First up, make sure the breasts are an even thickness. I recently discovered thin cut chicken breasts, which are fabulous. Next, work out the brine. At the very least, you'll just need water and salt. I use 1/2 C salt and 1/4 C sugar. I always add a touch of brown sugar. Depending on the dish, you can add citrus juice, garlic, ginger, herbs, etc.
Brine for at least 30 minutes, an hour at most. Now is where you get creative with dried herbs and spices. These are my very simple approaches (add freshly-ground black pepper to all):
- Italian: Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes
- Mexican: cumin, chili powder, cilantro, garlic powder, onion powder
- Asian: five-Spice powder, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds
- Mediterranean: oregano, garlic powder, lemon pepper
- Moroccan: cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, paprika
- Ready for the grill: seasoned salt, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, lemon pepper
- Traditional: poultry seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder
- Plain and simple: freshly-ground black pepper (don't knock it until you try it.)
Sear these on high heat: add a small amount of oil to a hot skillet. The oil should be close to smoking. If yours are thicker, make sure they are golden brown before you flip them. And don't go moving them around. You have to give them time to caramelize. You'll know when they are ready because they will release easily from the pan. Use the same technique on an outdoor grill or an indoor grill pan. These were cut very thin, so I didn't brown them as well as usual; I was afraid they would overcook.
If you are using regular chicken breasts (as opposed to think cut), they will not be done when you pull them from the pan. Cover them with foil and allow them rest for about 15 minutes. The carryover cooking will cook them perfectly.
Tools of the trade: