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Juicy Pan-Fried Chicken Breast

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Learn how to make pan-fried chicken breast; it’s one of the fastest and easiest ways of cooking juicy chicken for dinner. You can cook thick pieces or thin slices of chicken breast in the pan.

close up golden brown chicken breast on a bed of rocket.

Make this easy pan-fried chicken breast recipe today, and you will return to it again and again, probably at least once a week.

Not only can you serve the pan-seared chicken breasts with your favorite sides for a complete, healthy, and delicious meal, but you can also use the stovetop chicken for meal prep, for making salads, sandwiches, wraps, enchiladas, and so on.

And check out other delicious ways of using a pan for cooking chicken. Learn How to Cook Chicken Drumsticks on the Stove, try the Quick Pan-fried Chicken Wings, or the Crispy Panko Fried Chicken. You can even pan-fry Frozen Chicken Breast.

Or learn How to Cook Thin Sliced Chicken Breast.

Advantages of cooking chicken on the stovetop

  • Fast: Boneless skinless chicken breast pieces need between 6 and 15 minutes in the pan, depending on their thickness. The preliminary work takes minutes as well.
  • Few ingredients: All you need is the poultry, a bit of oil, and a few spices (whatever you happen to have and like, no need to buy anything special).
  • Versatile: Serve as a main dish with your favorite sides or use for making other dishes.

Recipe ingredients

two chicken breasts on a plate, bowls of canola oil and poultry seasoning.

Boneless chicken breasts:

  • Easily the most popular chicken cut, the breasts are lean, thus low in calories, and rich in protein and other essential nutrients. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to integrate into a healthy diet or meal planning.

Should I use thick or thin pieces?

That’s up to you. To serve 4 people, you will need either 4 large pieces or 8 thin slices of chicken breast. You can either buy already sliced cutlets or cut them yourself.

Thick pieces

  • They look prettier and are perfect when you want to serve them as a main meal with potatoes and salad, for instance.
  • One piece typically weighs between 6 and 10 oz/ 175 – 225 g and serves one person, so it’s easier to decide how many pieces to cook.
  • You will have to pound them to an even thickness to prevent the thinner parts from drying before the thicker parts have enough time to cook.
  • However, pan-frying them takes a bit longer, and you must ensure they are cooked through at their thickest part.

Thin pieces

  • They are perfect for making sandwiches, slicing for salads, or making wraps.
  • They cook much faster; it can take as little as 4-6 minutes to have them ready.
  • Depending on how evenly they are cut, you could skip the pounding part, although a bit of meat tenderizing is always a good idea.

Other ingredients:

  • Oil: Use an oil with a high smoking point, like canola or vegetable oil. You will need one tablespoon for rubbing the pieces and 2 tablespoons of oil for pan-frying.
  • Spices: Salt and a little black pepper are a must; anything else is up to you. But the better the spice rub, the more flavorful the results.
    • You can keep it simple by using salt, pepper, and whatever dried herbs or spices (garlic powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, onion powder) you have in your cupboard.
  • Use your favorite store-bought poultry spice mixture (like I did this time).
  • Try curry or other spices mixtures like Cajun seasoning, Ras-el-hanout, Italian herbs, lemon pepper, and so on – the sky is the limit.
  • For more seasoning ideas, check out Baked Chicken Drumsticks.

What kind of frying pan do I need?

Preferably a large skillet that will hold four chicken pieces. If the pan is small, cook two pieces of chicken breast at a time.

I prefer a large nonstick pan or a cast iron skillet with a 12 inches/30 cm diameter (Amazon affiliate links). If you have a skillet, you can also make this Cast-Iron Skillet Chicken Breast.

You can use a stainless steel pan, but in this case, you might need a bit more oil to prevent the meat from sticking to it.

