I have been cooking a lot of chicken breast lately and had terrific results. Since chicken does not have much fat itself it can be tricky to end up with a moist result. Believe it or not. it's one of the most consumed "lean proteins" in the US next to beef and that is the skin-off version. Admittedly, I love myself a roasted chicken breast with crispy skin but if want to keep it as lean as possible, skinless it is!
Regardless we all want it to be flavorful so I highly recommend marinading the chicken before it’s cooked.
First I like to brine the chicken. In its most basic version a brine is water and salt. Brining literally has the chicken soak up the liquid it sits in. The chicken breast actually gains weight during the process. If you'd weigh a chicken breast before and after brining, it ends up with 10% more weight. That is good news since the chicken breast generally loses around 20% in weight during the cooking process. So the simple math is this:
10% weight gain during the brining process
20% weight loss during the cooking process
90% of the original weight of that chicken breast in the end product
An additional weight and flavor gain is achieved with a marinade, and since the average chicken breast has only 4% - 6% natural fat (no skin), I highly recommend adding some sort of fat in the cooking process. I prefer to use olive oil but not the extra virgin type, which is too expensive considering all its vitality gets destroyed in the high heat cooking process. Instead, I default to cooking with heat stable oil such as grape seed, or more unusual ones, like coconut or avocado oil.
…brining the chicken…
4 chicken breasts or about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 cups water
1) Combine water and salt in a bowl and whisk for one minute or until salt has dissolved.
2) Combine water/salt mixture and chicken breasts. Brine chicken in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
…and here is an unfussy marinade for chicken…
…marinating the chicken…
(recipe for four portions/breasts)
1 teaspoon Hungarian-style paprika
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 onion peeled and cut in half
2 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
1 lemon quartered lengthwise, and sliced thinly
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon water
1) In a bowl combine all ingredients and mix with a table fork for one minute.
…roasting the chicken…
1) Take chicken out of brine and dry on kitchen paper towel.
2) In a shallow bowl combine chicken and marinade and turn chicken breast so all sides are coated with the marinade.
3) In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon heat-stable vegetable oil such as grape seed oil on high heat setting and cook chicken breasts for 4 minutes on each side. The chicken should be roasted to a nice dark-brown color.
4) Put the chicken onto an ovenproof pan and cook for 10 minutes. With a kitchen thermometer check the internal temperature at the thickest part of the breast. It should show 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If not, cook for 2 more minutes.
5) Keep the chicken hot on the side of the stove covered with aluminum foil or a lid for 10 more minutes. The chicken breast still keeps cooking at this point but it won’t be overcooked or dried out.
Chef’s Tip: Just before serving, sprinkle the chicken breast with a dash of sea salt and fresh pepper.