How to Cook Chicken Breast in a Pan

$7.29 recipe / $1.82 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.44 from 32 votes
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The last two times I bought chicken breast at the grocery store, the cashiers asked me how to cook them (I had to wonder if they secretly knew what I did for a living 😅). While it can seem like a simple process, it can definitely go wrong if not done properly. And I’m not about to let you waste big $$$ on dry, tasteless chicken breasts. So here is my full tutorial on how to cook chicken breast in a pan so that it stays juicy, flavorful, and tender.

Two chicken breasts in a skillet garnished with parsley

Why I Love Pan Seared Chicken Breasts

This has become my go-to method for cooking chicken breasts. Not only is it super fast and easy, but you get a lot of delicious browning on the outside of the meat, which is something that doesn’t happen in the gentle heat of an oven. Plus, you can change the seasoning and make it taste like something new every time!

I’ve begun cooking a couple of chicken breasts at the beginning of each week, slicing them up, then storing them in the refrigerator to add to salads, pasta, sandwiches, and bowls over the next few days. It’s only a few minutes of prep and then I’ve got an easy protein ready to add to any meal. Here is a roundup of flexible recipes that are perfect for adding any protein, like pan-seared chicken breasts. You can also just add a couple of veggies on the side and make it a meal prep!

Cooking Boneless vs. Bone-in Chicken Breasts

The cooking technique below is for boneless chicken breasts (with or without skin). Bone-in chicken breasts take much longer to cook through, so you’ll want to utilize the oven to make sure the breast heats through completely without burning on the outside. For bone-in chicken breasts, I suggest using the method outlined in my Herb Roasted Chicken Breast recipe.

How Long to Cook Chicken Breasts in a Skillet

The amount of time needed to cook a chicken breast in a pan will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breast, the amount of heat used, and the type of cookware used. To take the guesswork out of how long to cook the chicken breasts, I suggest using an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature of the chicken breast has reached 165ºF.

Thick Chicken Breasts

Thick chicken breasts take longer to cook through than thin chicken breasts, so I like to use lower heat (medium-low) and a longer cook time, which allows time for the meat to heat through without the outside burning. For a boneless chicken breast that is about one inch thick, I cook for about 8 minutes per side over medium-low heat.

Thin Chicken Breasts

If you buy thin cut breasts, fillet the chicken breasts yourself, or use a mallet to pound the chicken breasts to ½-inch thick, they will cook much faster. You’ll want to increase the heat to medium so you can still achieve some browning on the outside with a shorter cook time. For thinner breasts, I cook for about 4-5 minutes per side.

How to Season Chicken Breasts

I used a very classic smoky seasoning for the chicken breasts in the recipe below, but there are so many other delicious options. Here are some other ways you can season your pan-seared chicken breasts:

side view of chicken breasts in a skillet
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Pan Seared Chicken Breasts

4.44 from 32 votes
Learn how to cook tender, juicy, and flavorful boneless chicken breasts in a pan. Perfect for quick dinners and meal prep! 
close up of cooked chicken breasts in the skillet
Servings 4
Prep 5 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Total 20 minutes


  • 2 tsp steak seasoning ($0.20)
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika ($0.05)
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika ($0.05)
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (1.3 lbs. total) ($6.79)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil ($0.08)
  • 1 Tbsp butter (optional) ($0.10)


  • Combine the steak seasoning, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika in a bowl. Coat the chicken breasts liberally with the seasoning on all sides.
  • Add the cooking oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-low (or medium for thin-cut breasts). Once hot, swirl the oil to coat the skillet.
  • Add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook for about 8 minutes without flipping (5 minutes for thin-cut breasts). Flip the chicken and then cook on the second side until well browned and cooked through (internal temperature of 165ºF).
  • For extra luscious chicken, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet, allow it to melt, then flip the chicken a couple of times to coat in the melted butter.
  • Transfer the chicken to a clean cutting board and allow it to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.

