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Basic Simple Chicken

Updated: 8/14/21 2:00 amPublished: 9/28/18
By Catherine Newman

By Catherine Newman

Makes: 4 servings

Total carbohydrates: 1 gram per serving

Hands-on time: 20 minutes

Total time: 20 minutes

This is just a perfect, basic chicken recipe that makes versatile, good-tasting chicken for salads, bowls, roll-ups, and whatever else you might want chicken for. Please heed the note about not using a nonstick pan: the chicken will be disinclined to brown correctly in it. And please don’t be afraid of heat! Brown is where the flavor is. The chicken will seem, at first, like it's sticking, but once it's properly browned it will loosen almost as if by magic.


1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, ideally smallish ones

Kosher salt

2 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Begin by trimming the chicken breasts if they need trimming. I use kitchen scissors and snip off any shaggy bits of fat or gristle. Pat them dry with paper towels (this helps them brown) and sprinkle them with some kosher salt.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a very large pan (not nonstick) over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.

  3. When the oil is very hot, add the chicken breasts in one layer. Now leave them alone for 5 or so minutes while the bottom gets nice and crusty and brown. Be patient! And if they seem at all disinclined to brown, then turn the heat up and leave them until they do. (Conversely, if the pieces seem to be browning before they’re cooked through, turn the heat down a little bit.)

  4. Use tongs or a spatula to flip the pieces over as they're ready for flipping, and then cook another 4 or so minutes until the bottom is very brown and the chicken is cooked through. You may want to cut a piece open, but try pressing a cooked breast with your fingertip so that you get a feel for its doneness, which will develop over time into the skill of knowing when it's done without cutting it.

  5. The chicken will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

About Catherine

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop series of mission-driven cooking magazines. This kids’ cooking magazine won the James Beard Publication of the Year award in 2013 – the first non-profit ever to win it – and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award. Last year they started the WIC version of the magazine for families enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and are currently developing Seasoned, their senior version, commissioned by the AARP. They distribute over a million magazines annually, through paid subscriptions, doctor’s offices, schools, and hospitals. Their mission started with obesity as its explicit focus – and has shifted, over the years, to a more holistic one, with health and happiness at its core. That’s the same vibe Catherine brings to the diaTribe column.

[Photo Credit: Catherine Newman]

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About the authors

Catherine loves to write about food and feeding people. In addition to her recipe and parenting blog Ben & Birdy (which has about 15,000 weekly readers), she edits the ChopChop... Read the full bio »