This pan-fried chicken breast recipe is the most used recipe in our family. It’s simple, easy and crazy quick to make. And it’s delicious! Really, all you need is 4 minutes of prep time and 6 minutes of cooking time. The recipe is so easy that even a child can successfully make it. In fact, this was the first ‘meat’ recipe that my daughter mastered when she was just starting to learn to cook.
Getting a pan-fried chicken breast come out tender and succulent has always been a problem for me. If you can do it, please, let me know your secret. In my case, chicken breasts would dry out quite a bit before they cook all the way through. That is because the heat goes in one direction on a frying pan. One side gets super hot while the other is cooling down. Then there is thickness and uneven surface to deal with. All these factors contribute to inefficient heating, uneven cooking and, as a result, drying out.
The secret to a quick and succulent pan-fried chicken breast
After some experimenting and a few tiny light bulbs going on, I found a way. The solution I eventually came up with is ridiculously simple and consists of three parts:
- High heat
- Thin breasts
- Frying covered
Just like when frying lean pork chops, you want to fry chicken breasts quickly, which means doing it over a fairly high heat. Thick chicken breast won’t cook through over high heat before the exterior noticeably dries out. Instead, a chicken breast needs to be sliced in half, even in three pieces, if it’s particularly large and thick.
To fix the issue with one-directional heating, I pan-fry my chicken breasts covered. This way steam heats the breast from the top while it’s frying, resulting in quick and efficient cooking. Besides, all that moisture from the steam keeps the breast nicely moist and prevents it from drying out. Though, fully covering the pan results in poor browning, so I leave a small crack open just to let some steam out.
Using this method, I don’t even use a thermometer. Three minutes per side over medium-high heat and the breast is fully cooked, moist and juicy inside.
Looking for more great pan-fried chicken breast or similar recipes? Check these out:
- 2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil (one for rubbing and one for cooking)
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic (pressed)
- 1 tsp parsley (dried)
- 1/2 tsp thyme (dried)
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (plus more to taste)
- Using a sharp knife, cut the chicken breasts in half lengthwise. You want to end up with 4, equally thin, chicken cutlets. Uniformly thick chicken breast will cook faster and more uniformly.
- Rub the chicken breasts with one tablespoon oil, then season with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, parsley and cayenne pepper.Tip: the seasoning mix here is fairly basic but gives the chicken good flavor. I vary it depending on what I have, or want to use, and often add fresh herbs. I find basil, oregano and coriander to be great in this recipe. Spice mixes like Italian, herbs de provence are also fabulous. If you like sesame oil, use it instead of olive oil for rubbing, but reduce the amount to about teaspoon, or to taste.
- Heat one tablespoon of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and partially cover the pan with a lid, leaving about a 1/2" - 1" crack. Tip: if using a regular skillet, double the amount of oil. You can also use 50/50 oil and butter for better flavor.
- Cook for 3 minutes undisturbed. At this time you will notice that the tops of the breasts have turned white. Flip the breasts, partially cover and cook for another 3 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and serve immediately or keep warm until ready to eat.
I made this with chicken tenderloins and it turned out delicious! I served it with gravy and it went really well with it. I used a little too much cayenne pepper for my taste as I don’t like things very spicy but the rest of the family loved it! I also used garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, parsley, basil, and cumin. I never measure out seasonings as I just always sprinkle them on pretty much evenly. I did add butter to the olive oil in the pan for taste. Very fast and easy to make.
Happy to hear it. Enjoy!
Wow! Moist and tender and no big mess to clean up on the stove top. Thanks so much for experimenting so the rest of us don’t have to.
I made this for dinner tonight. It was delish! I used less cayenne, probably between 1/4 and 1/8 tsp, and it was still a little too much. Next time, I’ll use much less. I also sprinkled some garlic powder over the chicken after seasoning instead of the minced garlic.
Happy to hear it. Enjoy!
I tried this and the result is just amazing. My son loves it. Thank you for sharing this recipe 😍🙏🏻
Happy to hear it. You are very welcome. Enjoy!
Super easy! I followed directions exactly and it came out as described. Ingredients that I already had in my pantry, quick to make, very tender and tasty. Will definitely make again.
Enjoy! Glad you liked it.
Happy to hear it. Enjoy!
5 min on each side pan fried with ginger and garlic. I sautéed in olive oil AND butter….the butter burns so it does have a tasty outer flavor buttery with the ginger and garlic, I tossed in thin sliced Spanish onions.
This really works Thank you!!
Made for 3 adults with boneless, skinless chicken tenderloins. We all thought it was delicious. Chopping garlic in advance would be a good timesaver but quick and easy to make otherwise. I loved the tip about covering the frying pan. Chicken was moist. I served with a Caesar salad and crunchy rolls. Very enjoyable.
Happy to hear it, Christine. Thank you for the kind words. Enjoy!
Could I make several of these up ahead of time? Having a large gathering and don’t want to wait until the last minute. How would I best do this to keep moist on inside and crispy non outside? Thanks!!
Keeping them crispy may not be achievable but you can keep them moist if you wrap them in foil and place in an insulated cooler box, like brisket. Hope this helps.
Easy to make, quick and delicious! Will definitely make again!!
