If you really want to up your skills when it comes to making chicken dinners, I firmly believe in learning basic cooking methods rather than stocking up on recipes. You see, a recipe will give you a single meal — but get the foundation of a few cooking techniques down, then add a little inspiration, and your dinner possibilities are nearly endless.
Consider this your cheat sheet for all the essential ways to cook chicken. Whether you want to cook chicken breasts or thighs, or you want to use a slow cooker or Instant Pot, we’ve got everything you need here.
Pan-searing is my favorite way to cook chicken breast on the stovetop. It picks up a deep golden crust on the outside, and stays tender and juicy through the center.
If you are plagued by dry chicken breasts, this is the foolproof stovetop method you need in your life. The key to really nailing this method is trust. And what I mean by that is you can’t peek while the chicken is cooking — trust in the method and you’ll be rewarded with seriously juicy chicken every single time.
This method for simple baked chicken breasts cooks up moist and tender, whether you’ve got a single piece of meat or a full baking dish.
Splitting a chicken breast and stuffing it full of flavor-packed ingredients is a fast and fancy way to give plain chicken breast a serious upgrade. And it’s a whole lot easier to prepare than it looks. Just remember — when slicing that pocket into the breast, never cut all the way through.
This is one to remember anytime you’re cooking a bunch of bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces, like thighs, drumsticks, and breasts. It’s easy as can be, no flipping required, and can also get a quick upgrade with a marinade or some spices.
Here’s what you want to remember for making the absolute crispiest baked chicken: Opt for panko over regular breadcrumbs, lightly toast them in the oven first, and bake the chicken on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet.
Yes, you can really can cook chicken breast straight from the freezer, and it takes less than an hour from start to finish. So the next time you forget to thaw the chicken for dinner, remember that it might take a little extra time but you’re not out of luck.
Poaching is one of the most versatile ways to cook boneless chicken breast, and a favorite of mine for meal prep. Once cooked, the meat can be left whole, sliced, or shredded to be used to salads, sandwiches, grain bowls, tacos, and more.
If you have an Instant Pot, this is a dinner staple to keep firmly planted on the roster. You can aim for firm but juicy chicken for cubing, or let it cook a little bit longer for tender shredded chicken.
One of the great things about boneless chicken thighs is how quick and easy they are to cook in the oven. Toss them with a marinade or sauce, spread them out on a baking sheet, and let them cook for about 20 minutes — and you’ve got dinner.
It’s true, crispy-skinned chicken can truly happen in the slow cooker. There are a few important dos and don’ts you’ll want to follow, like do keep the thighs skin-side up and don’t overcrowd the slow cooker. But once you try it, you’ll see it’s straightforward and easy to remember.
Sheet pan suppers are the ultimate one-pan meal and easy to adapt to make everyone around the table happy. Start with a pack of bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and a couple of your favorite veggies.
With golden, crispy skin and juicy, tender meat, roast chicken is a timeless classic. While it’s surprisingly simple to prepare, it’s not a quick-cooking dinner — expect it to take an hour to hour-and-a-half to cook, plus a little extra time to rest the chicken before carving.
Your slow cooker is another easy way to cook a whole chicken. It doesn’t deliver the crispy skin you get from roasting (although you can pop it under the broiler at the very end, if that’s what you’re after), but it does give you the juiciest and most tender meat that practically melts in your mouth.
This is such a smart way to cook a lot of chicken breast during meal prep. It leaves you with a super-versatile result that’s similar to poached chicken: plain and juicy shredded chicken that can be used in everything from grain bowls to sandwiches, salads, casseroles, and quick stir-fries.
Frying chicken is definitely a weekend cooking project, which is to say you’ll need a couple of hours to accomplish it, but once you’ve got the technique down you can fry more than one batch at a time for family picnics or just to have cold leftovers to eat from the fridge on a whim.
This method skips the frying, and shows you the easiest way to cook up a big batch of crispy, saucy wings in the oven.