Repeat after me: meat is roasted, not baked. I promise to never “bake” meat again.
Now that we have that eternal truth out of the way, let’s talk about a subjective truth. Baked boneless skinless chicken breasts are really awful. They’re a gateway to vegetarianism. I mean, if that’s my only knowledge of meat, I’d say, “this stuff is gross. Pass the tofurkey.” Another subjective truth: red meat should be slow roasted, poultry should be high roasted. Ok, that’s just my personal preference. But if truth is relative, I’ll call it truth.
Hold your horses there, Charlie. How should you prepare boneless, skinless chicken breast if you don’t bake it? Frying it is unhealthy, you say. And to that I say… yeah, you’re probably right. And roasting it without skin makes it dry and tough. So very true. HOWEVER (dramatic!) there is another way. The moist flavor and non-rubbery texture can be achieved with minimal amounts of added oil by simply sautéing the chicken. And here is how.
The prep work:
If your chicken breasts are fairly uniform in thickness, good job! If they are not, cover the chicken with saran wrap, take a meat hammer, and pound out the thickest part of the breast. You will have significantly better results. Salt and pepper both sides of your chicken breasts. You can add other seasonings such as seasoned salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, etc at this point. But the basic all purpose recipe is just salt and pepper.
Heat your fat of choice in your skillet over medium high heat. Always heat the pan first and then add the fat. It results in less sticking because of the reaction of the oil to the metal to the air. Or something like that. I’m not Alton Brown. I just know that this works.
How much fat and of what type? If you are paleo, go for 2 tbs of rendered chicken fat. Enjoy! If you are not paleo, I like to use half olive oil and half butter. I add the oil and then add the butter in the hopes that the oil will keep the butter solids from scorching when they hit the hot pan. You can use any blend of oils that won’t smoke at medium high stovetop temps. Swirl the melted fat around.
Now you’re ready to cook the chicken. Bring the chicken and your flour over to the stove where your pan of hot oil is waiting for you.
Dredge (drag through) the chicken in some flour. You want the chicken coated but not smothered. You want to do this on both sides. I use coconut flour. You can use all purpose flour or a gluten free flour blend. I do not recommend almond flour — at least not Bob’s Red Mill. It’s too grainy and doesn’t stick.
Add the chicken to the pan top side down. You’ll hear an awesome searing noise. That means you’re doing it right. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for about 4 more minutes for a total of 7 minutes.
Set the chicken aside and stare at the pan drippings and dream of what you can do with them. Add some capers, lemon juice, and cornstarch. Squirt in some dijon mustard. Or just add some water and cornstarch for straight up gluten free gravy.
Remember: cakes are baked. Meats are roasted. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are sauteed.