Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are convenient and versatile. There’s lots of different ways you can cook them, but making them on the stove produces the best crust. The problem? It also produces unevenly cooked chicken. The high heat from the pan overcooks the exterior before the interior reaches a safe temperature. Luckily, Cook’s Illustrated test cook Keith Dresser found a way to achieve the flavorful brown crust without overcooking the meat.
In his recipe for Pan-Seared Chicken Breasts, Keith uses a two-step cooking process, parcooking the breasts in the oven before transferring them to the stove for a final sear. But the key to that perfect crust without overcooking the parcooked meat is an easy technique known as velveting.
Velveting is a Chinese cooking technique used in stir-frying. It involves coating meat in a combination of cooking fat (usually oil or melted butter) and cornstarch. This slurry adds a protective layer to the chicken, keeping it moist and juicy during the high-heat cooking process.