Baked chicken breast is one of the most versatile meals! Each tender and juicy piece of seasoned lean meat pairs well with any side dish. The recipe is easy to make, and it’s the go-to ingredient for meal prepping throughout the week.
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Chicken breast is a lean protein that cooks quickly in a hot oven, with little effort. In just 30-minutes, you can have a delicious healthy dinner on the table. For this recipe, I have a fantastic dry-seasoning mixture to sprinkle on the meat’s surface that instantly delivers a flavorful crust.
The key to tender and juicy chicken is to flatten all the pieces into an even thickness. The extra effort ensures uniform cooking throughout. When we have to wait longer for the thickest part to cook, more moisture is lost. The enclosed heated environment swiftly bakes the meat, with less risk of drying out. Slice and serve with vegetables or grains for a complete meal.
Prepare a seasoning mix
Dried spices and herbs are concentrated in taste, so a little goes a long way. I use paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning, typically containing oregano, parsley, and basil. I recommend adding smoked paprika if you like a more grilled flavor without having to head outdoors.
Kosher salt and black pepper add the savory note with a hint of spiciness. Add as little or as much as you like. You can store any leftover mixture in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks for the best taste or even make a big batch to use for meal prep. Alternatively, if you have more time before dinner, try this chicken marinade.
Flatten the pieces
It’s important to pound the chicken down to an even layer. The top of the breast is almost double the width of the tapered end. Don’t go too thin. I find that about just under ¾-inch is the right thickness. Work one piece at a time. Place the meat between two plastic wrap pieces or inside a large opened resealable bag, then smash it with a rolling pin or mallet.
Oil the surface
Boneless skinless chicken breasts have very little fat and cook quickly. This choice is ideal for those looking for a lean protein option. The downside side is that without some seasoning or sauce, the flavor alone is pretty bland.
But before applying the seasoning, brush each piece of chicken with olive oil. This process creates a protective coating on the surface, preventing moisture loss and steaming. The oil also enhances Maillard browning, which is key to developing hundreds of new surface flavors.
How long to bake?
I recommend a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. This pan makes for easy cleanup, and the shorter sides allow the chicken to cook faster than in a standard baking dish. Heat can circulate more freely around, compared to a pan with higher sides.
When flattened to about ¾-inch thickness, chicken breasts of any size can cook in under 20 minutes. However, the timing is dependent on how wide the pieces are, as it will take longer for the heat to reach the center.
Check for doneness
The meat is done cooking when no longer pink in the center. It should be ivory in color and opaque throughout. Using an instant-read thermometer, place the probe through the side and center. Once the internal temperature reaches between 160 to 165 degrees, it’s ready.
What to serve this with
Benefits of resting meat
Even though it’s tempting to cut right into the chicken, it’s best to let the meat rest for at least 5 minutes. This allows the flavorful juices to redistribute back into the muscle fibers, keeping them locked in the food, instead of all over the cutting board or plate. Just this short period keeps the breast moist.
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Baked Chicken Breast
- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 425ºF (218ºC). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lightly grease with oil to help prevent sticking.
- Thoroughly dry each chicken breast with a paper towel.
- Place chicken in between two plastic sheets or inside a large plastic bag. Pound to an even thickness, about ¾-inch thick. Repeat with remaining pieces.
- In a small bowl, combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and Italian seasoning.
- Generously brush olive oil on both sides of the chicken. Evenly sprinkle the seasoning mixture on both sides, about ½ to 1 teaspoon per side, depending on the size of the chicken and desired seasoning level. Store extra seasoning in an airtight container for later use.
- Place the breasts on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the internal temperature reaches between 160 to 165ºF (71 to 74ºC), about 14 to 17 minutes, depending on the thickness.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
- Storing: The chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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