Sautéed Chicken Breasts (Recipes Kids Should Know How to Cook Before Leaving Home)
Knowing how to sauté chicken breasts is one of the most helpful kitchen skills you can have. If you know how to cook a chicken breast, there are all kinds of meals you can make! The good news is that all you need is a stove, a pan, and some oil, salt and pepper to make delicious sautéed chicken breasts.
While cooking chicken breasts is simple, it can also be a bit tricky. Tough, dried out chicken is all too common. Don’t worry, we’re here to help make sure that doesn’t happen to you! If you overcook chicken or neglect to tenderize it beforehand, chances are you will end up with dry chicken on your hands. Trust me, I have made plenty of not-so-great chicken in my life. When I was a young cook it was really frustrating, but I eventually figured it out and now I can cook chicken no problem. The awesome thing is that there are just two things to keep in mind to make sure you chicken comes out great!
The two keys to success are tenderizing the chicken prior to cooking and then not overcooking it. The recipe below will explain in detail how to tenderize chicken and as well as how to make sure you don’t cook your chicken too long (but still long enough that your have cooked it safely). I promise neither one of these things is hard and are definitely worth paying attention to.
I recently taught my 11-year-old daughter Cate how to cook sautéed chicken breasts and she did a wonderful job. Lucky for her she’s learned the tricks of the trade early on. She’ll be much better off than I was when she leaves home!
Here is what Cate and I did…
Sautéed Chicken Breasts
Makes 2 chicken breasts, but you can easily make more or less!
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1-2 tablespoons cooking oil (like canola, vegetable, or olive oil)
- Salt & Pepper
1. Tenderize the chicken. The key to making sure your chicken will be tender and not tough is to tenderize it, either with a fork or a meat pounder. Both techniques work great, so feel free to use either.
Tenderize chicken with a fork: Place your chicken breasts on a cutting board or plate. Using a regular old fork, stab the chicken all over on both sides, so there are many holes. That’s it!
Tenderize chicken with a meat pounder: Place your chicken breast on a cutting board. Cover chicken with a piece of plastic wrap. Using a meat pounder (also known as a meat tenderizer, it kind of looks like a hammer), pound the chicken until the entire breast is thin and the same thickness all the way across the breast.
2. Season the chicken. Using your fingers, sprinkle both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper. You must always be sure to wash your hands when working with chicken. This is for health safety. I use my left hand to flip the chicken over and my right hand to sprinkle the salt and pepper. Be sure to wash both hands once you’re done seasoning the meat.
There is no need to measure your salt and pepper, just sprinkle the spices evenly (see photo below). If you use regular table salt, use a bit less salt. If you use kosher salt, which is more coarse and what I used in the photo below, you can be a bit more generous with the salt.
3. Preheat the pan. Heat a pan (also known as a skillet) over medium heat, which is right in the center of your stove dial (5 on a scale of 1-10). Let the pan preheat for 3-5 minutes.
4. Cook the chicken. While the pan is heating, add about 1-2 tablespoons of cooking oil to the pan. Holding the pan by its long handle, tip the pan so the oil can spread around the pan. Once the oil in the pan is heated (you know once the oil looks like it is “shimmering”), carefully place the chicken breasts in the pan with tongs, sliding them around a bit to help spread the oil. Cook on the first side about 4-5 minutes, then flip the chicken with the tongs and cook for 4-5 minutes more.
The very best way to know if the chicken is cooked is to you use an instant-read thermometer. You can take the chicken out of the pan when the internal temperature at the thickest part of the chicken breast is 165º F. If you do not have a thermometer, gently cut a small slit in the thickest part of the chicken to check for doneness – you should not see any pink. Start checking around the 8 minute mark then check every minute after that until done.
Also, the different pieces of chicken in the pan may cook faster or slower than each other. Take each piece off the pan as soon as it is done, even if other pieces have to stay in the pan longer to cook.
5. Eat the chicken! Once the chicken is done, remove from the pan and let it sit on a plate or cutting board for a few minutes before slicing to allow the meat to “rest,” which lets the juices finish circulating within the meat (i.e. it will taste better!). Eat and enjoy!
Published September 27, 2016. Last updated July 19, 2017.