If you struggle with getting juicy tender chicken, then I’ve got all the tips and tricks for cooking the most tender chicken you’ve ever had.
Chicken is one of the most common proteins we eat. Of course we want chicken that is cooked through but how long does it take chicken to cook until it’s tender and not dry and flavorless.
The general rule is to cook chicken until the internal temperature at the meatiest part reaches 165º for a chicken breast and 165º to 175º for a chicken thigh. How long it takes depends on your cooking method.
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How long to bake a bone in chicken breast at 350º
The easiest, and my favorite way to cook a chicken breast, is to start with a bone in chicken breast with skin. Drizzle it with olive oil and seasoning and bake it.
A bone in chicken breast will have more flavor and the skin will keep it moist while it bakes. You can always remove the skin if you don’t want to eat it but leaving it on during the cooking process makes a big difference.
How long will it take for chicken to cook at 350º using this method, about 35 minutes depending on how thick the chicken breast is. It’s so quick and easy!
Cooking chicken breasts using this method is great when you want to make chicken chili or have a recipe that calls for cooked chicken. Try making a large batch and freezing it for when you want to make Southwest chicken and rice or Buffalo chicken dip.
How to cook chicken in a pan
If you want to use a skillet to cook a chicken breast, you’ll want to choose a boneless skinless chicken breast. The first step is to pound it thin so that one part is not thicker than another.
If the chicken breasts are very large, you can just slice it horizontally in two, otherwise, use a meat mallet or whatever you have that’s handy, and pound it between two pieces of plastic wrap until it’s about ½ inch thick. Pat dry and add any seasoning.
Heat some olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. When it’s hot, add the chicken and cook on one side for about 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to medium and cook the other side. Once you’ve turned it you can add some butter for extra flavor!
When it has reached 165º remove it and let it rest for 5 minutes tented under some aluminum foil. This will help seal in all the juices.
How to tell if chicken is done
The best way to be certain that chicken is cooked through is to use an internal thermometer. This is the one kitchen gadget that I can’t live without. Whether I’m using it to check chicken meatballs or cooking steaks. It’s a one time purchase that lasts forever. However, if you don’t have one handy, you’ll need to cut into the thickest part of the breast and make sure there is no pink color.
When checking with the internal thermometer, place it in the thickest part of the chicken.
How to make tender chicken breasts
- My go-to method for tender chicken breasts is to let them soak in buttermilk for at least 30 minutes but ideally overnight. The high acidity in buttermilk helps tenderize the chicken. If you let it soak for longer than 24 hours, it can make it rubbery. Before cooking, you will want to rinse off the buttermilk and pat it dry. This will make your Queso Chicken, or whatever recipe you’re making so much more tender.
Pro tip: If you’re out of buttermilk, you can make your own with just two ingredients. Here are three different methods for how to make your own buttermilk.
- Another method for tender chicken breasts is to wet brine the chicken by placing it in a bowl of water with a handful of salt. It will take at least 30 minutes to see any benefits. You can also brine it overnight. Much longer and you risk the chicken breaking down and becoming salty and mushy. If brining overnight, you’ll need to refrigerate it. If doing a quick brine, use lukewarm water and leave it at room temperature for 30 minutes. Make sure you rinse the salt brine off and pat dry before cooking.
- A final method for tender chicken is to dry brine it. This works best for chicken with skin like thighs or wings. Salt is placed all over the chicken and it sits uncovered in the refrigerator for at least an hour and up to 24 hours. The salt draws moisture from the skin creating an extra crispy skin when cooked. You can check out a dry brine used on these chicken wings.
How to clean up after raw chicken
When handling raw chicken, you run the risk of contaminating other food with bacteria that can cause food poisoning. So you’ll need to clean all surfaces that have come in contact with raw chicken, including the sink. Simply wiping things down will not do the trick.
There is a two step process you should use any time you have dealt with raw chicken.
Step 1: First clean the surfaces with hot soapy water, use a paper towel so as not to contaminate your dish cloth. If using a dish cloth, place it in the laundry to be washed in hot water as soon as you have finished wiping it down.
Step 2: Wiping down with hot water is not enough to kill all of the bacteria, some bacteria found on chicken can live on your counter for up to four hours after simple washing the surface. So once the surface is dry, you need to sanitize the surfaces including your sink.
You can use a sanitizing wipe or spray to sanitize the surfaces. For more information you can check out the USDA’s suggestions.
Don’t forget to do the same process with any utensils you have used that have come in contact with raw chicken, like a cutting board. I try to put all of these in the dishwasher.
Leftover chicken breast recipes
Now that you have mastered cooking tender chicken breasts, make extra and use in these recipes that call for cooked chicken.
FAQs and Tips
Raw chicken contains bacteria that is killed when cooked to 165º. If you undercook chicken you run the risk of getting food poisoning.
If using a wet or dry brine, it should not brine for more than 24 hours.
To clean up after raw chicken, first clean with hot soapy water and then sanitize with a bleach solution or wipe.
You can substitute chicken stock for broth, they can be used interchangeably. Chicken stock is made from bones and has more flavor than broth. Bone broth is a type of stock that has even more nutrients and flavor than traditional stock.