Skinless chicken breast is a healthy source of protein with less saturated fat, cholesterol and calories than red meat. You sacrifice some built-in flavor for going healthier, but don't despair. Chicken has such mild flavor, you can do pretty much anything to it to please your palate. The most important part of baking one pound of chicken breast is not overcooking it. Baked even a little too long, white poultry meat quickly dries out. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to reliably determine doneness. Bake at a moderate temperature -- 375 degrees Fahrenheit is good -- to prevent overcooked outer meat by the time breasts are cooked through.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Turn it on at least 20 minutes ahead of time to ensure it fully heats up. Grease a baking dish or the bottom of a roasting pan with canola or another cooking oil.
Dab all the surface areas of the chicken breasts with paper towels to dry them. Brush them with cooking oil, citrus juice, soy sauce or another liquid. Season them liberally with salt and pepper, along with other desired flavoring agents, such as citrus zest, minced garlic or ginger, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, sage, parsley, marjoram, oregano or dill. Pre-made poultry or beef rubs work well, too, as do Cajun or blackening seasoning mixes. You can also dredge the chicken breasts in all-purpose flour mixed with seasonings to bread them.
Place the pound of chicken breasts flat-side down in the pan. Leave a little space between them. Put the poultry into the middle of the oven. Bake the chicken for approximately 30 minutes. However, cooking time varies by thickness of the breasts, how well your oven maintains its set temperature, the color and material of the pan and other factors, so it's not a reliable measure. Use an instant-read thermometer in the center of the thickest part of a breast and cook to an internal temperature of 160 F. The chicken's juices also run completely clear when it's fully cooked.
Things You'll Need
Baking dish or roasting pan
Brine chicken breasts before baking them to help keep them juicy and tender. Fill a glass or ceramic baking dish with about 6 cups of water to submerge one pound of chicken breasts, or replace half the water with fruit juice, wine, soy sauce, tea, beer, vinegar, stock or other liquid. Dissolve about 1/2 cup of kosher salt and 1/4 cup of sugar or brown sugar in the liquid and add any aromatics, spices, or herbs you want. Soak the chicken in the brine in the refrigerator for up to 6 hours.
Don't rinse your chicken breasts off after opening the package. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture notes, this doesn't kill bacteria, and it risks spreading bacteria around your kitchen. Adequate cooking eliminates bacteria.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Chicken from Farm to Table
- American Heart Association: Eat More Chicken, Fish and Beans than Red Meat
- Betty Crocker: Seasoned Oven-Roasted Chicken
- Fine Cooking: Why Brining Keeps Turkey and Other Meat So Moist
- What's Cooking America: Guidelines for Perfect Brining Poultry