Today’s delicious dish – Moist Baked Chicken Breasts
Baked boneless skinless chicken breasts are a perfect food in so many ways. They are high in protein and very low in fat. They have a mild flavor and a pleasing meaty texture. They can go with a huge variety of foods and can be an ingredient in any number of wonderful preparations.
Sadly, it is easy to go wrong when making baked chicken breasts. It seems like even 10 minutes too much baking time or too high a temp will give you dry, tough meat with hard edges – not at all what I’m looking for in chicken. I like it soft and tasty. I’ve learned that if chicken isn’t seasoned before cooking, it may be somewhat blah.
Here’s a way to bake boneless skinless chicken breasts and have them come out moist and flavorful. The trick is to closely cover the chicken with buttered parchment paper. This provides protection from the direct heat and bastes the meat with steam and butter. Don’t use waxed paper for this – the paraffin in it could melt and make its way to the food.
I usually cook 6 (or even 7) nice-sized chicken breasts any time I make this recipe; that’s the right amount to fit in a 9” x 13” baking pan. Even if I don’t need 6 pieces of cooked chicken right now, they will keep in the refrigerator or freezer, and will have many other uses. I am always glad to have cooked chicken on hand, so I usually make extra. I have even been known to make up 2 pans of these lovely moist baked chicken breasts – the oven is on anyway!
If you are more comfortable with smaller pieces of meat, feel free to cut your raw chicken breasts in half the long way – making a sort of chicken tender. For that matter, you could use chicken tenders for this recipe.
I like the subtle seasoning provided by the spice blend in this recipe – it can go with a lot of foods. But if I plan to use the cooked chicken in a Mexican dish or meal, I would add chili powder and cumin. If I plan to use it in an Italian dish or meal, I would add basil and oregano. If you like your baked chicken to be spicy, you could add a dash of cayenne pepper.
When the chicken is done, you will have a nice puddle of flavorful liquid – kind of a buttery chicken broth – in the pan. Don’t throw it out! Put it in a container and freeze it – you can add it to the pot the next time you make a homemade soup, or use it as part of the liquid when you cook rice. Or it can be made into a tasty gravy – stir together 1 1/2 Tablespoons cornstarch with 2 Tablespoons white wine, then whisk in the pan liquid (should be about 1 1/4 cup). Cook on the stovetop or in the microwave until it boils and thickens, then whisk in a Tablespoon of heavy cream and season to your taste.
Moist Baked Chicken Breasts
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon celery salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon ground thyme
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 4 1/2 pounds)
- 2 Tablespoons softened butter
Turn on oven to 350°F.
In a tiny bowl, mix seasonings. Set aside.
Spread 1 Tablespoon butter over the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking pan.
Place chicken breasts in baking pan. Sprinkle seasoning mix evenly over chicken breasts.
Get a piece of parchment paper larger than your baking pan. Spread remaining 1 Tablespoon butter on parchment paper in an area matching the inside dimension of your baking pan. Place parchment paper, butter side down, over chicken breasts. Press parchment paper down on top of and around chicken pieces, making a cover for the chicken inside the baking pan.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Makes 6 chicken breasts, about 10 ounces each (cooked)
Nutritional information (per chicken breast): 378 calories, 10 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 72 grams protein, 0 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams sugars, 0 grams fiber, 171 milligrams cholesterol, 1750 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: $1.62
Preparation time: 50 minutes
What happens next?
It is easy to cook up some rice or potatoes while the chicken bakes, steam a vegetable, then make up gravy from the pan liquid. Voila – a wonderful dinner. And beyond the initial meal, cooked chicken breast is about the easiest thing to use. Maybe you want to dice it up and make chicken salad or chicken noodle soup, maybe you want to slice it and make a sandwich, or maybe you want to shred it and make burritos or enchiladas; your limit is your imagination!
Cooked chicken will keep for no more than 5 days in the refrigerator. If you are not going to use it up pretty soon, put it in the freezer. I suggest putting each chicken breast in its own zip top bag because they are easier to use when individually packaged. If chicken has been frozen, be sure to allow it time to thaw. I usually put a bag or two (depends on what I plan to make) in the refrigerator the day before I use it.
Another day’s delicious dish – Chicken and Mushroom Flatbread Fold-Ups
Here’s a fancy warm sandwich that is flavorful and moist. It starts with a pizza-type of dough, then gets layers of pesto, mushrooms, chicken, and cheese. I love these folded up sandwiches, and my family thinks they are great too. They make a nice meal with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup.
This is not a fussy yeast dough – it is very forgiving, so don’t be afraid to make it. Just keep kneading in flour until you get a stiff, stretchy dough. It will soften up as it rises, so you will need a bit more flour to make it workable and not too sticky when it’s time to shape the dough.
This recipe calls for fresh mozzarella pearls – I think they are easiest to use. But feel free to use any fresh mozzarella cheese – just slice or dice it up. Low-moisture, part skim mozzarella will not be as successful in the recipe, because the sandwich needs the extra moisture that fresh mozzarella brings to the party.
If you don’t have a Moist Baked Chicken Breast on hand, you can still make this recipe – any cooked chicken will do. Whether it is rotisserie chicken or another cooked chicken breast, just be sure to slice it thinly. You will need about 9-10 ounces of cooked chicken.
Chicken and Mushroom Flatbread Fold-Ups
- 1 package yeast (about 1 Tablespoon)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 Moist Baked Chicken Breast (9-10 ounces total)
- 4 ounces white mushrooms (about 8 medium mushrooms)
- 2 Tablespoons prepared Pesto
- 4 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls (about 48 pearls)
Mix together yeast and warm water. Set aside for 10 minutes.
Beat in salt, olive oil, and 1 cup flour. If using mixer, switch to dough hook. Otherwise, use a strong wooden spoon or hands. Knead in remaining flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is firm and smooth. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, punch down dough and form into a log. Divide dough into 4 balls, each about 2 1/2 ounces. Shape each dough ball it by smashing it flat, then folding up edges. Continue to pull the edges and tuck them under the bottom of the ball, working around the ball several times, until the ball has a smooth top. If dough gets sticky, pat it lightly with flour. Repeat the process for each dough ball. Cover dough balls with a damp towel and allow them to rest for 15 minutes.
While dough rests, turn on oven to 400 degrees and place 2 large baking sheets in oven.
Slice chicken breast very thin. You should have about 1 1/2 cups sliced chicken.
Clean mushrooms and remove and mushroom stems. Discard stems. Thinly slice mushroom caps. You should have about 1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms.
For each flatbread, press or roll a ball of dough into a thin rectangular flatbread, about 8” x 6”. Make the shape as symmetrical as possible, because it will be folded after being baked. Prepare all 4 flatbreads.
Carefully remove hot baking sheets from hot oven. Carefully lay flatbreads on baking sheets (2 per sheet). Spread each with 1/2 Tablespoon pesto. Divide mushroom slices between flatbreads, laying them flat to cover the entire surface. Divide sliced chicken between flatbreads, laying slices flat on top of mushrooms to cover only half of the surface. Divide mozzarella pearls between flatbreads (about 12 per flatbread), and spread out over the entire surface.
Bake flatbreads for 10 minutes, rotating sheets between top and bottom oven racks halfway through. Remove from oven and carefully fold in half to make a sandwich. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
Makes 4 sandwiches, or 4 servings.
Nutritional information (per sandwich): 410 calories, 14 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 30 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrate, 0 grams sugars, 2 grams fiber, 64 milligrams cholesterol, 892 milligrams sodium
Cost per serving: $1.50
Preparation time: 1 hour and 45 minutes