Always Perfect Bone-In Chicken Breasts

So here’s what I know about chicken.  Smaller is easier to cook, more tender and juicer.  Free Range is tastier.  And bone-in skin-on is far better than the boneless, skinless variety.  So why have I so often used “naked” chicken breasts?  Convenience would have been my answer, had you asked.  And I have lots to marinades and cooking techniques to add flavor and texture so I can usually pull it off.

But this recipe is a game changer.  Nothing could be easier to prep or faster to cook, and if you buy decent chicken, season it ahead of time to let the flavor soak in, and use this cooking method, the results will be delicious!

If you need to make this in larger quantities, just multiply the seasoning ingredients accordingly and cook as follows:  While you are browning the skin side of the breasts stove top, put a large rimmed baking sheet in the oven to preheat.  When all the chicken is ready, place it on the hot baking sheet, skin side up and roast until done.

Note:  This chicken is Bell & Evans, from Whole Foods.  I have also used Joyce Farms and other free-range and organic birds with excellent results. Try to avoid the very large chicken breasts from the major chicken producers that are so often found in the grocery store.

Always Perfect Bone-In Chicken Breasts

Serves 4


  • 2 Medium garlic clove (minced)
  • 1 Large lemon (zested)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
  • 4 small chicken breast halves (bone-in, skin-on)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


1. On a cutting board, combine and mince together the garlic and the lemon zest. Add salt and pepper and combine well to create the seasoning mix for the chicken.
2. Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, in a gallon zip lock bag and, using a heavy cast iron skillet or a meat mallet, pound the chicken to an even 1/2 inch thickness. (This will only take a couple of good whacks and the bones will break as the breast flattens)
3. Rub the chicken on all sides with the seasoning mixture, being sure to get a little bit under the skin as well. Place seasoned chicken on a plate or tray and refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours or up to overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large cast iron skillet (or other heavy oven proof skillet) over high heat. Add the olive oil. Add 2 of the chicken breasts, skin side down, and cook over high heat until golden brown. Remove from the skillet and repeat with remaining 2 chicken breasts. When they are ready, return the first 2 breasts to the pan, making sure that all 4 are skin side up now, and roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. (Time will vary depending on size of chicken breasts, cook to 160 degrees or until juices just run clear) Let rest for 5 minutes and serve.
  • Karen
    May 31, 2017 at 11:32 am

    Do you use the zest AND the juice of the lemon??

    • Margaret
      June 10, 2017 at 8:42 pm

      Actually I just use the lemon zest and find it imparts the perfect amount of lemon flavor.

  • Juliette
    March 26, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Can these be made ahead of time then rehearsed?

  • Gertrude Lyons
    January 18, 2015 at 10:32 pm

    My first “Right Recipe” experience and it turned out quite yummy! Looking forward to trying more!!

  • cookinginsens
    October 9, 2014 at 8:03 pm


  • Leebo
    October 9, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    good one.