How to Cook a Thick Chicken Breast

fried lemon pepper chicken
To cut calories, pan-fry a thick chicken breast without the skin. (Image: Paul Cowan/iStock/Getty Images)

The meat on a chicken is either white or dark, depending upon where it is on the bird. Breast meat is white because it develops more fat over time, unlike the legs, which do the work of carrying the bird around. So a whole or half chicken breast can be quite thick and difficult to pan-fry. The secret lies in reducing the thickness so that the chicken cooks evenly. Using this method, you can cook a thick boneless, skinless chicken breast on top of the stove and have it on the table in about 30 minutes.

Step 1

Use the tongs to remove the chicken breast from the packaging and lay it out onto waxed paper. Pat it dry with paper towels. Discard the paper towels and packaging immediately.

Step 2

Place another sheet of waxed paper over the chicken breast to completely cover it. Use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound the meat until it measures a uniform 1/2-inch thickness from end to end. Discard the top piece of waxed paper.

Step 3

Heat about 1 tablespoon of butter or olive oil in the sauté pan over medium-high until it's hot but not smoking and, using the tongs, place the chicken breast carefully in the pan. Season the top of the chicken breast with salt and pepper to taste, and cook for one minute.

Step 4

Flip the chicken breast, season the other side with salt and pepper, and cook the other side for about a minute. Cover the pan and cook for 10 more minutes over low heat without lifting the lid. Set a timer to remind you of when the exact time has elapsed.

Step 5

Turn the burner off and let the pan rest for another 10 minutes with the cover still on to retain the steam and help the juices redistribute throughout the chicken breast.

Step 6

Remove the lid and serve the chicken breast immediately, or allow it to cool slightly before using it in a recipe or refrigerating it for use later. Insert a meat thermometer into the center of the chicken breast and look for a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which indicates that the meat is safe to eat.

Things You'll Need

  • Waxed paper

  • Meat mallet or rolling pin

  • Tongs

  • Paper towels

  • Deep sauté pan with lid

  • Olive or vegetable oil, or butter

  • Salt

  • Pepper

  • Poultry seasoning


Use other seasonings in addition to the salt and pepper, but go lightly, as it doesn't take much to overpower the bland flavor of chicken. Experiment with herbs, such as crushed rosemary, sage, thyme, marjoram, coriander, curry powder, paprika or basil, as well as seasonings such as garlic and onion powder.

Add crispness to the chicken breast by dusting it in flour before cooking. Use about 1/4 cup flour for as many as four chicken breasts, dredge completely and shake off excess flour before placing them in the pan.

If you are using a whole chicken breast, cut it in half to make it easier to handle. Place the chicken breast rounded side up on a cutting board used only for meats, and using a very sharp knife, cut right down the center of it lengthwise. Pound the two pieces separately to the desired thickness.

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