This quick and easy recipe for the perfect pan-seared chicken is the ultimate weeknight dinner! After many tests and trials, I decided to serve this with a quick pan sauce. The drippings leftover in the pan are so tasty, I just couldn’t leave them behind!

You’ll need just 5 simple ingredients for both the chicken and the pan sauce. And if you’d rather skip the pan sauce all you’ll need is 2 ingredients—chicken and grapeseed oil. I have no doubt this will become your new favorite chicken recipe!

Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Pan Sauce

I’ve been working to master pan-seared chicken breast for a while now. I’ve tried all sorts of things and have filled the house with smoke on multiple occasions. Cooking boneless, skinless chicken breast on the stove top, and the stove top alone is not an easy feat. Most often the chicken is gorgeously browned on the outside and raw on the inside, all while the drippings in the pan are burning and smoke is billowing out of the skillet. I’d say that’s not ideal.

The KEY to cooking chicken in a skillet, and doing it well, lies in how you prep it for cooking. I’m going to take you through the process, breaking it down step-by-step to ensure you can achieve the same results at home. I can’t wait for you to make this!

pan seared chicken on a white plate with a bite cut out and on a fork

What you’ll need:

  • Grapeseed oil: not as healthy as olive oil but healthier than canola or vegetable oil. Grapeseed oil is a great option for pan searing because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil (aka it can be heated to a higher temperature without smoking). 
  • Kosher salt and black pepper: I will keep saying this until the day I die. You need kosher salt in your kitchen. Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper are all we’re using for seasoning here. Once you master this recipe feel free to mix it up, just avoid garlic powder or onion powder as those tender to burn at high temperatures. 
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts: this recipe is written for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. I do not recommend trying a different cut (such as chicken thighs) or bone-in breasts for this recipe. The process will be completely different for those.
  • Unsalted butter: butter is used to a make a suuuper simple and quick pan sauce. The sauce is totally optional, so if all you need is some quick skillet chicken breast, skip it!
  • Low-sodium chicken broth: just like the butter, broth is used to make a pan sauce. Skip the broth if you’re skipping the sauce! If you are making the sauce, be sure to use low-sodium broth, the residual salt from the seasoned chicken breast will nicely season the pan sauce. 
  • Cornstarch: another pan sauce ingredient—cornstarch is important for creating a nice thick and silky sauce. If you’d rather make a roux with some flour and the butter, go right ahead! 
pan seared chicken on a white plate

Tips for Making the Best Seared Chicken

There are a few things you need to do to ensure perfect pan-seared chicken. First and foremost, you need to make sure all of the chicken pieces are even in thickness. This guarantees each piece will cook at the same rate and will all be cooked through at the same time (or about the same time). The whole process is very similar to that used for Chicken Paillard.

Uniformity is important here, and so is actual thickness. Each piece should be about ¼-inch thick. Too much thicker and the chicken won’t cook through quick enough, which risks burning the pan drippings and filling the house with smoke.

Seasoning well is essential. In order for your chicken to be flavorful you need to season the chicken pieces, on both sides, with a fairly generous amount of kosher salt and black pepper. 

Watch your heat. Make sure you preheat the skillet before adding oil. This ensures the cooking surface is evenly, and adequately, heated. Maintain a medium heat throughout cooking and avoid rushing the process by bumping up the heat. Increasing the heat will cause the outside of the chicken to brown too quickly and potentially burn before the interior is cooked through. 

The Process: How to Make Pan Seared Chicken

Step 1: Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise to create two halves, one that’s thicker and one that’s thinner. Cut the thicker pieces in half horizontally to create two thin pieces.

step-by-step grid of images showing how to slice chicken breast into three thin pieces

Step 2: Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Preheat a 12-inch skillet over medium for a few minutes. Add oil to the preheated skillet and swirl to coat. 

Step 3: Add the chicken pieces to the skillet in an even layer and cook, without moving, until golden brown. Flip the chicken pieces and continue to cook until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer chicken to a plate.

two images showing how to pan sear chicken in a skillet

Step 4: Add the butter to the skillet. Whisk together the broth and cornstarch then very carefully add to skillet, it will splatter so stand back! Increase heat and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened. Serve sauce over chicken.

Variations:

  • In addition to salt and pepper, season chicken pieces with dried rosemary and thyme. Add a dash of each to the pan sauce as well.
  • Add minced garlic to the butter to create a delicious garlic butter sauce.
  • Add spinach to the pan sauce for a side dish that resembles creamed spinach.
  • Deglaze the skillet with white wine to create a white wine butter sauce.

How to serve Pan Seared Chicken Breast 

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If you give this pan seared chicken breast recipe a try, be sure to let me know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @zestfulkitchen on Instagram. I love hearing about and seeing your ZK creations!

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Perfect Pan Seared Chicken Breast

  • Author: Lauren Grant
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Golden brown, tender and juicy, this is THE ultimate pan-seared chicken recipe! Serve as is with the pan sauce and some mashed potatoes or toss on a kale salad or with broccoli. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 (10–12-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and black pepper (seasoned chix with ¾ tsp)
  • 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil 
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 
  • ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch 

Instructions

Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise to create two halves, one that’s naturally thicker and one that’s naturally thinner.

Slice thick halves in half horizontally to create two thinner halves.

step-by-step grid of images showing how to slice chicken breast into three thin pieces

Using the heel of your hand, firmly press all six chicken pieces (3-4 ounces each) into an even ¼-inch thickness; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add oil and heat until shimmering; swirl to coat pan.

Add chicken pieces in an even layer and cook until bottom sides are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until second side is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the centers registers 163–165ºF, 3–5 minutes more (the smaller pieces will likely be done first, pull them as they come to temperature and are finished cooking). Transfer chicken pieces to a plate and set aside.

two images showing how to pan sear chicken in a skillet

Decrease heat to low, add butter to skillet and swirl until melted. Whisk together broth and cornstarch then carefully add to pan (stand back as it will splatter). Increase heat to medium-high and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, about 3 minute. Drizzle sauce over chicken and serve. 

 



Notes

It’s important to use a 12-inch skillet to avoid overcrowding. If the chicken is too crowded it will steam instead of sear (which is also delicious but not quite what we’re going for). 

Keywords: pan seared chicken breast, skillet chicken breast,

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About The Author

Lauren Grant is a professional culinary food scientist, food writer, recipe developer, and food photographer. Lauren is a previous magazine editor and test kitchen developer and has had work published in major national publications including Diabetic Living Magazine, Midwest Living Magazine, Cuisine at Home Magazine, EatingWell.com, AmericasTestKitchen.com, and more.

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