Knowing how to bake chicken may seem like a no-brainer, but delivering a total showstopper to the table is an art. After all, this mealtime staple can sometimes get a bad rap for being bland or unexciting. So bust out that pack of raw chicken breasts, wings, or thighs currently occupying prime real estate in your freezer, and let’s get cooking.
We’ve gathered the best hacks and recipes for taking your chicken game to the next level. Not sure how to bake chicken wings for that perfect crispy texture or how long to bake chicken thighs so the meat stays juicy? We’ve got you covered, and can promise a fight over the leftovers each and every time.
Tools You’ll Need to Bake Chicken to Perfection
- Gallon bags: For tender, juicy chicken that’s full of flavor, you’ll want to marinate it first. Place chicken in gallon bags, thoroughly coat the meat in your marinade, and set aside in the fridge.
- Sheet pans: Look for sizeable, sturdy sheet pans that give your chicken pieces plenty of room to bake evenly in the oven. Try to stay in the 18- x 13-inch range, and pick pans that are about 1-inch deep.
- Baking dishes: If you’re planning on bringing your chicken dish to a gathering, opt for an eco-friendly, disposable baking roaster. Otherwise, a roasting pan with a rack and handles, or even a hearty cast-iron roaster is an excellent choice.
- Meat thermometer: According to Foodsafety.gov, the safe cooking temperature for chicken is 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep a meat thermometer on-hand to ensure you know exactly how long to cook chicken breasts, thighs, or wings.
- Cooking scissors: Trim fat, cut bones, and prep your poultry for the oven with a comfortable pair of cooking scissors.
- Aluminum foil: Line baking sheets, cover your roast chicken, and keep things nice and toasty with recycled aluminum foil.
Evenly-sized meat ensures even cooking: It doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that meat portions varying in size will cook at different rates, so try to buy chicken pieces of equal size whenever possible. For example, if you’re buying chicken breasts, select cuts with an even thickness and circumference. If you find your grocery store’s chicken selection to be less than ideal, cut pieces down at home to keep things uniform.
- To rinse or not to rinse: It’s often advised that you should wash raw chicken before cooking to limit the spread of bacteria like salmonella, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this practice can actually spread this dangerous bacteria around your kitchen. Rest assured! Cooking your poultry to a safe 165 degrees Fahrenheit and washing your hands after handling raw meat should kill any potential contaminants.
- Pat chicken dry: We all know that the best chicken is juicy with crispy skin, which is why patting your chicken dry before cooking is a crucial step. Dryer meat will absorb the cooking juices more easily, and the skin will turn golden in the oven. Once removed from packaging, use paper towels to pat the chicken dry before cooking.
- Give it a rest: To keep your chicken nice and moist, let the meat rest for at least five minutes before serving so the juices have a chance to redistribute. If you cut into the meat too early, the juice will likely leak out, leaving you with dry, flavorless chicken.
13 Must-Try Chicken Recipes
Winner, winner, chicken dinner! With 13 mouthwatering recipes to try, you're guaranteed to make everyone happy at the dinner table. From Italian-inspired chicken breasts to spicy, sage-rubbed drumsticks, we've got you covered every day of the week.
Chicken Wing Recipes
Baked, not fried, these wings are downright addictive. The genius “secret sauce” is made with ingredients you probably already have on-hand like ketchup, paprika, and apple cider vinegar.
No sauce or gluten required! These flavorful wings use coconut flour for a delectable, crispy texture and include an aromatic blend of spices for richness.
Chicken Breast Recipes
This one-pan recipe is a must-have for your weekly rotation. The moist, tender chicken breasts are bathed in flavor, thanks to zesty cherry tomatoes, oregano, basil, and of course, garlic.
These chicken breasts are anything but bland! Turn up the heat with spicy, garlicky hot chile paste blended with honey and lemon, then cool your tastebuds with a soothing dollop of yogurt-mint sauce.
Oh-em-ghee this roasted chicken breast recipe is full of rich flavor. Buttery ghee combines with bone-in chicken breasts and root vegetables for a savory, hearty dish that warms you from the inside out.
Chicken breasts were made for chopped salads, and this recipe has it all: Tender chunks of chicken, salty feta, crunchy cucumber, and a citrus-garlic dressing.
Chicken Drumstick Recipes
Perfect for a big family gathering, this update on roast chicken tastes as good as it looks. The meat practically falls off the bone thanks to a zesty citrus marinade and the orange-anise glaze seals in the juices.
Flavor is more than skin-deep with this clever drumstick hack. Slather butter with sage, garlic, and chile spices under the skin and enjoy the finger-licking results.
Chicken Thigh Recipes
This no-hassle, one-pan recipe pairs tender chicken thighs with seasonal veggies for an all-in-one meal that’s both easy and delicious.
Don’t let the title throw you! A tagine is simply a slow-simmered Moroccan stew made with a selection of vibrant spices. This recipe calls for bone-in chicken thighs, lemon slices, and olives and is the perfect companion for quinoa or any grain of your choosing.
Let’s face it: Everything is more delicious when wrapped in bacon, and the same is true for chicken thighs. Add in some Bartlett pears and brie (unless you want to keep it Paleo), and you’ll earn raves with this winning dish.
This mustard-herb marinade not only delivers mouthwatering, tangy flavor but the total cooking time is just 30 minutes, making it a perfect weeknight meal.