The best way to bake chicken breasts is with your convection oven, but you can cook in any oven. Your dinner will be ready in about 30 minutes and will be healthy, moist, and tender every time. Quick and easy with just a few easy secrets any home cook can master.
Learn the three secrets that are easy and will give your perfect results every time. Cooked right, your chicken will be juicy, tender, and favorable—a new family favorite. Cooked wrong, and we are taking dry rubbery and tasteless—I call that a hockey puck.
It is time to get back to some basics with healthy skinless boneless chicken breasts; you love them but hate to cook them. That ends now.
Let's go through the basic technique. You can modify the results with your favorite seasoning and adjust the technique to your needs.
There are several important points to getting your chicken breasts perfect.
- Even out the thickness of the meat.
- Cook in a high oven to exactly 165°.
- Rest after cooking for at least 5 minutes.
A solid five, even if it is just chicken. It is perfectly done.
We are dealing with skinless boneless chicken breasts, which are the most popular meat to cook at home. If done correctly, they will be moist, tender, and delicious. But if not cooked correctly, they will be dry and tough.
I prefer fresh, but frozen can be fine but must be completely thawed. A few will come pre-brined, which is fine, but please do not brine or salt again.
Try to pick breasts that are about the same size and thickness.
🔪Preparing the Chicken
Trim any trimmable fat and look for blood vessels and even bones. Pat dry and do not rinse. See Chicken… To Rinse or Not To Rinse? for a safety discussion about rinsing.
The most crucial part of preparation is the evening out. Some breasts are too thick to cook well. By evening out the thickness some, you will ensure more even cooking. Otherwise, the thinner parts of the breast will be overcooked when the thickest part is done.
We need to adjust the thickness so all the breasts you are cooking are about the same. Try to get them to about ¾ inch thick. Don't measure, don't obsess, just knock the thickest part down a bit.
Use a 1-gallon zip-lock bag to prevent splatter, but plastic wrap will do. Do not just pound the chicken without protecting yourself from spattering (a significant health hazard). You should assume that any chicken is contaminated with salmonella.
Use a meat mallet, but you can use the bottom of a pan if you don’t have one. You have something you can use.
Brining will improve the moisture and texture of any chicken. So if you have time, it is always a good idea.
WARNING: A few chicken breasts will come pre-brined or injected. Do not brine those breasts, and do not use salt-containing seasoning for cooking with them.
Brining is more important if you are dealing with previously frozen chicken which can lose some moisture.
The ratio for a brine is 2 cups of water and one tablespoon of table salt. Some people will add some brown sugar equal to the salt. Remember that all salt is not identical, and 1 teaspoon table salt = 1 ¼ teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
As little as 15 minutes makes a big difference. But you can brine for up to 2 hours if you want. This is a "heavy brine" in the amount of salt and matches the Cooks Illustrated suggestions. You may see longer brine times suggested, but please limit it to 2 hours maximum.
🧂Seasoning Baked Chicken Breasts
Start with a brush of melted butter or olive oil. Some will worry about the smoke point, but it is not an issue since the meat it is coating will get nowhere close to the smoke point.
The choices of spices are wide open. I suggest a good sprinkle of paprika and garlic powder along with salt and pepper. The salt should be eliminated if the breasts are brined.
Two other options I like, both with salt in them, are my All Purpose Seasoning - 7:2:1 and 7:2:2 or just a good sprinkle of a seasoning salt like Lowrys.
Thyme, oregano, or onion powder can be added if you wish.
Heat it up some by switching out my paprika for chili powder or add a pinch of cayenne pepper.
Try Italian or Cajun seasoning for more tastes.
Some people like to add sugar to their seasoning to get more caramelization and browning.
♨️How to Cook Chicken Breasts
If you get nothing else out of this, the primary key to moist and tasty chicken breasts is in the final internal temperature of 165° to meet safety guidelines. Do not overcook—it will lead to drying and poor texture. Do not undercook due to safety guidelines.
A high oven is the way to go here. 400° convection or even more is the best choice. This is lean meat, and a lower temperature will dry it out.
A convection oven will not only cook quicker but will help seal the outside and keep the meat moist.
Like all meat cooking, your time will vary by the thickness of the meat, the exact starting temperature of the meat, and your oven. So always cook chicken breast to a final internal temperature of 165° for safety.
Rest the Chicken After Cooking
Be sure you rest the cooked chicken before cutting to allow all of the juices to reabsorb into the meat keeping your chicken breast moist.
5 minutes is usually enough. If longer, tent with foil to keep warm.
