The last two times I bought chicken breast at the grocery store, the cashiers asked me how to cook them (I had to wonder if they secretly knew what I did for a living 😅). While it can seem like a simple process, it can definitely go wrong if not done properly. And I’m not about to let you big $$$ dry, tasteless chicken breasts. So here is my full tutorial on how to cook chicken breast in a pan so that it stays juicy, flavorful, and tender.
Why I Love Pan Seared Chicken Breasts
This has become my go-to method for cooking chicken breasts. Not only is it super fast and easy, but you get a lot of delicious browning on the outside of the meat, which is something that doesn’t happen in the gentle heat of an oven. Plus, you can change the seasoning and make it taste like something new every time!
I’ve begun cooking a couple of chicken breasts at the beginning of each week, slicing them up, then storing them in the refrigerator to add to salads, pasta, sandwiches, and bowls over the next few days. It’s only a few minutes of prep and then I’ve got an easy protein ready to add to any meal. Here is a roundup of flexible recipes that are perfect for adding any protein, like pan-seared chicken breasts.
Cooking Boneless vs. Bone-in Chicken Breasts
The cooking technique below is for boneless chicken breasts (with or without skin). Bone-in chicken breasts take much longer to cook through, so you’ll want to utilize the oven to make sure the breast heats through completely without burning on the outside. For bone-in chicken breasts, I suggest using the method outlined in my Herb Roasted Chicken Breast recipe.
How Long to Cook Chicken Breasts in a Skillet
The amount of time needed to cook a chicken breast in a pan will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breast, the amount of heat used, and the type of cookware used. To take the guesswork out of how long to cook the chicken breasts, I suggest using an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken breast has reached 165ºF.
Thick Chicken Breasts
Thick chicken breasts take longer to cook through than thin chicken breasts, so I like to use lower heat (medium-low) and a longer cook time, which allows time for the meat to heat through without the outside burning. For a boneless chicken breast that is about one inch thick, I cook for about 8 minutes per side over medium-low heat.
Thin Chicken Breasts
If you buy thin cut breasts, fillet the chicken breasts yourself, or use a mallet to pound the chicken breasts to ½-inch thick, they will cook much faster. You’ll want to increase the heat to medium so you can still achieve some browning on the outside with a shorter cook time. For thinner breasts, I cook for about 4-5 minutes per side.
How to Season Chicken Breasts
I used a very classic smoky seasoning for the chicken breasts in the recipe below, but there are so many other delicious options. Here are some other ways you can season your pan-seared chicken breasts:
Pan Seared Chicken Breasts
- 2 tsp steak seasoning $0.20
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika $0.05
- 1/2 tsp sweet paprika $0.05
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1.3 lbs. total) $6.79
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil $0.08
- 1 Tbsp butter (optional) $0.10
- Combine the steak seasoning, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika in a bowl. Coat the chicken breasts liberally with the seasoning on all sides.
- Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-low (or medium for thin-cut breasts). Once hot, swirl the oil to coat the skillet.
- Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook for about 8 minutes without flipping (5 minutes for thin-cut breasts). Flip the chicken and then cook on the second side until well browned and cooked through (internal temperature of 165ºF).
- For extra luscious chicken, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet, allow it to melt, then flip the chicken a couple of times to coat in the melted butter.
- Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and allow it to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.
How to Make Cook Chicken Breasts in a Pan – Step by Step Photos
Begin by seasoning the chicken breast liberally on each side. I used a mix of 2 tsp steak seasoning, ½ tsp smoked paprika, and ½ tsp sweet paprika. The steak seasoning contains salt, so no extra salt was needed in my mix.
Add a tablespoon or so of your favorite cooking oil to a large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-low (or medium heat for thin cut breasts).
Once hot, swirl the oil in the skillet to coat the surface, then add the chicken breasts. Let the chicken breasts cook for 8 minutes without flipping (or 5 minutes for thin cut breasts). Flip once and cook until well browned on the second side and cooked through.
To make the chicken breasts extra luscious, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet, allow it to melt, then flip the chicken a couple of times to coat. The butter will help dissolve some of the flavor off the bottom of the skillet to further coat the chicken.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board and allow it to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.