How to Cook the Perfect Oven-Baked Chicken Breast
Here's a foolproof method for cooking juicy, flavorful chicken breast in the oven—plus five killer sauces to serve with it.
A baked chicken breast is the unsung hero of weeknight dinners. It's far simpler than cooking chicken breast on the stove—and it's guaranteed to please even the pickiest family members. No, oven-baked chicken breast is not the sexiest dinner you'll ever make (especially if it's the skinless, boneless kind), but it is definitely one of the easiest, most satisfying ones.
The thing is, when a baked chicken breast goes wrong, it really goes wrong. Overcook it, and it's dry and rubbery. Underseason it, and it's bland and boring. Fortunetly, we've devised a foolproof method for cooking a super juicy and flavor-packed baked chicken breast. What's our secret? A.) A kickass marinade, B.) The perfect baking dish, and C.) A killer sauce.
Make this versatile oven-baked chicken breast recipe on a weeknight, and serve alongside sauteed spinach, steamed broccoli, roasted butternut squash, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, or rice pilaf—the possibilities are endless. This easy chicken is also delicious sliced and mixed into pasta, tossed with a green salad, or stuffed inside warm pita bread.
Step One: Marinate the Chicken Breasts
Marinating your chicken breasts beforehand boosts their flavor and keeps them moist and tender during baking. For our baked chicken, we use a simple, Greek-inspired marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and fresh herbs. For the best flavor, use a high-quality olive oil. Fresh oregano adds a bright, earthy punch to the chicken that you just can't get from dried herbs.
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Lemon juice, or any acid for that matter, is a key ingredient of our marinade—it works to break down tough muscle fibers in the meat so that the oil and other ingredients can work their magic. But because acid can also prematurely cook meat (that's how you make ceviche), you don't want to marinate the chicken for too long. Twenty minutes is just enough to let the flavors infuse and tenderzie the chicken. Lastly, using a generous amount of salt makes your chicken even tastier and juicier.
Here's how to make our simple baked chicken breast marinade—the amounts below are enough for two chicken breasts, but they can easily be doubled:
- Juice from ½ lemon
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 2 cloves chopped fresh garlic
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Combine all of these ingredients in a large bowl, then add the chicken breasts. (Our chicken breasts were on the thicker side, so we pounded them out a small amount to ensure even cooking.) Using a pair of tongs (or clean hands), work the marinade into the chicken, making sure it's well-coated. Place the chicken and any remaining marinade liquid into a large zip-top plastic bag. Lie flat in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
Guess what? The majority of your work is done. The next steps are easy-breezy.
Step Two: Bake the Chicken Breasts
While your chicken marinates, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Next, choose your baking vessel. A glass or ceramic baking dish works best, although we noticed better browning abilities from the latter one. We love Staub's Ceramic Stoneware Baking Dish, which you can snag at Williams-Sonoma in several sizes. For two chicken breasts, an 11" x 7" baking dish is plenty big. For 3 or more, use a 13" x 9" baking dish.
Next, place the chicken breasts into the baking dish, and pour any extra marinade (a.k.a FLAVOR) over top. Bake until the chicken is no longer pink on the inside or a meat thermometer registers 165 degrees. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken breasts. Once out of the oven, let the chicken rest (don't skip this step!) for about 10 minutes before slicing and plating.
Step Three: Get Saucy
Last but not least—because baked chicken breasts can look a little naked on the plate, let's throw together a simple sauce to brighten things up. Not to mention, a sauce also makes your chicken even tastier. Here are five easy sauces you can make in the time that your chicken bakes. Drizzle or spread them over your chicken—or pour some into a ramekin and dip away:
And there you have it—a delicious, staple dinner you can easily whip up on a weeknight. You can also bake chicken breasts at the beginning of the week—and use them for quick sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas, and more.