These Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Breasts are going to be your new go-to for meal prep! They're tender, juicy and beautifully seared in a cast iron pan. All you need is 30 minutes of hands on time.
📋 About the Recipe
- 6 ingredient marinade. If you feel like you have "nothing to eat" in the house, chances are you still have all of the ingredients you'll need to make these marinated chicken breasts. Defrost some chicken, gather together the simple seasonings, and you'll be ready to go.
- Goes with just about anything! I purposefully made the marinade for these cast iron skillet chicken breasts super neutral so the meat can go with almost any dish. Make a big batch for meal prep and add it to any lunch or dinner for a fast, healthy protein choice.
- Great for beginners. If you are new to cooking, learning how to cook chicken can be intimidating. With this easy method, you'll learn how to confidently cook juicy, tender chicken with just a few simple steps. You may also like my other easy chicken recipes like Chicken Kofta Kebabs, Air Fryer Orange Chicken and Instant Pot BBQ Pulled Chicken.
A few notes about the ingredients:
- Chicken - I like to use boneless skinless chicken breasts because it makes cutting the chicken extra quick and easy. Chicken breasts are also easy to butterfly, allowing them to cook faster and more evenly.
- Lemon juice - Using an acid like lemon juice in a meat marinade is always a great choice because it helps to tenderize the meat. You may be familiar with this tip if you've also tried my Air Fryer Lamb Chops.
- Maple syrup - A bit of sweetener helps to balance the acid in the lemon juice and savory seasonings. It also helps the chicken develop a nice sear in the cast iron pan.
- Olive oil - Using an oil is important to help the spices stick to the chicken and marinade well. Olive oil is my go to because I always have it stocked in the kitchen, however if you have another neutral tasting oil that you regularly use in cooking, feel free to use it here.
- Butterfly the chicken. Butterflying chicken simply means slicing the chicken in half horizontally. This is going to halve the thickness of the chicken breasts and allow the chicken to cook through more quickly and evenly. For a visual, watch this video to learn how to butterfly a chicken breast.
- Season the meat. Place the butterflied chicken in a large bowl and add onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, kosher salt, and pepper.
- Add lemon juice, oil, and maple syrup. Mix to evenly coat and create a marinade.
- Marinate overnight. Cover the chicken with an airtight lid or plastic wrap and marinate overnight in the refrigerator. If you are in a rush, you can marinate for a minimum of one hour.
- Remove chicken and set it on the counter. Once marinated for a minimum of one hour, remove the chicken from the refrigerator and allow it to sit at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Prepare the cast iron skillet. Over medium heat, swirl two tablespoons of olive oil in the cast iron skillet to evenly coat.
- Cook the chicken. Place the lemon chicken breasts in the cast iron skillet. For best results, the chicken should have a bit of breathing room and should not be overlapping.
- Flip and cook for an additional 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, flip the chicken breasts and cook for another 5 minutes on the remaining side. The meat is done when the internal temperature of the chicken reads 165 degrees F.
- Serve. Serve hot or cold with your favorite pastas, salads, side dishes, or dipping sauces.
⁉️ Substitutions and Alterations
- Maple syrup substitutions: The maple syrup can be substituted for another liquid sweetener, like honey or agave nectar.
- Olive oil substitutions: The olive oil can be substituted for another neutral oil like avocado or vegetable oil.
- Chicken substitutions: Use this simple marinade on chicken breasts, chicken thighs, or any other cut of meat. If you use a substitution, keep in mind that a different cut of meat is going to require a different cook time.
- Grill method: If preferred, you can grill the chicken instead of cooking on the cast iron. The cook times and instructions are fairly similar.
❄️ How to Store
To store: Store any leftovers in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
To freeze: This cast iron skillet chicken freezes very well. You can freeze it either in whole chicken breasts or in strips. To freeze, allow the chicken to cool completely at room temperature, then transfer to a freezer safe bag or container and seal tightly. Or, tightly wrap the chicken breasts in a layer of plastic wrap, then a double layer of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 3 months.
To reheat: Reheat leftovers in the microwave or a cast iron skillet until warm. If you are concerned about the chicken drying out, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water to the chicken before heating to help it retain its moisture.
The number one cause of dry chicken is overcooking it. Butterflying the chicken helps to cut down the cook time and prevent the chance of overcooking.
Marinating the chicken before cooking in the skillet also helps make it tender and juicy. If you are new to cooking chicken, invest in a meat thermometer and remove the chicken from the heat once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
The best part of this simple, universal chicken marinade is that the chicken pairs well with many dishes. Enjoy it as the dinner main with Fluffy Mashed Potatoes and Jerusalem Salad. Or, add it to pasta like this Tortellini Caprese Salad.
Swap the ground beef in Loaded Burger Bowls for chicken strips. Or, try it on Air Fryer Nachos or in Fajita Tacos. The options are endless.
If you find that your chicken breasts are sticking to the cast iron pan, a couple things may be happening. The most likely reason the chicken is sticking is it's not ready to be flipped yet. Give it another minute or two before trying to flip it.
The other reason your chicken may be sticking to the cast iron is that the pan is not seasoned well enough. Check out this guide to learn how to season a cast iron skillet to help make the surface nonstick.
💭 One More Tip
- Work in batches as needed. It is better to cook the chicken in a few batches than to crowd the pan and overlap the chicken. If the chicken is too crowded in the pan, it is likely to cook unevenly and won't get as nice of a sear.
- Buy a quality cast iron skillet. If you buy a quality pan and care for it, it will last a lifetime. For the best budget friendly option, go with a Lodge cast iron skillet. For a higher budget option, I love and use a Staub cast iron skillet.
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Cast Iron Skillet Chicken Breasts
- 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (around 2 pounds total)
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
- ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- Butterfly the chicken by cutting each breast in half horizontally.
- Place chicken in a large bowl. Season with onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, salt, and pepper.
- Squeeze lemon juice over top. Add ¼ cup olive oil and maple syrup. Mix to coat the chicken.
- Place chicken in the refrigerator and allow to marinate for at least an hour, but preferably overnight.
- Remove chicken from the refrigerator and set it on the counter about 15 to 20 minutes before cooking.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Swirl the pan around to evenly coat the bottom of the skillet in oil.
- When the olive oil is hot, add the chicken breasts, leaving space in the skillet between each one. Cook chicken in batches if your skillet isn’t large enough to fit all pieces of chicken comfortably.
- Cook for 5 minutes, then flip and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
- Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauces and side dishes.
- You can grill the chicken instead, if preferred.
- After 5 minutes of cooking, the chicken should easily lift off the bottom of the skillet. If it is stuck, let it cook another minute or two before trying to lift it again.
- Use this simple marinade for any of your favorite cuts of meat!
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