Looking forward to makings this scrumptious looking dish. I’m just wondering though I see in the bottom of the pan those lovely browned bits. What about adding a little chicken broth, scrapping them up and turning the liquid into some sort of pan sauce?. Shame to waste those tasty bits.
That’s a great I idea. I like cooking on my carbon steel pan which gives those brown bits but if you do it on a non-stick – my wife prefers it, then no brown bits there. Someting to keep in mind. Enjoy!
I added 3 tablespoons butter at the end and it
added great flavor.
Thanks for the tip. Enjoy!
This recipe will undoubtedly carry my roommate and I through university. It truly is the most tender chicken!
Enjoy! And don’t forget to try my extra crispy chicken wings, a must for those game days.
Perfect just as written. Quite peppery so if cayenne isn’t your thing reduce it. I had no dried parsley so used 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh.
Really easy recipe and great idea to cut the chicken breast in half. It was nice and juicy and reminded me of blackened chicken as I really spiced it up.
Glad you liked it. Enjoy!
Thank you for a great recipe, we add sauce & cheese for the last minute or two for a great chicken parm.
You are very welcome!
Truly excellent pan seared chicken recipe! I pounded it out instead of cutting, but other than that, followed your recipe. Cooks fast, crispy on the outside, juicy and tender inside. Excellent tip covering it most of the way.
I am an experienced cook, but have not covered the skillet at the end until now.
These thin chicken breasts were great.
I used my iron skillet and browned in ghee.
I used some smoked paprika, basil, garlic powder powder, salt and pepper. Moist and nicely browned; iron skillet lid after flipping worked great.
Yes!!! Perfect! So yummy! And Easy. Threw mine over a salad.
Forgot to mention when adding the water to the bottom of pan I turn the heat to medium low (about a 3 on gas range)
This was a winner with my little ones, me and my husband also. I usually get boneless skinless breasts and pound them to about 3/4”-1” thickness instead of filet. I used to have the same problem with drying out the chicken but now I season the meat, heat oil in cast iron and brown on both sides and then pour just enough water into the bottom of the pan and cover for 8 minutes (last 3 minutes I do leave the lid slightly off so some of the crispiness still remains. Excellent recipe! Thank you Victor!
You are very welcome, Tracy.
I noticed that the instructions call for cooking in a non-stick but the photos show the chicken cooking in a regular stainless steel. What did most of the folks who tried the recipe use?
Good observation, Saanj. I and my family love this recipe and most of the time use a non-stick pan. I used a copper pan with SS lining for the picture as it looked better, that’s all. You can use both, though non-stick is much easier to use I find.
Love the recipe, so simple, so tasty, so awesome. Great website overall, bookmarked!
I’ve never finished cooking so quickly! Chicken was moist and tasty. Will definitely make again!
Zomg my hubby loved this so much! It was ultra quick to make and it took him back to college days where they panfried fresh chicken breast for them in the canteen. Thanks so much for delivering a delicious and quick chicken breast recipe! Ours always came out dry and rubbery, but this one was juicy and flavorful =)
This recipe was so simple and so delicious. My husband loved, loved it and couldn’t wait for me to make it again. I made the mistake of not saving it and had to search the internet again. So happy I found it and have now saved it! Thanks for posting!
You are very welcome, Christina. Happy cooking!
Amazing recipe! So easy yet so flavourful! Finally able to produce succulent breast! Thank you so much!
thanks for this awesome recipe – so simple and so flavorful, ideal when working from home with my 5 year old
Excellent, first time I’ve ever posted a comment but this was well worth it! Served with a little wasabi
I followed the recipe precisely and it was perfect! I did pound the chicken pieces to be the same thickness. I’ve been struggling to get this recipe correct for years. THANKS.
You are very welcome, Margo.
Simple, quick, very flavorful
This is the best stove top chicken I’ve made. Thank you for the instructions!
You are very welcome.
I just read on a different blog post that you shouldn’t cut or serve the chicken immediately, bust should wrap it in foil and let it sit for ten minutes, for incredibly moist chicken.
Normally, yes. During cooking meat fibers shrink and release water. When you let it rest for a few minutes, the meat should technically re-absorb some of the lost water. This won’t make it incredibly moist though. What WILL make it incredibly moist is cooking it low and slow and/or never letting it overcook. The higher the internal temperature the more water will be lost. Water loss begins at around 150F. That’s why sous vide chicken cooked at 150F or less is truly incredibly moist. With regard to these thin chicken breasts cooked quickly over a relatively high heat, I find that they are the juiciest right from the skillet and become less so as time goes buy. Perhaps you can try both ways and see which gives you better results but I suspect you will like them hot off the skillet better.
The best way to keep children moist and tender, no matter how you cook it is to soak it in milk for several hours. You can’t soak it too long. You will love the chicken.
Thank you for this recipe and helpful hints!
This was so good and easy! Thanks for the recipe!
You are very welcome! Thank you for your feedback.
Oh my goodness! These chicken breasts are so quick to make and taste amazing. They will be my go-to recipe for a quick weekday dinner with a quick salad. Thanks!
Ohhhhh LAWD…..didn’t think the xhicken would turn out as good as it did! A definite KEEPER! Thanks so much for such a delicious recipe.
You are very welcome!