Step-by-step instructions

Thick chicken breast pieces

Tenderize the meat:

  • A super important step when cooking larger chicken breast pieces in the pan. The parts will be unevenly thick; the thickest part can be as thick as 2 inches/ 5 cm, while the thinner parts could be half as thick. Tenderizing also makes the cooked pieces… well… tender.
  • If you don’t pound the breast pieces to make them even in thickness, the thinner parts will dry out in the pan by the time the thicker parts are cooked through.
  • Place the breasts on a cutting board (I have one that I use exclusively for chicken). Cover them with a plastic wrap and pound them to an even thickness; they should be about 1 -1 ½ inches/ 2 ½ – 3 ½ cm thick.
  • You can use a meat tenderizer/ meat mallet. Should you not have one, a small, thick-bottomed, heavy pan or saucepan should do the job (Amazon affiliate link).

Season: Dry the pieces with paper towels and rub them with a bit of oil. Season them well on both sides.

Cook:

  • Heat oil in a large pan. Once the oil is hot, place the seasoned chicken breast in the pan. Sear for 5 minutes on medium heat without moving. Check gently if you can release it from the pan easily; if not, give it another minute or so (1).
  • Flip and cook for another 5 minutes. If the outside seems to be getting too dark, lower the heat a bit more.
  • Flip again and continue cooking until cooked through; it will take another couple of minutes (2).

Check that the pan-fried chicken breasts are cooked and rest for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

collage of two pictures of cooking seasoned chicken breasts in a pan.

Thin chicken breasts

Tenderizing is optional if the pieces are evenly cut. However, I recommend it.

Season: Dry and rub the pieces with the oil and sprinkle them with the spices.

Cook:

  • Heat the oil in the pan.
  • Cook chicken slices for 3-4 minutes per side. When cooking thinner pieces, you can keep the temperature to medium-high. This will allow the parts to achieve a nice color during the short cooking time. Lower the heat to medium if they seem too dark too soon.

How long does it take to cook chicken breast in the pan?

  • Thin-sliced pieces: 3-4 minutes per side.
  • Thick chicken breasts: 7- 9 oz/ 200 – 250 g/ 1 -1 ½ inches/ 2 ½ – 3 ½ cm thick – a total of about 10-12 minutes.
  • Check that the pan-fried chicken breast is safely cooked and let it rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

How to check if the chicken is cooked through?

The best way to check is with a meat thermometer; it’s one of the kitchen gadgets I always recommend buying (together with a digital kitchen scale, which I could not live without) (Amazon affiliate links).

Pan-fry the chicken breasts until they reach an internal temperature of 155°F / 69°C, and let them rest, covered for 5 to 10 minutes, depending on size. They will continue cooking as they rest, reaching the safe internal temperature, which is 165°F/ 74°C.

pan seared chicken breasts sliced and close up.

Expert Tips

  • Thickness: The parts should not be thicker than 1 -1 ½ inches/ 2 ½ – 3 ½ cm thick, and they should be as even as possible to ensure even cooking.
  • Oil and pan temperature: Both should be hot so the meat can sear and brown quickly on the outside while remaining juicy inside. However, the oil should not be smoking. If that happens, remove the pan from the hob and wait a few minutes for the oil to cool down a bit.
  • To check if the temperature is correct, lift a piece with the tongs and hold just the tip of it in the oil; if it sizzles, the temperature is suitable for cooking.
  • Ensure you use an oil with a high smoking point, like canola; olive oil is unsuitable for this recipe.
  • Use tongs to flip the parts, don’t stick a fork into the breasts.

Recipe FAQ

Can I use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs?

Not for this recipe, the cooking time would be very different. But check out how to make Cast-Iron Chicken Thighs, for instance.

Can I use boneless chicken thighs?

Yes, the cooking time and technique are pretty much the same; ensure that the meat is cooked through.

Why is the chicken dry?

You’ve overcooked it. The best way to prevent that is to ensure that the breast pieces are evenly pounded and not to leave the meat in the pan for too long.
Check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer; it should be 155°F/ 69°F. After resting, the internal temperature should have reached the safety level of 165°F/ 74°C, and the chicken should be cooked while still moist.

How to store?

Refrigerate leftover pan-fried chicken breast in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Enjoy the leftovers cold or reheat them.
Freeze in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge.