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Serving: 1servingCalories: 229kcalCarbohydrates: 1gProtein: 31gFat: 10gSodium: 197mgFiber: 1g
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close up side view of sliced chicken breasts

How to Make Cook Chicken Breasts in a Pan – Step by Step Photos

Seasoned chicken breasts on a cutting board

Begin by seasoning the chicken breast liberally on each side. I used a mix of 2 tsp steak seasoning, ½ tsp smoked paprika, and ½ tsp sweet paprika. The steak seasoning contains salt, so no extra salt was needed in my mix.

oil being added to the skillet

Add a tablespoon or so of your favorite cooking oil to a large skillet. Heat the skillet over medium-low (or medium heat for thin cut breasts).

Cooked Chicken breasts in the skillet

Once hot, swirl the oil in the skillet to coat the surface, then add the chicken breasts. Let the chicken breasts cook for 8 minutes without flipping (or 5 minutes for thin cut breasts). Flip once and cook until well browned on the second side and cooked through.

Butter added to the skillet

To make the chicken breasts extra luscious, add a tablespoon of butter to the skillet, allow it to melt, then flip the chicken a couple of times to coat. The butter will help dissolve some of the flavor off the bottom of the skillet to further coat the chicken.

Sliced chicken breasts

Transfer the cooked chicken to a clean cutting board and allow it to rest for five minutes before slicing and serving.

close up of cooked chicken breasts in the skillet
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  1. Take it from me folks – make sure you check the insides of the chicken are cooked. I just did 8 mins on each side and just assumed that meant it was cooked but halfway through eating realised it was still fairly pink in the middle. Must’ve had the heat too low. Anyway, my husband and I ended up having to go to hospital with Salmonella poisoning! Won’t be making that mistake again

    1. Oh my goodness, Megan! I hope you all are doing okay! Any variation in the chicken’s thickness could definitely result in a longer or shorter cooking time. This is why (hopefully!) every chicken recipe you’ll find online will mention cooking the chicken until it reaches internal temperature of 165ºF. You can find basic meat thermometers pretty cheap and it will save you a lot of trouble in the future! Get well soon!

  2. I made this for dinner tonight and it was scrumptious! My husband just raved about it. The chicken was so moist and delicious. Definitely going in my recipe rotation. Thanks for sharing.

  3. My husband just started a Keto diet. Ugh! So I’m learning a new way to cook without pasta and rice. Google brought me to you and I must say that this is the easiest recipe I’ve tried. Thank you for taking the time to publish this. I look forward to trying more of your recipes!

  4. Omg ! Chicken was juicy and so flavorful ! I tweaked it a bit, I pound the chicken before seasoning , added a tsp of onion powder garlic powder, 1/4 tsp black pepper , 1/2 tsp salt omitted sweet paprika since I didn’t have it but had the smoked , also I added sliced onions to the pan and butter when cooking last chicken breast

  5. It was easy to cook and chicken was very tender and delicious 😋. Easy recipe for a quick meal. Love 😍 it!!

  6. Currently eating this recipe! Yum! Only thing is, I was cooking 3 chicken breasts at once, used oil as instructed, my pan and stove are not fancy, I’m just a college student- however it took me nearly an hour, the chicken breasts were pretty thick, but I cooked them over medium heat for more like 25 minutes per side by the time they were cooked all the way through. Should I have used higher heat? I’d love some suggestions!

    1. They should definitely not be taking that long to cook through! I’d say it’s probably a combination of your stove running cold and the chicken being thick. I’d probably turn up the heat next time, and if your chicken is super-thick again, you could fillet the chicken breasts, or use a mallet to pound the chicken breasts to ½-inch thick so they will cook much faster.

    2. Kate, I’m one of those “cooks” who rarely measure or time anything. I cook boneless breast of chicken a number of different ways, but determining when it’s done is consistent no matter what the recipe. When you use tongs to pick the chicken up, and it’s “floppy,” it’s not done. If it’s firm, then it’s done and I give it just a few moments, then cut into one of them just to make sure. I’ve been using this method for YEARS, and the chicken always is tender and juicy. Most people have a tendency to overcook boneless breasts – a breast is a terrible thing to waste! Good luck!