How to Bake Juicy, Delicious Chicken Breasts Every Time

Plus, how to salvage dry baked chicken breasts if things go wrong.

oven baked chicken
Photo: Mike Krautter

Baking is a simple and efficient way to cook chicken breasts. And once you ace a simple baked chicken breast recipe, you can use this versatile protein as the starting point for salads, sandwiches, tacos, soups, and casseroles. But baking chicken breasts can sometimes be tricky—the white meat can get dried out with just a few missteps. Here's how to avoid those mistakes and keep your chicken breast tender, juicy, and delicious every time.

Moisture Is Key

First, you'll want to retain as much moisture as you can in the meat. "Chicken breast is incredibly lean, so if you choose to bake it, you want to make sure that you are taking steps to preserve as much natural moisture as possible," says John Adler, senior vice president of food at Blue Apron. To keep all those tasty juices in, he recommends either applying a crust to the top of the chicken breast or cooking it in a baking dish.

How to Bake Chicken Breasts

When you bake chicken breast, we recommend you use a baking dish such as 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish rather than a roasting pan or rimmed sheet pan. The baking dish method is simple, and you can add flavor and moisture to the chicken breast with some fresh thyme (dried will work too), a pat of unsalted butter, and chicken stock.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, at least 1 inch apart from each other. Season both sides generously with salt and pepper. Add broth, drizzle with olive oil or add a pat of butter to each chicken breast. Scatter with thyme and cover with parchment-lined aluminum foil or aluminum foil with the shiny side down so it reflects the heat back into the dish.
  2. Bake until a meat thermometer registers 160 degrees in the thickest part of the breast, about 20 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and let rest 10 minutes.

Adler recommends uncovering the dish halfway through the cooking time and using a pastry brush or spoon to glaze the meat with the stock and butter or oil in the pan.

Temperature and Timing

Cooking lean meats at a high temperature means they cook more quickly, and this can help capture the moisture and flavor. Adler recommends cooking bone-in chicken breast at 450 degrees, which can take up to 20 minutes for a bone-in breast. You can also cook boneless breasts at this temp, but they will require less time. Our go-to temp for baking boneless chicken breast is 375 degrees, and the cook time is about 20 minutes. The chicken is cooked when a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees. It should be removed from the oven and allowed to sit for 10 minutes before slicing or serving.

Coating in a Crust

Adding a crust is another way to help keep boneless, skinless chicken breasts from drying out. Adler is a fan of breadcrumb crusts: "I season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper, then brush it with a thin coating of mayonnaise or full-fat yogurt. Then, roll it in a crust made from melted butter, some Dijon mustard, breadcrumbs, and your choice of seasonings (such as garlic powder or onion powder) and immediately place it on a prepared sheet pan."

When using a crust, Adler recommends cooking the chicken breasts on a sheet pan for more air circulation and crisping. He'll cover the sheet pan with foil (shiny side of foil up so it reflects the heat back into the chicken), drizzle the foil with olive oil, add the chicken, and position the pan in the upper third of the oven.

Saving Dry Baked Chicken Breast

Is your baked chicken breast too dry? Don't panic, you can still salvage it. "If you take the chicken out of the oven and it is dry, the best thing to do is to slice it thinly when you serve it, so the ratio of sauce to meat is fairly equal," says Adler. "If you are willing to branch out a bit, I would recommend taking dry chicken breasts and shredding them with a fork, and then mixing them with a sauce or salsa of your choosing and taking it from there. A chicken breast glazed in BBQ sauce or a shredded chicken breast mixed with BBQ sauce will likely get you to the same place you wanted to be in the end."

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