Juicy Cast Iron Chicken Breasts
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 everyone needs an easy, reliable chicken breast recipe, whether you are a novice cook or an experienced chef.
Unlike many other recipes, you don’t need any fancy kitchen cookware or gadgets. All you need for delicious pan-roasted chicken breasts is an inexpensive cast iron skillet that goes from stove top to oven.
Once you make these, there are an infinite number of ways to mix it up with different spice combinations or sides. These skillet-cooked chicken breasts appear on my 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.
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Quick – under 30 minutes!
- Perfectly cooked, juicy chicken breasts every time.
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.
Boneless, chicken breasts can also be cooked 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 chicken tacos or chicken pot pies. Or you can bread and bake them to make coconut panko chicken.
Substitutions and variations
You can also use a marinade instead of a rub, and let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. 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.
Substitute a pork tenderloin for the boneless chicken breasts. Trim the tenderloin, and treat it otherwise the same. 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, you’ll need just two things:
1. A cast iron skillet
If you only have one frying pan in your kitchen, 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 you can cook things on the stove top or bake them in the oven. Non-enamel pans are oven safe up to the maximum temperature of your home oven. 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 after you wash it, 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
Turn on your oven the minute you start making this recipe. Heat your pan over medium heat, and add a splash of vegetable oil even if your skillet has been well-seasoned. 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.
Use your hands to rub half of the spice mixture over one side of the chicken breasts. Turn them over, and repeat with the second side.
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 all it does is spread bacteria around. The most important thing is to wash your hands after touching raw meat!
(You can read more here about other hazards in your kitchen. There will be at least one or two you didn’t know.)
When the oil is hot, put the chicken in the cast iron pan (Panel #1, below), and don’t touch them for about 5 to 7 minutes until the bottoms have browned. Use tongs to flip the chicken breasts in the skillet so that the cooked side is up (Panel #2).
Turn off the heat on your stove top. You don’t need to cook the second side on the stove top because the cast iron retains all that heat to brown the second side while the chicken breasts are roasting.
But that also means that the cast iron pan will be hot! So use an oven mitt or pot holder to transfer the cast iron skillet to the oven. Bake the chicken breasts for about 15 minutes until the thickest part of the breasts are fully cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
How to serve these cast iron chicken breasts
Here are some ideas:
- Serve with the world’s best cavatappi mac and cheese and a carrot salad on the side.
- 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.
- Add parboiled potatoes and cauliflower to the pan before you put it in the oven. The vegetables will absorb some of the juices released from the chicken in the cast iron skillet as it roasts.
- Use cumin, coriander, and cardamom as your rub and serve with a Mediterranean inspired pumpkin couscous salad.
- Add to quick pasta dishes to make a chicken alfredo pasta or chicken pesto pasta.
- Serve over white rice (because it cooks quickly), steam or roast some vegetables, and top with a creamy lemon herb tahini sauce or sumac dressing.
- Make a creamy mushroom Stroganoff.
- Make a fabulous chicken salad with cranberry and pecans.
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.
Related poultry recipes
If you love this cast iron chicken breast recipe, check out other recipes from the poultry archives like these chicken meatballs:
Or maybe branch out into other poultry like pulled duck breast, duck burgers, or meatloaves like a Peking Duck-inspired meatloaf or Thanksgiving turkey meatloaf.
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.
Note: This cast iron skillet chicken breast recipe was originally published 1/1/2021. It was last updated 4/5/2023.
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