Chicken in itself is a bland meat. It is a protein substrate ready for flavor injection. And after cooking chicken professionally, I realized that the absolute best way to cook a plain chicken breast is in a hot frying pan on the stove in butter. These breasts were salted and peppered and were cooked on medium heat in 2 tablespoons of butter. The end product was juicy and delicious. Of course it helps to make a sauce or something from the drippings to serve with the chicken. I made a very simple corn and tomato topping. The recipe is to the right.
1. The first step to cooking chicken breasts is to trim the fat. Very often the breasts have some fat and connective tissue still attached. And occasionally a piece of bone may also still be connected, too. Use a boning knife, which looks similar to a fillet knife, to remove the nasty bits. If you prefer to leave the fat on, that is fine.
2. After you have finished trimming the chicken breasts, dry them with a disposable paper towel. Add salt and pepper to the breasts, and rub it in a little. Only use a little bit of seasoning. If you want to add some other flavors, I have a list in the upper right corner of this page that contains good poultry flavors.
3. Heat up a heavy-bottomed frying pan or cast iron skillet on medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of butter and move it around to dissolve. Once the foam has subsided, quickly add the breasts. Don't touch the breasts for at least 2-3 minutes. The longer you leave it on each side, the deeper the heat is penetrating. Also, the chicken needs to form a crust so that it doesn't stick.
4. Flip the chicken after a few minutes and see how the first side is looking. Leave it on the second side for 5 minutes before flipping it again. The pan isn't as hot as it was, so it will take longer on the second side. After cooking each side once more, check the internal temperatures of the chicken breasts. You want an internal temp of 165 degrees F. If the chicken is burning, turn the heat down a little. When they are done, take them out and make a sauce from the drippings. Serve the sauce over the chicken.
5. Pan sauce for pan-fried chicken breasts. Once you have taken the chicken out of the frying pan, add 1 cup of sweet corn and 1 tablespoon of butter. Stir it around and deglaze the pan with it. Once the pan is beginning to dry again, add half of a chopped onion; 1 cup of diced, seeded, and peeled tomato; 1 teaspoon cumin seed or ½ teaspoon ground cumin; a pinch of salt; and some white pepper. Mix it up, taste it, and adjust as needed. It is an awesome mix of spice—acid and sweet flavors.
Don't move the chicken around too much. The more you flip it, the longer it will take to cook and also the dryer the meat will become because the outside is getting overcooked.
If you cover the frying pan with a lid, you will introduce steam, which will cook the chicken faster, but it will push out some of the juices. The result will be a quicker, dryer chicken breast.
If you don't like butter, try a vegetable oil instead. Olive oil will work, too, but it may burn if you aren't careful.