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Sautéing Chicken Breasts- need help with the basics

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
I’m embarrassed to admit I could use some advice with the basic principle of sauteing boneless skinless chicken breasts. Here is what I do:

Stainless steel pan set on medium heat. Once pan is hot, add a little oil. Wait a minute or so, then add chicken breasts. Once chicken has browned nicely on one side and easily releases from the pan, I flip it. Once the second side is nice and brown and releases easily from the pan I flip it. If I’ve got the oven on, then I put the pan on the bottom rack of the oven to let the chicken cook through. They look beautiful, they are cooked through and there are brown bits left in the pan for me to deglaze. Perfect!

If I don’t want to turn the oven on finish cooking them in the oven I run into trouble. After the breasts are nicely browned on each side, if I put a lid on the pan and let the chicken finish cooking- the outside of the chicken looses the beautiful brown presentation and looks soft plus I lose the brown bits on the pan and have nothing to deglaze. If I leave the lid off and let the chicken cook through, then the outside is cooked too much. If I cook the chicken on low from start to finish, then the chicken doesn’t have as much flavor and looks very boring and tasteless.

What I am doing wrong? Any advice on how to properly cook chicken breasts on the stove?

Do you find that some aspects and techniques of cooking come naturally and other areas you struggle in?


Thanks,
Emily
post #2 of 8
There are many possible tweaks to your technique.

Chicken breasts are tricky for a number of reasons. Their shape leads to uneven cooking so is often pounded or trimmed. Breasts are often dry and so many turn to brining.

Simplest would be to butterfly or cut the breasts in half horizontally so you have thinner cutlets. Then they'll cook to completeness in the pan without needing the oven.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 8
I haven't had much luck with stainless steel pans for whole chicken breasts and would suggest butterflying or pounding thin to even out the thickness. However I prefer the breast to be thick. For that reason I use a cast iron skillet. Rub the chicken with olive oil and your preferred seasonings then sear on either side on high heat. Then I turn down the heat to medium low and allow them to continue until cooked through. I use the touch test and get great results every time.

I don't opt for sauces usually so can't help you there. This is a picture of a recent dinner. Chicken breast rubbed with freshly ground cumin, salt pepper, olive oil. Israeli couscous with onions and peas, and a simple romaine salad.

"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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"You are what you eat, so don't be fast, cheap, easy, or fake."

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post #4 of 8
Nice "grill marks" ;)
Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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post #5 of 8
Not quite sure if this is what ur looking for but why not try sauteing the chicken breasts with a very simple sauce ie.

Once they are browned on both sides, remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add to the hot pan, shallots and garlic. brown sightly then add white wine and reduce to a couple of tablespoons. this will deglaze the pan nicely

Add a cup of chicken stock and a sprig of tarragon. Just a wee bit 'cos its strong

Add a splosh of double (thick) cream, season, add the chicken, put the lid on and put in a gentle oven till just cooked.

Take off the lid and cook for another 10 mins. Check seasoning and consistency.
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 
Lots of great ideas, thank you. I will give them all a try these next few weeks.

I cut the breasts in half horizontally when I make breaded chicken, but didn't think to do the same when sauteing.

I love tarragon and use a lot of fresh herbs but haven't used fresh tarragon- I'll add that to a sauce as well.

Thank you!
post #7 of 8
Thread Starter 
I just wanted to share that I've been cutting my chicken horizontally when I saute and that has solved my sauteing problems- thank you so much! They turn out perfect every time now, thank you, thank you!

Emily
post #8 of 8
add a bit of butter and there you have it

another variation would be sauteed mushrooms and dijon mustard mixed with the cream

and always, always freshly ground black pepper

and i tend to check internal temps with a digital thermometer- it takes the guesswork out of the equation completely

the only thing worse than a dried out chicken breast is one that is not cooked through
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