Ah, the classic boneless, skinless baked chicken breast. It’s such a common entrée anyone can cook it. And it’s so versatile there are countless ways to do so. You can lightly sprinkle your chicken breast with salt and pepper, smother it in smoky barbecue sauce or anything in between. For our money, though, you can’t go wrong with lemon chicken. It’s the perfect blend of simple preparation and citrusy flavor.
Take for example this recipe we’re sharing with you. You marinate your chicken in a gustatory blend of garlic, lemon juice, onion, oil, salt, pepper and cumin for an hour or two, melt coconut oil in a skillet to prevent sticking and to add a touch of tropical flavor, then you bake. Like we said, it’s easy. Follow the recipe and you really can’t go wrong. But you can make it even better with a few bits of bonus advice.
Chicken breasts come in all sizes. Some are thin and some are thick, which means the optimal bake time for your chicken breasts is technically different every time. While this recipe calls for 20 minutes in the oven, you might actually need more or less time to reach chicken’s internal temp of 165°F.
Better Chicken, Pound for Pound
Thankfully, preventing these culinary kerfuffles only takes a couple of minutes — and a mallet. Just cover your chicken in plastic wrap or place it in a plastic bag and pound it to a uniform thickness. By doing this, you’ll set yourself up for an evenly cooked breast.
Bring Out the Brush
Here’s another go-to tip: Paint some butter—or even the coconut oil we call for—on both sides of your chicken before baking to give it a crispy, golden-brown crust. It not only tastes great, like the tips below, it also helps hold in the juices.
If you want a truly mouthwatering meal, the key ingredient is patience. A lot of other chicken breast recipes will tell you to set your oven at 400°F or higher. That’s all well and good, but it slightly increases the risk of drying out your chicken, which is most certainly not.
For moist chicken with just the right amount of juice, we recommend cooking lower and slower. In this recipe, we suggest setting your oven to 375°F. Then, when the internal temperature hits 160°F, tent the chicken with foil until it reaches the proper internal temperature. This method prevents overcooking and practically ensures a satisfactorily succulent meal.
Brine’s Time to Shine
One of our favorite ways to make your chicken extra juicy is to brine it beforehand. A quick, 30-minute soak in a mixture of water and salt softens the muscles, making your bird beautifully tender. You can try the same technique with pork chops, too.
Wait for It
Lastly, let it rest. Cutting into your chicken too soon will allow all the juices to escape. Giving it a few minutes to sit on the counter will let it fully finish cooking as it cools down and locks in the juices.
Try these tips with this recipe and taste the difference it makes.
In small bowl, whisk garlic, lemon juice, onion, oil, paprika, salt, pepper and cumin. Place chicken in large zip-top plastic bag; pour lemon mixture over chicken. Seal bag, pressing out excess air; refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Remove chicken from marinade; reserve marinade. In large oven-safe skillet, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 4 minutes or until bottom is browned. Turn chicken and top with lemon slices; place skillet in oven. Bake 10 minutes or until chicken loses its pink color throughout and internal temperature reaches 165°F. Transfer chicken to plate; loosely cover with aluminum foil.
Place skillet over medium-high heat; add reserved marinade and heat to a simmer. Simmer 3 minutes or until reduced by half, scraping browned bits from bottom of skillet with wooden spoon. To serve, spoon sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley, if desired.
Chef Tip: Serve with a simple side of sautéed baby spinach sprinkled with crushed red pepper flakes.
Approximate nutritional values per serving:
253 Calories, 14g Fat, 5g Saturated fat, 93mg Cholesterol, 316mg Sodium, 2g Carbohydrates, 0g Fiber, 1g Sugars, 29g Protein
Nutritional values are based on data from the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.