healthy. Interestingly, you'll also find an amino acid in chicken called tryptophan, which increases serotonin levels in the brain and has a reputation for improving moods and relieving stress. So yep, chicken literally makes you happier!