How To Bake Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts

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It was a two-chicken week this week.

First, there was the baked chicken with great flavor, that was sadly ruined because the chicken was dry and overdone.  That sent me to the internet where I did a lot of research. That led to chicken number 2: a different recipe (but still baked) and the result was delicious chicken: not overdone or dry at all.

Woot.

This chicken foray all started began because my mom was planning to make pot roast for out-of-town guests.

Yes, pot roast.

She was throwing a casual dinner party for out of town guests, and pot roast is just perfect casual dinner party fare.  Just set it up, let it rip and it’s always delicious (though not so lo-co, but that was not the point.) She had purchased a lovely pot roast and was all set to go when she had to punt because other friends had the same out-of-town couple over for dinner the night before.  And guess what was on the menu?

Yup, pot roast.

So my poor Mom had to race to the store. And ended up with 3 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast.

Which frankly, might not have been my choice because chicken breasts are hard to cook – meaning, usually they get over-cooked and dried out.

But she had the chicken in hand, so we had to find a solution. I suggested The Silver Palate’s Chicken Marbella recipe. It’s fabulous: though filled with ingredients I don’t like, somehow it works. And it’s a great choice for a dinner party: it’s always delicious and almost as easy as a pot roast – as long as you get it marinading the night before.

The only trouble is, the Chicken Marbella recipe is for whole chicken or bone-in chicken pieces; if you cooked boneless, skinless for the same amount of time, they’d definitely dry out. And I’d never done it.

So I suggested my mom cook the chicken for no more than 40 minutes (rather than the 50-60 minutes in the original recipe.)  And yet – I steered her wrong.  Her chicken had great flavor but was very dry. (And yes, I know, never try out a new recipe for company – totally insane of me to suggest this. But that’s another story.)

My guess, as Mom and I were discussing it, was the dry chicken was caused by two issues: a) the 40 minutes I suggested was just much too long, and b) I didn’t realize that my mom cut the breasts in half – probably necessitating an even shorter cook time.

I felt so badly I’d led my mom astray for a dinner party (sorry again, Mom!)

With that on my mind, I was determined to figure out what should have been the right cook time for baked chicken breasts. What was interesting is that my research pointed to 2 issues: both cook time AND temperature. Several sources recommended that the proper way to get moist baked chicken is to cook the boneless, skinless chicken breasts at a slightly higher temperature — 400 degrees — for 20-30 minutes depending on the thickness of the breasts.

I was all set to try it out, when I opened the New York Times Dining section and found Chicken Offered To The Green Goddess, by Melissa Clark, one of my favorite NYT chef authors. I had to try this recipe – both because it looked delicious AND because I needed to test out baking chicken to see if I could do it without them drying out.

But I chickened out (sorry for terrible pun).  I bought split chicken breasts rather than skinless, boneless because I really wanted to try this Green Goddess sauce – and worried I’d ruin it my first time out.

So I followed Melissa Clark’s Green Goddess Roasted Chicken recipe (500 degrees for about 40 minutes) and the skin was gorgeously browned and the chicken was moist moist moist!

And no, I did NOT eat the skin.  But it looked pretty!

This is a great recipe to try – either as Melissa Clark wrote it, or with boneless, skinless breasts.  If you go boneless, skinless, go with 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes (test the chicken at 20 minutes to see if it’s done: no red or pink and it should be 160-165 degrees). And do watch Ms. Clark’s video, I found it very helpful.

And because it drives me insane that the NYT recipes never include nutritional info, I took the time to enter it into My Fitness Pal.

Then I wrote an article about this revised recipe and published it on Answers.com: A Low Cholesterol Take On Melissa Clark’s Green Goddess Chicken Recipe. Follow my version of the recipe if you want to go with boneless, skinless breasts rather than whole chicken or split breasts.  And bonus, my article includes the nutritional value of the recipe.

Give it a whirl.  Either the original (which is far more impressive than chicken breasts – so choose Ms. Clark’s original if you are cooking for company) or my revised boneless, skinless version. And if there are ingredients you don’t care for in the Green Goddess dressing, the recipe’s very flexible – Ms. Clark even tells you what you can substitute.

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