Cooking 101: How to Brown a Chicken Breast and Not Burn it

Cooking 101: How to Brown Chicken Breasts in a Skillet

I can’t help but notice that you are looking for steps on how to brown chicken breast in the skillet. ūüôā

Well, I was once in the same situation.

Then I saw how Jamie Oliver browned a chicken breast in the skillet, quickly, on one of his cooking shows.

I tested his steps in my own kitchen and found they browned the chicken breast perfectly without drying it out. I have been using his technique, which I’ve slightly modified below, ever since.

To cover these steps in more detail, I put together a free Pan-Frying Tune-Up Workshop inside my Cooking Pro Jumpstart online cooking school. Take a peek HERE for the details.

Step 1: Cut Chicken Breast in Half

Step 1: How to Brown Chicken Breast in a Skillet

Smaller portions allow the heat to penetrate the middle of the chicken breast faster so it’ll cook in less time.

Step 2: Pound Chicken Breast Halves to Even Thickness

Cover both halves with plastic wrap (or wax paper) and hit them with the flat side of a meat tenderizer (if you have one) or the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Step 2: How to Brown Chicken in a Skillet without Burning

The goal isn’t to flatten the chicken breast. Simply pound each piece to an even thickness. This will allow each piece to cook evenly throughout on the inside.

Step 3: Season

The easiest way to add instant flavor to chicken breast is to season it with salt and pepper before it hits the pan.

Step 3: How to Brown a Chicken Breast in a Skillet and not Burn It.

Lightly season both sides of each piece.

Step 4: Heat Oil in Skillet

Add 2 teaspoons of cooking oil (I use canola) to the skillet and heat it over medium heat.

It’s important to give the oil time to get hot before the chicken breast goes in the skillet. This way the outside of the chicken breast will begin to brown the instant it hits the hot oil in the pan.Step 5: How to Brown Chicken Breast in a Skillet without Burning

Tip: Place the top of wooden spoon in the oil. It’s hot when small bubbles form around it.

Step 5: Place Chicken Breast in Skillet

Set the chicken breast in the skillet, then take one step back from the cook-top for a full 3¬†minutes¬†to let the skillet do it’s job.

Simply keep an eye on the cook-top to see if you need to take action and manage the heat (in the videos we cover what actions to take if the pan gets too hot).

Step 5: How to Cook Chicken Breast in a Skillet without Burning

After 3 minutes step back up to the skillet and gently lift the chicken.

Hopefully you’re rewarded with a golden brown crust. If not, set it back down in the pan and give it another minute to brown before checking again. Turn the chicken breast over and follow the same steps to brown the other side.

Step 6: Remove Chicken Breast from Skillet

Let the chicken breast sit for about three minutes on a rack to allow the juices inside to calm down so they won’t gush out when the chicken breast is sliced.Step 6: How to Brown Chicken Breast in a Skillet without Burning

Now that you have the steps…give them a try in your skillet! And, if you need more info be sure to check out the videos. Cheers!

How to Brown Chicken Breast in a Skillet without Burning


What else is covered in my Pan-Frying Tune-Up Workshop?

In this free workshop, together we’ll:

  • Do a courtesy check on your skillet, to know if it is working for you, or against you, when you pan-fry food
  • Install a new set of prep steps to shorten the time it takes to comfortably cook a golden brown chicken breast in the skillet – safely
  • Take care of any “burnt food” issues when pan-frying and replace them with a trusted set of steps
  • Align and adjust your pan-frying approach to lock the juices inside your fillets of perfectly pan-fried chicken
  • Upgrade your browned chicken fillets into a quick and delicious Italian-Style meal

Click HERE¬†to enroll. It’s free!

Brent Garell testing the food at College Recipe CafeBrent Garell РBrent is the guy behind College Recipe Cafe, and author of The Cook-a-Palooza Experience.  He visits local colleges to teach students cooking 101 skills, and is the author of the digital cookbook 15-Minute Money Saving Meals for Students: Cup of Recipes for When You Need Food NOW! Available now on Amazon.

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4 thoughts on “Cooking 101: How to Brown a Chicken Breast and Not Burn it

  1. Lesley Caldwell says:

    I tried the pan bottom to beat the chicken flat, unfortunately it was after work and after a swim so a bit tired & not at my most intelligent… I was too close to my glass stove top and cracked the whole stove top!!! … and I have 3 degrees, one of them, in physics! At least my chicken was excellent!

  2. Chicken says:

    I mean, this works for a chicken breast that thick. But what about chicken cutlets? When it’s thinner, the chicken cooks too quickly before the color is achieved. If I use lower heat, it cooks slower, but never gets the color before it’s done. My mom suggested adding sugar, which does give it color, but I can never get it right and the pan starts to burn.

    • Brent | College Recipe Cafe says:

      Great question! My Aunt Helen was a pro at doing this with thin chicken cutlets. Her secret was to ensure the bottom of the pan was completely covered with a layer of cooking oil and that the oil was nice and hot before the cutlets hit the pan. As you noticed, the cutlets cook quickly so you basically need to deep-fry them to brown the outside. About 1 1/2 to 2 minutes per side – without touching the cutlet while it cooks – should do the trick. One final hint: socially distance each cutlet in the pan. Cooking too many cutlets at once will crowd the pan and steam them – rather than brown them.

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