How to Pan Sear Chicken Breasts

Tired of boring, dry chicken breasts? Never again! Master the skill of making delicious juicy pan seared chicken breasts every single time with this tutorial! These Pan Seared Chicken Breasts are flavorful, simple and perfect for any meal.

Close up of two chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet

Pan Searing Chicken: a skill everyone can master

Oi Gente!

Chicken is one of the most versatile, affordable meats. It’s well-loved by most people, including kids, so knowing how to prepare it well is a must!

Some of the issues people come across when cooking chicken breasts are:

  1. The breasts aren’t properly seasoned. Meaning they’re either overly seasoned or not seasoned nearly enough, which results in meh tasting chicken.
  2. They are dry!!!

This beautiful golden brown cast iron skillet chicken breast recipe is great for your weekly rotation because it’s simple AND pairs with most side dishes.

So, say goodbye to flavorless, dry chicken once and for all with these tips about how to cook juicy chicken breasts in cast iron.

Other chicken favorites include Brazilian Stew Chicken Recipe, Baked Chicken Legs Recipe, Rotisserie-Style Brazilian Chicken, Brazilian Chicken Stroganoff Recipe, and more!

Ingredients & Tools

Collage showing raw chicken breasts on a plate and the cooked chicken in a pan

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  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt—you know me… I only use Diamond Crystal! So my salt amount recommendations are all based on this. Different brands of kosher salt have different textures, some coarser, some finer. Therefore, you can get more or less volume of salt per measure, and you can end up with too salty or not that salted chicken… Know your salt and measure accordingly.
  • Your favorite unsalted seasoning, which I hope is Brazilian Chicken Seasoning!
  • Cold unsalted butter—it has to be cold from the fridge. This helps the butter not melt too fast as we continue to pan sear our chicken.
  • Olive oil
  • Black pepper

You’ll also need:

How to Season Chicken Breast for pan frying

Collage showing how to pound and season chicken breasts

We’ll work with cold chicken breasts right off the fridge. The chicken being cold will helps us start with a low enough temperature that will slowly rise as we cook. This will help ensure the middle doesn’t get cooked too fast and dries out.

Pound it. You want to gently pound the cold chicken breast only at the thickest part.

The objective is to flatten the thickest part of the chicken to roughly match the thickness of the rest of the breast. We do this to ensure it cooks evenly and stays juicy throughout.

You want to be careful not to pound your chicken too thin, otherwise it’ll cook too fast and may become dry.

Season the chicken. We start with the salt… My rule is about 2 teaspoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per pound of chicken, but that might be too much for some folks who are sensitive to salt. Start where you are comfortable with and adjust as needed for your family’s taste.

That said, make sure you season the breasts by sprinkling them with an even layer of salt that you can see. (Please notice this in the second photo above).

Then, sprinkle on your freshly cracked pepper, too.

Do that on one side, and let the breasts sit there until you can’t see the salt anymore—a few minutes. When you can’t see the salt, flip and do the same thing on the other side.

A hand massages seasoning into a chicken breast

Season… again. If you’re adding any special seasonings to your chicken, now is the time to do it.

Here, we’re working with my tempero em pó para frango Brazilian chicken seasoning, but this rule roughly applies to all unsalted seasonings. I also use about 2 teaspoons of unsalted seasoning per pound of chicken breasts, but like the salt, do as you prefer.

Massage. After you sprinkle on your seasoning, make sure to massage the chicken to ensure the seasoning is distributed evenly… just give it a rub to coat.

Now we’re ready to sear!

How to Sear Chicken Breasts – Visual Guide and Notes

A collage of two chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet before and after flipping

Heat up your cast iron. When it’s hot, drizzle in some oil—just enough to have a thin layer covering the bottom of your skillet.

Sear. Place the chicken in the skillet, and turn the heat down from high to medium high heat. Let it sizzle, untouched, for about 2 minutes. Set a timer.

It’s really important that you don’t touch the chicken during this step. Just let it sear undisturbed so it cooks evenly and develops that nice sear on the outside.

You’ll know it’s OK to touch and flip it when the chicken breast naturally unsticks from the pan after it developed that sear, around 2 minutes in.

Collage showing chicken breasts with butter in a pan and the pan with a lid on

Flip. After the two minutes, flip and reduce the heat to medium. You can drizzle with a little more oil if needed. Then place the cold butter on top of each breast. Then cook undisturbed again for about 2 minutes.

Cover. After about 2 minutes, you should have that sear on the other side. Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Let it sit about 6 minutes. This creates a little oven and helps the chicken finish cooking gently, which helps it retain moisture.

Note we start at high temperature then reduce as we go, until we continue to cook off of residual heat. The cast iron retains a lot of heat, so we just need to control it so it does what we want it to do… My range is electric, so if you are working with a gas range, it may take about a minute or so longer per step. Use your strongest burner.

Two chicken breasts in a cast iron skillet with fresh parsley

That’s basically all there is!

All that said, remember that all ranges are different, so cooking times may vary, but this has worked for me for the past three electric ranges I’ve had and worked through a few different styles of cast iron pans.

What to Serve With Cast Iron Chicken:

Seared chicken in a skillet with parsley

Other How To’s and Basic Skills Posts You May Find Helpful:


Seared chicken in a skillet with parsley
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5 from 66 votes

How to Pan Sear Chicken Breast

Tired of boring, dry chicken breasts? Never again! Master the skill of making delicious juicy pan seared chicken breasts every single time with this tutorial! These Pan Seared Chicken Breasts are flavorful, simple and perfect for any meal.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2 Servings
Author: Aline Shaw

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Boneless, skinless chicken breast 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 teaspoons of kosher salt or less if you are sensitive to salt
  • 2 teaspoon of your favorite unsalted seasoning I use Brazilian Chicken Seasoning
  • 2 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter
  • Olive oil to drizzle
  • Black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Pound the chicken with the mallet to flatten out the thickest part. You want the chicken breasts to be roughly the same thickness so they cook evenly. Do not pound them too thin.
  • Season the chicken with salt. Sprinkle them with an even layer of pepper and salt on one side. Let the breasts sit until you can't see the salt anymore. (This will take a few minutes.) Flip the breasts and season the other side.
  • Season with the unsalted seasoning, too. Massage gently into the chicken to ensure it's distributed evenly on both sides.
  • Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, and drizzle with olive oil
  • Add the chicken. Lower the heat to medium-high, and let it sear undisturbed for 2 minutes.
  • Flip after 2 minutes, then reduce to medium. Add a pat of cold butter on top of each breast, and sear undisturbed another 2 minutes on this side
  • After 2 minutes, turn off the heat and cover the pan cover. Let it sit undisturbed 6 minutes to allow the residual heat to finish the cooking.

Bom Apetite!!

    Did you make this recipe? Show me how it turned out! Snap a photo and share with me on Instagram tagging @aline_shaw!

    Notes

    We start at high temperature then reduce as we go, until we continue to cook off of residual heat. The cast iron retains a lot of heat, so we just need to control it so it does what we want it to do… My range is electric, so if you are working with a gas range, it may take about a minute or so longer per step. Use your strongest burner.

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