For perfectly browned, juicy chicken bursting with flavor you need to know how to cook boneless skinless chicken breasts in the cast iron skillet. Finished with butter, lemon juice, and fresh herbs, you can’t beat this simple dish for an easy weeknight meal.
Cooking chicken breast meat is notoriously difficult to do without drying out, but when done right they are delicious and healthful. In this recipe I’ve given you all the tips and tricks you need to make juicy chicken breasts in the cast iron skillet.
This will quickly become a go-to weeknight recipe your family will be begging for.
Why this Recipe is Great!
The cast iron skillet holds heat for consistent cooking and gives you nicely browned outside.
It is also naturally nonstick so you save your chicken and don’t have a lot of scrubbing when you finish.
Pounding the chicken breasts in the flat even pieces makes for uniform cooking.
The brown butter pan sauce with fresh garlic and parsley is a simple way to give plain breast meat rich, delicious flavor.
Boneless Chicken Breasts- This recipe is designed for whole breast pieces. You can do filets or tenderloins, but the cooking time is greatly reduced.
Canola Oil- I use cooking oil with neutral flavor and a high smoke point. This will make it easier to cook the chicken fully on the stove without burning the outside.
Butter- This is the base of the pan sauce. It adds richness to chicken that has very little fat on its own.
How to Make It
Step 1- Preparation
- The first thing I do when preparing this recipe is to get my pan sauce ingredients together. Soften the butter in a microwave safe bowl and add minced garlic, chopped parsley, and lemon juice to it.
- Next, preheat your cast iron skillet on medium-high heat. I do this while I prepare the chicken breast pieces for cooking.
Helpful Tip: Pound the chicken into nice even pieces about an inch thick. I recommend covering the pieces with a piece of plastic wrap to keep chicken juice from spreading. I use a small sauce pot to do this. No need to tenderize with a meat mallet or get completely flat. A few good whacks will even out the breast so that you don’t struggle to cook the thick ends.
Helpful Tip: If your pan gets too hot while you are working, be sure to take it off the heat for a few minutes before you add the chicken to the pan. Smoking is a sign your cast iron skillet is too hot.
Step 2- Cooking Method
- Once your pan is hot, add cooking oil to the hot skillet and make sure to swirl it around so the bottom of the cast iron skillet is completely coated.
- Next, add chicken breasts seasoned with salt and pepper to the hot pan. You should hear a nice sizzle.
- Let the chicken breasts cook for 8-10 minutes on the first side until they are golden brown. If they start to brown too much, turn your stove down to low heat for a bit and turn them. Ideally, you should try to leave them alone until they are cooked on each side.
- When the breast pieces are well browned and about half way cooked, turn them over and cook for another 8-10 minutes.
Helpful Tip: You will know that your pan is warm enough if the hot oil gets shiny, but does not smoke.
They should have a nice brown crust on the top at this point.
Helpful Tip: You can watch the cooking process as the color of the chicken changes and moves up the side of the breast pieces. When you can no longer see raw chicken along the edge of the chicken breast, you should check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. Thinner breasts may take less time, so it is important to watch for signs that the chicken is done.
Step 3- Finishing and Making Pan Sauce
- Finally, add the melted butter mixed together with garlic, parsley, and lemon juice to the seared chicken breasts. Cook the chicken for 1-2 more on each side to let the sauce fully coat the chicken.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165°. You will notice that the pan sauce will steam up a bit and the butter should brown giving you a rich, full flavor.
Helpful Tip: Let the finished chicken breast rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can leave them in the cast iron skillet with the heat off. I like to slice them against the grain and drizzle the butter pan sauce over the top for maximum flavor.
The best method for checking doneness is to use a meat thermometer. Stick the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the breast to be sure you are getting an accurate reading. This way, will you be certain that you have reached a food safe internal temperature of 165°. You will also be able to see the temperature as it gets close to finished so that you don’t overcook it either.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can cut a small slit into the fattest part of the chicken and check for clear juices. Clear juices means the chicken is done. The drawback is that this is inaccurate and cause you to lose some juices.
You can also cut into the fat part of the breast to see that the meat looks done all the way to the center. Again, the drawback to this method is both inaccuracy and potentially drying out the chicken by making cuts into it before it is done.
Cast iron is naturally non-stick. However, for it to work best, it really needs to be hot. Make sure you let the skillet sit on the burner for a little while and let the heat build up in cast iron. No need to turn the heat on high, leave it on medium and give it time.
Add a little oil before searing. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts have very little fat so they can be more prone to sticking.
Don’t play with your food was the best advice your mother ever gave. Let the chicken sear completely before trying to turn it. The more you fiddle with these breast pieces, the more likely you are to have them stick. Once the chicken starts to brown and create a nice crust, it will come away from the pan without sticking.
How to Serve and Store Skillet Chicken Breasts
- Let the finished chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can leave them in the cast iron skillet with the heat off.
- Slice them against the grain and drizzle the butter pan sauce over the top for really flavorful chicken.
- Serve with your favorite side dishes. Try, Easy Rice Pilaf, Mushroom Rice, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad, or a simple Lemon Arugula Salad.
- Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to five days.
- Use this recipe for meal prep or add protein to salads for lunch. You can also slice thin pieces and use them to make a nice chicken sandwich.
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Recipe: Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Breast
- 10 Inch Cast Iron Skillet
- 2 Pounds Chicken Breasts 3-4 pieces
- 2 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 2 Tablespoons Butter
- 4 Cloves Garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley minced 1 tablespoon dry
- ¼ Cup Lemon Juice juice of one lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl and add lemon juice, chopped parsley, and minced garlic. Set aside for finishing.
- Using plastic wrap and a small saucepan, pound the chicken on the fat ends to make nice even pieces. About 1 inch thick all the way across, not completely flat.
- Then, heat the cast iron skillet on medium heat and give it time to get nice and hot.
- Next, add oil to the pan and make sure the bottom is coated. Add seasoned chicken breasts and let cook, untouched for 8-10 minutes.
- Turn the chicken and cook for approximately 8 more minutes to finish.
- When the chicken is nearly done, add butter and lemon sauce to the pan.
- Turn the chicken over in the sauce, cooking on each side for 1-2 minutes more until the internal temperature is 165°.
- Smoking is a sign your cast iron skillet is too hot.
- You will know that your pan is warm enough if your olive oil gets shiny, but does not smoke.
- When flattening the breast pieces, I recommend covering the pieces with a piece of plastic wrap to keep chicken juice from spreading. I use a small sauce pot to flatten them. No need to tenderize with a mallet or get completely flat. A few good whacks will even out the breast so that you don’t struggle to cook the thick ends.
- If the chicken starts to brown too much, turn your heat down for a bit and turn them. Ideally, you should try to leave them alone until they are cooked on each side.
- You can watch the cooking process as the color of the chicken changes and moves up the side of the breast pieces. When you can no longer see raw chicken along the edge of the chicken breasts, you should check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer.
- Use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of your chicken reaches 165°.
- You will notice that the pan sauce will steam up a bit and the butter should brown giving you a rich, full flavor.
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