For a long time I struggled to work out how to cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts perfectly every time. They’d come out either dry or under done. It’s like there was no middle ground. I end up with a lot of them because Costco and Sam’s Club have chicken and beef that scores decently on the humane scale, but they only have a limit selection of cuts. They have ground beef, boneless, skinless thighs, wings, whole chickens, and boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
I got sick of failing with chicken breasts and started looking into the cooking techniques. Turns out that boneless, skinless chicken breasts are particularly difficult to cook because of their low fat content and removal of the skin that helps lock in moisture. So, in our ridiculous war on fat, we had rendered the chicken breast dry and tasteless. Well, at least I wasn’t the only one having trouble.
I found some pretty interesting cooking techniques from a time before fat was feared. One involved “threading” bacon fat through the lean meat with a special needle in order to make the cut more fatty, making it more moist and tender. That seemed like a lot of work but it was fascinating to read about. I ended up going with a technique that works by immersing the chicken in fat while it is cooking and then sealing it while it finishes cooking through much as the skin would have. Seriously, all that added materials that could have been resolved by leaving the skin on.
I’ve also added in a pan sauce because, with some veggies, it creates an easy complete meal. The technique for a pan sauce is easy to master and then just changes depending what spices you’d like to add. Here I have lemon and basil on hand so I threw some in with a bit of garlic and salt and voila! a fancy looking sauce for the chicken!
So, here it is, a demonstration on how to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts perfectly every time.
For the chicken:
2 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons cooking fat (I used bacon fat)
For the sauce:
Pan the chicken was cooked in
Additional cooking fat as needed
Aromatics (I used 2 cloves of garlic)
3/4 cup of chicken broth
Something acidic (I used about a tablespoon of lemon. Wine or vinegar are other options.)
Herbs (I used a handful of fresh basil)
2 tablespoons butter
1 heaped teaspoon tapioca flour
For the chicken:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
Heat a pan over medium high heat until just starting to smoke. While heating the pan, cut the chicken breasts in half length wise (so you’ll have two long, thin halves). Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and add cooking fat to the pan. Let the fat melt then add two halves. The breast meat should not be touching. Let cook for 2 minutes, until brown. Do not fully cover. If using a loose cover like I did or a grease guard, watch the chicken to make sure it doesn’t get too hot and begin to burn. Reduce temperature as needed.
When the chicken is browned, flip to the other side and cook another 2 minutes, until brown. Remove and set on an oven-safe dish. Cook the other two halves and add to the dish. Tent the dish with foil and place in middle of the oven.
For the pan sauce:
Reduce the heat to low and cut up aromatics. Saute briefly until garlic is golden and the onions clear, 30 seconds to a minute. Add chicken broth and increase heat to medium high. Reduce the chicken broth to about half volume then add the acidic ingredient. Continue to reduce and add herbs and butter, whisking together. When there’s about 3/4 cups of liquid left and you can see the sauce thickening, add the tapioca slowly, whisking it in quickly so it doesn’t clump.
Remove the chicken from the oven and serve with sauce over veggies or cauliflower rice!
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