There is no right temperature for baking chicken breast. It can range from 225F to as high as 450F. The challenge is that at 450F the internal temperature of the chicken rises from 30-40F to the USDA recommended safe temperautre of 165F in 15 minutes or so. The rise in the final minutes of cooking can be surprisingly fast.
Unless you have an accurate digital BBQ thermometer with an alarm, there is a high risk of temperature overshooting and ruining your meal. Another challenge is that at this high temperature the surface of lean meat like chicken breast may dry out before the center is fully cooked.
On the flip side, cooking at a very low temperature like 225F is not very practical. This temperature is desirable for smoking when you want longer cooking time to get the right amount of smoke in the meat. This is not the case with the baked chicken breast.
After a number of experiments I settled on 325F as being the best of both worlds for the baked chicken breast. At this temperature it takes regular size chicken breasts about 60 minutes to reach the perfect 165F internal temperature. Slower temperature rise allows for a wider margin of error. Even if you are a few minutes late your baked chicken breast will only be a few degrees higher than the target instead of 10-20 degrees.
Soaking meats in brine helps achieve a moister and juicier product. This is especially true with poultry. I don’t think anyone would argue with that. The challenge is that brining adds to preparation time. Depending on who you ask, recommended brining time for a chicken breast varies from 30 minutes to 2-4 hours.
Some say that even 15 minutes of brining makes a difference, though my experience shows that for good moisture and proper flavor penetration you need about 2 hours. Stanley Marianski, the renowned author of a series of books on production of meats and sausages, suggests 2-4 hours for chicken parts. All that said, I am going to recommend skipping brining and try something different this time. You won’t be disappointed.
- 4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp cane sugar
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp paprika
- 2 tsp vegetable or olive oil
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter sliced into 8 thin pats
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 325F
- Prepare the rub by mixing salt, sugar, cayenne pepper and paprika. Cover the chicken breasts with a thin layer of vegetable or olive oil first to ensure that the rub adheres properly. Cover each chicken breast with an even layer of the rub.
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