This Cast Iron Chicken Breast recipe makes perfectly cooked, juicy pan-roasted chicken breasts in under 30 minutes. It’s easy, it’s reliable, and you don’t need fancy kitchen cookware or gadgets. It’s truly the chicken breast recipe everyone needs, whether you’re a novice cook or an experienced chef.
But the best thing I’ll share with you about these cast iron skillet chicken breasts is the infinite number of ways to mix it up with different spice combinations or sides. So turn on your oven, grab your apron and your cast iron skillet, and let’s make dinner!
Why boneless chicken breasts
The short answer is ease and convenience. Boneless breasts cook quickly, and you shouldn’t need to trim them of fat, skin, or bone.
The downside is also that they cook quickly. So you need to be careful not to overcook them until they’re dry.
One other super easy alternative to cooking chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet and oven is by poaching (simmering in a liquid over low heat) like in my Moroccan chicken and dates. This is a great alternative when you want shredded chicken for tacos or chicken pot pies. Or you can bread and bake them to make coconut panko chicken.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations and substitutions
While the recipe card calls for a dry rub, you can also use a marinade. For Asian flavors, try a mixture with 3 tablespoons of lime juice, 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon of fish sauce, a smidge of sugar, and equal parts of minced garlic, ginger, and chili pepper. Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for an hour before cooking.
Substitute a pork tenderloin for the boneless chicken breasts. Trim the tenderloin, and treat it otherwise the same. You’ll want to cook pork until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, and then give it a three minute rest after removing it from the oven.
Recipe tips and tricks
How to cook chicken in a cast iron skillet
In addition to chicken breasts and a little oil to coat the pan to prevent sticking, you’ll need just two things:
1. A cast iron skillet
If you only have one frying pan, it should be a 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet. They cost about $20 to $30 and can be “pre-seasoned” or you can do it yourself. Rub the pan all over with Crisco or oil and put it in a hot oven for 2 to 3 hours.
Cast iron skillets are extremely versatile because they go beautifully from stove top to oven, so they’re great for making brown butter cornbread or a bacon frittata. You can even cook with cast iron on a camp fire.
Cleaning is where you should be gentle. Don’t use steel wool or hard scrubbing. And make sure to dry it completely, or it will rust.
But if you aren’t gentle, you can always bring your cast iron skillet back to life by re-seasoning it. Cast iron pans are the best investment ever.
Make a spice mixture of about 1 teaspoon per chicken breast. You can go simple with salt, pepper, and paprika. Or use one of these other spice mix variations:
- taco seasoning: 1 teaspoon cumin, one half teaspoon paprika, one half teaspoon salt, one quarter teaspoon pepper, cayenne or other ground chili pepper to taste.
- 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, one half teaspoon thyme, one half teaspoon salt, one eighth teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes.
Step by step
Step 1: Turn on your oven the minute you decide to make these cast iron chicken breasts!
Step 2: Heat your pan over medium heat, and add a splash of vegetable oil even to a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. This thin coat of oil will keep the chicken from sticking to the pan.
Tip from the wise quacker: Use oils like safflower, peanut, or canola oil when you’re frying or cooking at higher temperatures. Low smoke point oils like extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil may smoke at high temperatures, giving your food a scorched taste.
Step 3: Rub half of the spice mixture over both sides of the chicken breasts.
As an aside, you don’t need to dry meat. The infectious disease doctor in me also needs to tell you not to wash chicken, because it just spreads bacteria. The most important thing is to wash your hands after touching raw meat!
(You can read more about other hazards in your kitchen. There will be at least one to surprise you!)
Step 4: When the oil is hot, put the chicken breasts in the cast iron pan (Panel #1, below), and don’t touch them for 5 to 7 minutes until the bottoms have browned.
Step 5: Use tongs to flip the chicken breasts so the cooked side is up and turn off the heat. You don’t need to cook the second side on the stove top because cast iron retains that heat to brown the second side while the chicken breasts roast.
That also means that the cast iron pan will be hot! So use an oven mitt or pot holder to transfer your cast iron skillet to the oven.
Step 6: After searing, bake the chicken breasts in your cast iron in the oven for about 15 minutes at 425 degrees until the thickest part of the breasts are 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Serve hot or refrigerate to cool.
How to serve cast iron chicken breasts
These cast iron skillet-roasted chicken breasts appear on our plate nearly every week, whether plain and with a side of creamy baked mac and cheese, sliced onto a taco salad, or chopped up for a chicken salad sandwich for lunch. Here are some suggestions to start:
- Use a taco seasoning as a rub for your chicken breasts prior to roasting and make a chicken taco salad with lettuce, a chunky guacamole, a can of black beans, frozen corn, mango pico de gallo or some spicy pickled onions, and some toasted sunflower seeds.
- Indoor barbecue! Serve with apple pie baked beans, a purple cabbage slaw or carrot salad, and cornbread.
- Nestle parboiled potatoes or cauliflower around the chicken in the pan before you put it in the oven. They’ll absorb the juices released from the chicken as it roasts.
- Use cumin, coriander, and cardamom as your rub and serve with a Mediterranean inspired pumpkin couscous salad with a creamy lemon herb tahini sauce or sumac dressing.
- Sub these chicken breasts for turkey in Thanksgiving dinner for two. Add in maple roasted Brussels sprouts and a homemade jalapeño cranberry sauce or cranberry sauce from dried cranberries.
- Add cooked chicken to quick pasta dishes to make a chicken alfredo pasta or chicken pesto pasta.
- Make a fabulous chicken salad with cranberry and pecans.
- Use it in a chicken pot pie.
A meat thermometer really is a handy kitchen tool. If you don’t have one, there are a few ways to tell when the chicken breasts are fully done. The most reliable is to cut into the thickest part of the breast. There should be no pink remaining to the meat, and the juices should be completely clear.
Yes, cooked chicken will keep in the freezer for a few months, but it won’t be moist and juicy after freezing. Chop up this leftover chicken to use in soups or stews.
Yes, you can pan roast bone-in chicken breasts exactly the same way, though they’ll take longer to cook through. Make sure, when you check the internal temperature, that your probe is in the thickest part of the breast and isn’t touching the bone, which can read warmer than the flesh.
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Cast Iron Chicken Breasts
- 1 9 or 10 inch cast iron skillet
- 1 teaspoon paprika sweet or smoked
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Turn on your oven to heat to 425°F.
- In a small bowl, combine the paprika, salt, and black pepper.1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Put the cast iron skillet over a stove top burner on medium heat, and add the oil.1 tablespoon neutral vegetable oil
- When the oil is hot, use your hands to smear the spices over both sides of the chicken breasts and place them in the pan. (Wash your hands!) Let the chicken breasts cook for about 5 to 7 minutes until the side touching the pan has browned.2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- Flip the chicken breasts over and turn off the heat.
- Use an oven mitt or potholder to transfer the cast iron skillet to an oven rack in the middle of the oven. Cook for about 15 minutes until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the breast is 165°F.
- If slicing the chicken breasts, move them to a cutting board and let them sit for a minute or two before slicing.
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