Timing and More: Everything You Need to Know About Baking Chicken Breasts

By Staff WriterLast Updated May 27, 2020 7:29:13 PM ET
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Baking chicken breasts takes anywhere from 12 to 40 minutes or longer depending on how hot the oven is and how big the chicken breasts are. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends baking chicken breasts for 20 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. But there are other methods out there that call for varying times and oven temperatures. Before you start cooking, read up on the most important things you need to know about baking chicken breasts.

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Factors That Affect Cooking Time

Oven temperature, breast size and whether the bone is in or out — those are the three main variables that can impact the amount of time needed to bake chicken breasts. The higher the oven temperature, the shorter the cooking time. Likewise, the smaller and thinner the chicken breast, the less time it needs to cook. Choosing bone-in chicken breasts extends cooking time. 

How Long Should You Bake Chicken Breasts? 

At 350 degrees Fahrenheit, the USDA recommends baking boneless chicken breasts for 20 to 30 minutes. Bone-in chicken breasts take longer, typically 30 to 40 minutes. 

At higher temperatures, the cooking time is reduced. For example, baking boneless chicken breasts at 425 F typically takes 12 to 14 minutes. Bone-in chicken breasts take 25 minutes or so at the same temperature. Breast size and thickness matters too. The larger the chicken breast, the longer you need to bake it. 

How to Tell When Chicken Is Done

Even if you’re perfectly following a recipe to the letter, cooking times can vary. The most important thing to remember is to cook it until it reaches a safe internal temperature. The USDA advocates cooking poultry to an internal temperature of 165 F. If you're stuffing your chicken breast, the stuffing's center has to reach 165 F.  To check a chicken breast's doneness, insert a meat thermometer in the meatiest part of the breast.

Food Safety and the Importance of Doneness

Raw and undercooked chicken breasts could contain bacteria that cause food borne illnesses. Cooking chicken breasts to a minimum internal temperature of 165 F kills that bacteria making it safe to eat, as noted by the USDA. Common bacteria that could be lurking in raw and undercooked chicken include: 

  • Salmonella 
  • Staphylococcus
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Escherichia coli (E. coli) 

Safe Handling

Keep uncooked chicken cold until you’re ready to cook it. It can be safely stored in a refrigerator that’s 40 F or cooler for one to two days or frozen until you’re ready to use it. Thaw frozen chicken in the refrigerator, in a sink filled with cold water or in the microwave. Chicken thawed in the microwave or cold water should be cooked right away. 

Remember to wash and disinfect any surface that comes into contact with raw chicken to avoid contaminating other foods. Healthline recommends washing knives, cutting boards, work surfaces and your hands to avoid cross-contamination.

Tips for Baking Chicken Breasts

For many chefs, chicken breasts are like a blank canvas. The neutral flavor adapts well to a variety of recipes, making it easy to personalize your dish. The lean meat can dry out if it’s overcooked, which is why it’s so important to watch your timing closely. 

Prevent It From Drying Out

Worried about dry chicken breasts? Stick with bone-in, skin-on breasts, which tend to cook up juicier thanks to the protection the skin and bone offers. If you’re set on boneless, skinless breasts, consider dry poaching them. This method involves covering the chicken with parchment paper, which helps keep more moisture in the chicken breast. As it cooks, the chicken bastes itself in its own juices.

Add Flavor

Chicken breasts too bland? Try marinating chicken or dry brining it for added flavor and optimal texture. To dry brine, rub it down with kosher salt and any herbs you want to add before placing it uncovered in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 24 hours. If you’re cooking skin-on chicken breasts, this method will help crisp up the skin. It’ll also amp up flavor for either kind.