Cooking Tips

3 Steps to Take Your Bone-In Chicken Breasts From Meh to Great

Supremely crisp skin and tender meat are within reach.

Published Mar. 16, 2021.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts might be the standard in the weeknight-cooking world, but I’m here to tell you that bone-in breasts are where it’s at.

For one, bone-in chicken breasts are less expensive than boneless. Second, unlike boneless, skinless breasts, which have no barrier against the heat of a pan or oven, bone-in breasts have built-in protection (skin and bone). And lastly, if you cook them right, you get that crispy, nicely browned skin—the crown jewel on any piece of skin-on poultry.

So now that you know the benefits of bone-in chicken breasts, let’s talk about how to roast them. Here are three simple steps to guarantee that you get the best results.

Adding salt underneath skin of bone-in chicken breastPoking holes in fat of bone-in chicken breastsSearing bone-in chicken breasts
The three steps: adding salt under the skin, poking holes in the fat, and reverse-searing the bone-in breasts.
  1. Apply salt under the skin to season the meat and help it retain moisture. To do this, use your fingers to carefully separate the chicken skin from the meat until you can peel the skin back, leaving it attached at the top and bottom of the breasts and at the ribs. Sprinkle salt evenly over the meat and then lay the skin back in place.
  2. Poke small holes in the skin to drain excess fat. To do this, use a skewer to poke five or six holes in any pockets of fat. This will help the fat render as it cooks.
  3. Use the reverse-sear cooking method. Reverse searing—one of the same methods we use to cook steaks—is when you use the oven first, then finish the item on the stovetop. Gently baking the breasts at 325 degrees minimizes moisture loss and results in even cooking from the breasts’ thick ends to their thin ends. It also helps the surface of the skin dry out so that a quick sear in a hot skillet is all that’s required for a crackly, browned finish.

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