How to reheat?

Microwave: 60-90 seconds on high.
Pan: gently, on low heat, and flipping often.
Oven: at 375°F/ 180°C, lightly covered with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes.
Air fryer: at 350°F/ 175°C for about 5 minutes, flipping halfway.

How to serve?

Serve the pan-fried chicken breast immediately or cool in a salad or sandwich.

  • Slice and serve it on top of salads or bowls. Try our Grilled Peached Salad, for instance.
  • Use the pan-fried chicken breasts to make tacos, burritos, wraps, or Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas.
  • Make sandwiches or add chopped pieces to soups, pasta dishes, or risotto.
two pan fried chicken breast on a plate with rocket.

More chicken breast recipes

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close up golden brown chicken breast on a bed of rocket.

Juicy Pan-Fried Chicken Breast

Learn how to make pan-fried chicken breast; it’s one of the fastest ways of making juicy chicken for dinner. You can cook thick pieces or thin slices of chicken breast in the pan.
5 from 1 vote
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Course: Main Course, Main Dish, Poultry
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 12 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 226kcal
Author: Adina

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 4 thick or 8 thin-cut chicken breasts Note 2
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil divided Note 3
  • 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning Note 4
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt or Kosher Note 5 – Important!

Instructions

Thick chicken breasts:

  • Tenderize: Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board. Cover them with plastic foil and pound them to an even thickness; the pieces shouldn’t be thicker than 1 -1 ½ inches/ 2 ½ – 3 ½ cm.
  • Season: Dry the chicken with paper towels and rub the pieces with one tablespoon of oil. Season them well on both sides.
  • Cook: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan (Note 6). Place the breasts in the pan. Pan fry for 5 minutes on medium heat without moving. Check gently if you can release it from the pan easily; if not, give it another minute or two.
  • Flip and cook for another 5 minutes. If the outside of the chicken seems to be getting too dark, lower the heat. Flip again and continue cooking until the chicken is cooked; it will take another couple of minutes.
  • Rest the chicken loosely covered with aluminum foil for about 10 minutes before serving; the internal temperature should reach the safe level of 165°F/ 74°C.

Thin chicken breast pieces:

  • Tenderizing is optional if the pieces are evenly cut. However, I recommend it.
  • Season: Dry and rub the pieces with 1 tablespoon of the oil and sprinkle them with the spices.
  • Pan-fry: Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Cook the slices for 3-4 minutes per side on medium-high. This will allow the pieces to achieve a nice color during the short cooking time. Lower the heat to medium if they seem too dark too soon.
  • Rest the chicken loosely covered with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes before serving; the safe internal temperature is 165°F/ 74°C.

Notes

  1. I prefer a cast-iron skillet or a nonstick pan. Stainless steel is also great, but you might need more oil to prevent the chicken from sticking to the pan. Add more fat when you flip the chicken (Amazon affiliate links).
  2. The thick chicken breasts weigh between 6 and 10 oz/ 175 – 225 g, and one piece serves one person.
    Thin-cut chicken breasts are halved thick pieces. You can cut them yourself or buy them already sliced. You will need 2 pieces per person.
  3. Use an oil with a high smoking point.
  4. Or any other seasoning of your choice. Try curry, Ras-el-hanout, Cajun, or Italian seasoning. Or check out Baked Chicken Drumsticks for more seasoning ideas.
  5. Check if the poultry seasoning already contains salt and adjust the salt you need accordingly. If the seasoning contains salt, sprinkle the chicken breasts only very lightly with extra salt. Otherwise, use the required salt amount.
  6. The pan and the oil should be hot but not smoking. To check if the temperature is correct, lift a piece of chicken with the tongs and hold just the tip of it in the oil; if it sizzles, the temperature is suitable for cooking.

Nutrition

Serving: 1breast | Calories: 226kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 72mg | Sodium: 721mg | Potassium: 425mg | Fiber: 0.1g | Sugar: 0.03g | Vitamin A: 61IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg
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