How to Sauté Chicken
Once you master how to sautée chicken, you’ll have a quick dinnertime solution for any night of the week! Here, we’ll show you everything you need to know, including exactly how long to sauté chicken breasts and other parts of the bird, plus some showy ways to sauté chicken breast for easy entertaining.
Top Tips on How to Sauté Chicken
Sautéed chicken is the perfect 30-minute meal solution. Better yet, you can turn out a variety of delicious variations with a few added ingredients. Before you roll up your sleeve to sauté chicken breast, thigh, or another part of the bird, bone up on these basics.
What does sauté mean? The word sauté is based on the French word sauter, which means "to jump." Sautéed chicken is cooked in a small amount of oil or butter over fairly high heat in an open shallow pan. In this story, we show you how to sauté chicken depending on which chicken part you use.
Tips & Tricks: Regardless of which pieces of chicken you are fixing, the principles of how to sauté chicken are the same:
- Check out the tips for safe handling of chicken below.
- The chicken pieces should be uniform in size for even cooking.
- Chicken should be dry before cooking, so pat it with paper towels just before sautéing.
- Don't crowd the pieces in the skillet or they will steam instead of browning nicely.
- Cook the pieces in batches if necessary.
How to Sauté Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
Here’s how to sauté chicken breasts that are halved, boneless, and skinless, which are readily available at supermarkets.
- Pat boneless, skinless chicken breast halves dry, then use kitchen shears to trim any fat.
- Optional: Some cooks like to flatten chicken breasts for quick, even cooking. Simply place each chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with the flat side of a meat mallet to desired thickness.
- Sprinkle breasts with salt and ground black pepper, lemon-pepper seasoning, or your favorite spice blend.
- For four skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (1 to 1-1/4 pounds total), preheat 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil, canola oil, or butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Reduce heat to medium.
- How long to sauté chicken breast halves: Add the boneless, skinless chicken breast halves and cook 12 to 15 minutes (6 to 8 minutes for flattened chicken) or until chicken registers 165°F on an instant-read thermometer, turning twice. Reduce heat if chicken starts to brown too quickly.
Make-Ahead Tip: Many recipes call for cooked chicken. Whether you're making chicken salad, enchiladas, or casseroles, a great option is to sauté chicken breast, thighs, or tenders. You can use them right away in recipes or save them for later use. Store cooked chicken in the refrigerator up to 3 days or in the freezer up to 4 months.
How to Sauté Chicken Strips or Tenders
Many recipes call for quick-cooking chicken breast strips or tenders. You can cut whole chicken breasts into strips or pieces crosswise or lengthwise, depending on your preference and the dish. These smaller pieces of chicken are prepared in the same way as chicken breasts (above), except the cook time will be shorter—6 to 8 minutes total. Keep a close eye on these and turn them occasionally to prevent burning.
How to Sauté Boneless Chicken Thighs
You know you can sauté chicken breast, but did you know that you can also use the quick sauté cooking method for chicken thighs, too?
Opt for skinless, boneless thighs. These can be sautéed similarly to chicken breasts (above), although thighs may take a bit longer to cook: 14 to 18 minutes total for 3- to 4-ounce thighs.
How to Deglaze the Pan
Once you’ve learned how to sauté chicken breasts, take dinner to the next level by making a simple pan sauce. After you sauté chicken breast portions (or any other parts of the chicken), you'll likely have flavorful crusty bits left in the pan. You can capture these delicious flavor morsels with a technique called deglazing. This means using a liquid, such as broth, wine, or water, to loosen the particles and dissolve them over heat. Then you can add additional flavorings to create a divine sauce.
Safe Handling of Chicken
While we’ve given you the basics on how to sauté chicken breasts, tenders, and thighs, there are a few more things you should know to make sure the chicken you serve is safe to eat:
- Store chicken in its original package in the coldest part of the refrigerator. If it is not to be used within two days, freeze it.
- Thaw chicken in the refrigerator or in cold water, not on the countertop at room temperature. Allow at least 9 hours to thaw chicken parts in the refrigerator.
- To thaw chicken in cold water, place chicken in leakproof packaging. Submerge in cold water. Allow about 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of chicken, changing the water every 30 minutes. When using this method, cook food immediately after thawing.
- For quick thawing, use the microwave on the defrost setting, checking often so the chicken does not actually cook. If using this method, be sure to cook the chicken right away.
- Check chicken for doneness with an instant-read thermometer. The minimum internal temperature for chicken is 165°F.
No story on how to sauté chicken would be complete without a pan primer! Be sure to choose a heavy skillet that is the right size for the amount of chicken you have. You can use a nonstick or regular pan. If the skillet is too large, pan juices can burn. If it's too small, the poultry will steam instead of brown. If chicken pieces are large and you need to sauté› them in batches, add additional oil or butter as necessary.