Chicken breasts are one of the most versatile cuts you can bake. But it's knowing how long to bake them for that can put you in a tailspin — although not for much longer.
Aim to bake chicken breasts for 15 to 20 minutes at 450°F. Depending on the size of the cuts, they may only need ten minutes, but always check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer to ensure it's cooked through and ready to enjoy. The digital display should read 165°F.
With the baking duration down to a T, we'll look at a few other things you need to know to ensure you bake sublime chicken breasts every time.
Why 450 Fahrenheit Is Good Baking Temperature for Chicken Breasts
For many people, 450 Fahrenheit for baking chicken may seem a little high but allow us to put that notion to bed — chicken breasts actually prefer being cooked at a higher temperature!
Not only does baking at 450 Fahrenheit decrease otherwise lengthy cooking times, but it also helps the meat retain moisture. One of the main reasons chicken gets a bland or tough reputation is due to the quickness in which it dries. But that all stops with high-temperature baking. It simply doesn't have time to dry out!
5 Expert Tips for Baked Chicken Breasts
Before jumping into the recipe, check out our top five tips to ensure you bake chicken breasts with pro-like skill. Following these tricks will almost guarantee succulent, tasty breasts.
Always Brine Your Breasts
Brining can seem like a total waste of time, but it's amazing the difference a little saltwater bath can do for chicken breasts. Essentially, it's the only way to lock in (and add) intense amounts of moisture to negate any fears of chewy, hard-to-swallow bites.
The best part? It's pretty easy to do. Just make sure you get the salt ratio right — ¼ cup salt per 4 cups of water.
The salt solution moves from outside the chicken (where there's a high salt concentration) to inside the chicken (low concentration), keeping the moisture inside the breasts. Not to mention that the salt breaks the proteins down, making them tender.
Don't Be Afraid of Seasoning
A widely accepted rule of thumb is one teaspoon of salt per pound of meat. However, if you're going to use a saltwater brine, we suggest halving this amount.
Regardless, understand that you may need more seasoning than you think you do!
Pat Them Dry
It sounds counterproductive to pat your nicely brined chicken breasts dry. However, this often-overlooked step ensures the chicken stays juicy throughout baking.
On top of that, it helps the seasoning (which you should apply liberally) stick to the surface and not slide off during baking.
Don't Skip the Rest Period
Despite popular belief, it isn't just steaks that need resting — chicken breasts do, too!
The rest period allows the juices (that you have worked so hard to retain) to be redistributed into the meat. That way, they won't leak out as soon as you slice it.
Cutting the breasts immediately after baking will make most of it dry.
Slicing? Go Against the Grain
Speaking of slicing, always go against the grain. Think cutting ribeye or sirloin; it's the same idea.
Oven-baked chicken is best when sliced this way as it breaks up the muscle fibers, making every bite tender.
How to Season Baked Chicken Breasts
As we mentioned earlier, chicken breasts are one of the most versatile meat cuts available. That's all thanks to the variety of seasons that pair perfectly with poultry.
Try any of the following (or use our recipe at the end of the article) to create a delicious chicken-based meal:
- Taco seasoning — Believe it or not, taco seasoning isn't just for tacos; it's a spicier addition to your baked chicken breasts. It will give them a nice kick without being too overpowering.
- BBQ sauce — After a salt brine, baste with barbecue sauce on both sides. Don't be afraid to be really generous with it. Halfway through cooking, baste it again with the same sauce (but only if you want a thicker caramelized graze). And if you want as much caramelization as possible, pop it in the broiler for five minutes.
- Cajun — If taco seasoning isn't enough spice for you, ramp it up a notch with Cajun seasoning. You'll certainly feel the heat with this option!
- Teriyaki — You can marinate with teriyaki sauce instead of adding seasonings or brining for a stickier, Asian-cuisine-inspired meal.
- Ranch-style — Before baking, spread ranch dressing over both sides of the chicken breast and top with mozzarella or another cheese of your choice. Add bacon to the top of the chicken breasts for the last five minutes of cooking to finish it off.
- Lemon pepper — If you like lemon pepper wings, you'll adore lemon pepper chicken breasts, too. Substitute other spices for one tablespoon of lemon pepper seasoning.
The Juiciest Yet Easiest Baked Chicken Breast Recipe
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- ¼ cup sea or kosher salt
- 4 cups water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika (smoked paprika works well too)
- ¼ black pepper
- Put the chicken breasts into a big bowl and cover them with the water. If they aren't covered completely, add more water.
- Add the ¼ cup of sea salt or kosher salt and stir until most of it dissolves.
- Leave it for 10 minutes at room temperature to brine. Alternatively, leave it in the fridge for a maximum of 24 hours.
- Drain the salt water.
- Rinse the chicken.
- Use paper towels to pat the chicken dry.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F.
- Put the chicken breasts into a baking dish or tray. The dish or tray should be large enough for the breasts to fit without touching (barely touching is fine).
- Brush both sides of each breast with olive oil.
- Season both sides of the breasts with Italian seasoning, sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.
- Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Check the internal temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Wait until it reads 160°F before removing it from the oven. Alternatively, use a meat probe thermometer — you can set it and forget it, as it beeps when the temperature hits the perfect spot.
- Remove the chicken from the oven.
- Cover it with aluminum foil.
- Let the chicken breasts rest for five minutes. The internal temperature will rise another five degrees during this time, getting it to the FDA-recommended level of 165°F.
- Slice (if desired) and serve with your favorite side dishes!
- Don't know what to serve with the baked chicken breasts? Try these tasty sides: tangy potato salad with bacon, toasted herb rice, watermelon cucumber and feta salad, mashed potatoes, honey-roasted carrots, sweet potato fries, cheese baked asparagus, tomato and zucchini casserole, Parmesan roasted cauliflower, roasted broccoli, classic creamed spinach, or roasted vegetable potato salad.
- Adjust the cooking time according to the size of the chicken breasts. Smaller cuts may only need tend minutes at 450°F.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 263Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 102mgSodium: 4407mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 0gProtein: 37g