Chicken breast is considered one of the most popular lean meat sources available but it is important to remember that all poultry comes with the potential of foodborne illnesses. As such cooking a chicken breast in an oven to the right temperature and time is very important. The main concern regarding the safe preparation of chicken is the presence of salmonella, a food-borne bacteria that can be responsible for a number of illnesses every year. Incidentally, salmonella is widely found in raw poultry and with improper cooking techniques can lead to health problems.
When preparing chicken it is important to make sure that frozen chicken is thawed slowly, and to destroy any possible contagion, the meat should be brought to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit when cooking.
When thawing the chicken, make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator rather than on countertop and also refrigerate cooked chicken breast within two hours of cooking and use up the leftovers within two to three days.
Another consideration when cooking a chicken breast in an oven is to make sure that the meat does not cross contaminate. In many cases, when raw poultry comes in contact with work surfaces, knives and even hands it can leave behind bacteria. The same bacteria can then be easily transferred from one surface to the next and end up in your salad, your fork and ultimately your mouth. Therefore, make sure to wash and disinfect surfaces that come into contact with raw poultry.
Now that you know some safety concerns when handling raw poultry, let us move on to preparing a moist, baked chicken breast in the oven.
How to cook chicken breast in the oven?
Chicken breasts are very versatile and can be used in a variety of ways when added to meals.
While general guidelines suggest cooking a chicken breast in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees, the secret to preparing a moist baked chicken breast is to cook it for a shorter duration at a higher temperature. Often times, baking the chicken breast for half an hour at 350 degrees can result in dry meat but reducing the baking time to 20 minutes while raising the temperature to 450 degrees will result in a sublimely succulent baked chicken breast every time.
To start, get your chicken breast and seasonings ready. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line your baking tray with foil. Then spray both sides of the chicken breast with olive oil and seasonings. Bake the chicken uncovered for about 8-10 minutes on one side and flip over. Brush the second side once again with olive oil and continue baking for a further eight to ten minutes. To test if the chicken is done, make a small slit in the thickest part of the breast with a fork and let juices run clear.
If juices run clear when pierced, the meat is done and can be transferred to a serving platter. However remember that cooking time may also need to be adjusted based on the size of the chicken breast. For instance, the recipe given above is ideal for an 8 oz. chicken breast but if it is larger or up to 10 oz. then cooking time will also increase to 12-15 minutes on each side.
Likewise, if the pieces are smaller, then cooking chicken breast inside the oven will take around 8 minutes per side to get it just right.
One very reliable way to check the doneness of the chicken breasts is to insert a thermometer and get an internal reading of 165 degrees.
Cooking chicken breast in an oven this way is a convenient way to prepare chicken recipes that can be used as entrees, be added to salads or sandwiches, or used as a gluten free, low carb, paleo meal options.
How to cook chicken breast in a convection oven?
Another option to cook chicken breast is to prepare it in a convection oven. This method basically differs from the oven method in terms of quicker cooking times and using lower temperatures. This is because traditional ovens have a single or double main heating element that powers the whole chamber, but a convection oven works by using a centralized fan that distributes heat consistently.
People who prefer using a convection oven for preparing their meals feel that heat distribution is more even in this appliance than a traditional oven. For most convection oven recipes, the standard baking temperature is at 350 degrees, but it can be flexible. For instance cooking chicken breasts in the oven that have the bone in will obviously take longer than others that are boneless and skinless. Likewise, temperatures of the convection oven will also vary for recipes that feature heavy sauces or use vegetables with the chicken. If chicken breasts are to be cooked in marinades, then the mixture should be bubbling.
To prepare a bare chicken breast without any accompanying sauces or marinades, preheat a convection oven to 350 degrees and rub the chicken pieces with olive oil and seasonings. Place chicken breasts in broiler pan and bake for 10-12 minutes on each side.
How to cook chicken breast in the oven in foil?
If despite all efforts, chicken breasts still come out dry, then another way to go is to cook chicken breasts in the oven, but by wrapping them in foil. This method ensures yielding chicken breasts that are moist by sealing in their natural juices. You can also prepare chicken that is coated with crumbs, infused with flavor and accompanied by vegetables using the foil method.
One advantage of cooking chicken in the oven using this method is that it keeps the oven splatter free. Start by using heavy duty aluminum foil large enough to comfortably surround the chicken one and a half times over and coat with cooking spray. Each chicken breast needs to be wrapped separately and placed in the centre of the foil. Sprinkle with oil and seasonings and create a foil packet around the chicken piece. Crimp edges together and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Chicken is done when no longer pink and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Images shared on creative commons – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Image One by Steve Johnston – https://www.flickr.com/photos/artbystevejohnson/4677022870/
Image Two by Howard Holly – https://www.flickr.com/photos/61446825@N03/9512823438/
Image Three by Kathey Maister – https://www.flickr.com/photos/startcooking/2760564170/