How to Cook Chicken Breast in a Pan

$7.29 recipe / $1.82 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.84 from 12 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

4.84 from 12 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 mins
Cook 15 mins
Total 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 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)

Instructions 

  • 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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Nutrition

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. Thank you so much for this, especially for including a second round of instructions with photos!!! As a college student who still doesn’t really cook for herself, this helped me feel comfortable to start today by cooking myself chicken!!!! Thank you so much!!

  2. Amazing. I’ve been cooking chicken breast’s in the pan for 20 years and could never get it right. Perfect!

  3. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! -Especially with the added butter in skillet at the end. It was seared perfectly and fairly tender. I will likely serve mine with rice and asparagus or broccoli. Thanks!

  4. I made this, cooked it until 165. Let it rest: chewy, not tender at all. I am so disappointed! I don’t understand what I am doing wrong.

  5. You completely changed my chicken life for the better. God bless you and this delicious recipe.

  6. Is this for chicken that is straight out of the fridge or that has been out of the fridge for a bit to be closer to room temp?

    1. Never put cold ingredients in a hot pan. The shock of a cold ingredient suddenly turning hot can change its composition, making it cook too quickly, curdle, seize, break, etc. Bring it closer to room temp first. XOXO -Monti

  7. Thank you for this great recipe!  So easy & tasty!  This is definitely a keeper for me🌻

  8. I am no chef. I have never prepared meat on my own in my life (until now).  I just followed this recipe and it was amazing! So juicy and tasteful! I didn’t even know what smoked paprika was until today as I stared at the uninviting spice wall of my local grocery. Thanks! 

  9. I like how the article promises the chicken won’t be dry, then proceeds to recommend a temp of 165f. No. Just no. 155 is fine! It doesn’t kill all bacteria instantaneously, but five minutes of resting the meat will let the residual heat do the job.

    1. how long once flipped do you cook the chicken breast for? i’m newly engaged and have never cooked chicken raw like this before and i dont want to get my fiancé sick

      1. It can vary depending on the type of skillet you’re using, the individual settings on your stovetop, the thickness of the chicken breast, and other factors. When you’re first learning the ropes it’s helpful to use a meat thermometer to make sure the internal temperature reaches 165ºF.

  10. Recipe looks1 great. usually I just halve the breast then put in flour, egg, and bread crumbs, seasoning the flour with salt pepper and the bread crumbs with garlic and herbs have to watch it though as the bread crumbs will burn so I will try your recipe. Thank you

  11. Wow, chicken breasts fried in a pan usually taste blah to me. I used lemon pepper and butter on mine, and they tasted great. Will be keeping this one.

  12. Would you freeze the chicken before or after cutting it? We enjoyed this chicken, but it looks like we will have leftovers for later this week, which makes me wonder when to freeze

    1. I usually slice up the cooked chicken breast and then freeze the strips, but that’s just my preference. You could do it either way.