When you need to turn out a fast, tasty and healthful weeknight dinner, it ought to be so easy to reach for skinless, boneless chicken breasts.
They cook quickly, you can do endless things with them and while they cost a little more than other cuts, what you get is all meat, no waste.
Except for the downsides: Skinless, boneless chicken breasts can be boring. If you overcook them, you end up sawing away at a plank of compressed leather. With no bone or skin, you don’t get much to carry flavor, either. (Yes, I know — you could cook a skin-on breast and throw away the golden, crispy skin, but let’s face it: It’s golden, crispy skin. Who has the willpower to resist that?)
Dry brining is simple and gets quick results with chicken. While you can salt and refrigerate breasts in the morning to cook that night, even doing it for 30 minutes results in a noticeably juicy and flavorful piece of chicken.
J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, writer for seriouseats.com and the author of “The Kitchen Lab,” has a good method for chicken breasts: Pat them dry with paper towels, then dry-brine, sprinkling them with salt and pepper (1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper for 4 breasts). Refrigerate, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Pat them dry again before cooking.
To cook them, heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a skillet over medium-low until it shimmers.
Place the breasts in the skillet, smooth side down. Cook for 9 minutes without moving them, until they’re pale gold underneath and release from the pan without sticking.
Add 1 teaspoon butter and swirl it around a little, lifting the breasts to get it underneath, and cook 1 minute.
Turn the breasts and cook 6 minutes or until the center registers 155 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from heat and let stand for 3 minutes.
Now, that’s a great skinless, boneless chicken breast: golden brown and appetizing, flavored all the way through, and as juicy as can be.