🌡️⏰How Long to Bake Chicken Breasts
An average size chicken breast will take about 23 to 26 minutes at 400° convection (425°conventional).
Convection Baking Times
The conventional oven setting is 25° higher than the convection temperature, but 450° conventional is not recommended due to drying.
Some people will remove the chicken a few degrees short of the 165° target, assuming (probably correctly) that it will increase a few degrees after removal from the oven. I prefer to be sure of safety issues and suggest cooking to 165°.
An instant-read or other meat thermometer must be used for safety. There are too many variables to cook by time or color. Cooking too long will dry out the chicken. To short will be dangerous.
Almost any tray with sides or shallow baking pan or dish will work. It needs to be big enough to leave some space between the breasts and not "crowd the pan."
I like to place chicken breasts on a rack to get the breasts up and out of any moisture. I also like to use a good spray of PAM on the pan and some aluminum foil or parchment paper to cover the bottom of the pan to help clean up.
No, bake open to the high temperature of the oven.
Yes, but that may cut the cooking time some and over brown the surface. But this is variable by your oven.
The difference between convection bake and convection roast will vary some by the brand of the oven but usually, bake just will heat with the bottom oven element, and roast will use the broiling element.
Good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and, if sealed well, can freeze for 3-4 months.
📖Chicken Breast Recipes
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Step-by-Step Photo Instructions
Preheat the oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional. Rack in the middle of the oven.
Trim two skinless boneless chicken breasts of trimmable fat.
Place the chicken in a ziplock bag and flatten the breasts to about ¾ inches thick with a meat mallet or heavy pan.
If doing a brine, mix 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons table salt. 15 minutes will give some results—2-hour maximum. Be sure to rinse off the brine before proceeding.
You may use the seasoning you want. Here is a suggested seasoning ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Leave out the salt if using a brine.
Prep a small baking dish with a spray of PAM.
Pat dry the chicken. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in the microwave and brush both sides of the chicken.
Apply your seasoning to your taste.
Bake in the preheated oven. It will take about 23-26 minutes and is done when the internal temperature is 165° in the thickest part of the breasts. Check the chicken temperature 4-5 minutes early so as not to overcook.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
How to Bake Chicken Breasts in a Convection Oven
- 2 Skinless Boneless Chicken Breasts
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon table salt
Suggested Seasoning -Use what you want
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt - Skip salt if you brined
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Preheat oven to 400° convection or 425° conventional.
- Trim two skinless boneless chicken breasts of any trimmable fat.
- Place the chicken in a ziplock bag and flatten the breasts to about ¾ inches thick with a meat mallet or heavy pan.
- If doing a brine, mix 2 cups of water with 2 tablespoons table salt. 15 minutes will give some results. 2-hour maximum.
- You may use the seasoning you want. My suggested seasoning is ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon paprika, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Leave the salt out if you have brined.
- Prep a small baking dish with a spray of PAM. Use a rack if you have one.
- Pat dry the chicken. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in the microwave and brush both sides of the chicken. Apply your rub to your taste.
- Bake in the preheated oven. It will take about 23-26 minutes and is done when the internal temperature is 165° in the thickest part of the breasts. Check the internal temperature of the chicken about 5 minutes early.
- Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Your Own Private Notes
- The brine is optional but always a good idea especially if the breasts have been previously frozen. Remember that all salt is not equal and 1 teaspoon table salt = 1 ¼ teaspoon Morton kosher salt = 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt.
- If using frozen breasts, they must be fully thawed before starting.
- If you brine, be sure to rinse off the brine and do not use any seasoning with salt.
- Flatten the chicken to about ¾ inch thick: the more consistent the thickness, the more even the cooking and better results.
- To save time, you can use a seasoning salt like Lowrys with some pepper for the seasoning if you didn't brine.
- The time estimate is provided only for planning purposes. The thicker or bigger breasts may take longer, smaller or thinner take even less time. There are other variables also so stay alert.
- Do not overcook - will lead to drying and poor texture. Do not undercook due to safety.
- You can not get this right without using a thermometer.
- Be sure to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Good in the refrigerator for 3-4 days and frozen for 3-4 months.
- A great recipe to scale up or down for your needs.
To adjust the recipe size:
You may adjust the number of servings in this recipe card under servings. This does the math for the ingredients for you. BUT it does NOT adjust the text of the instructions. So you need to do that yourself.
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Originally Published April 16, 2019. Updated with expanded options, refreshed photos, and a table of contents to help navigation.