buttery lunchbox chicken

PALEO | GLUTEN-FREE

This post goes out to all those struggling with any of the following very serious issues:

  • Not knowing what to do with boneless skinless chicken breast,
  • Not having good protein options to pack in your lunchbox,
  • Never being totally sure if the chicken you cooked is actually cooked,
  • Never having enough buttery, delicious chicken.

If you fit into any of those categories, then here you go! A solution to all these problems.

If you don’t, then you’re either a vegetarian or you have some kind of personal chicken chef, in which case that is unfair and I want one.

This way of preparing boneless, skinless chicken breasts makes them flavorful, juicy, and delicious. It takes less than ten minutes, which is why I gave it the “lunchbox” name: This is a great recipe to make the night before and pack in your lunch, without having to exert any kind of major effort.

It also helps you cook them evenly, which is something I always struggled with when cooking chicken. Just like on humans, chicken breasts come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and without taking these factors into consideration, it’s easy to over- or undercook your chicken out of fear of over- or undercooking it. If you’re unsure and you don’t use a meat thermometer, you run the risk of giving yourself food poisoning — which is not fun, trust me. 

Ina Garten got me into cooking with both butter and olive oil: You get the taste of the butter and the smokepoint of the olive oil. To learn more about smokepoints, read what this smart lady has to say. With just butter, you’d likely burn the butter, and with just olive oil… well, then you don’t get to have butter.  (Note: Olive oil still does not have a crazy-high smoke point, so for high-temp roasted and other uses, educate yourself on your best options! I vote coconut oil for most things.)

ingredient sourcing

As always, buy the best quality ingredients you can afford. Although I’d love to say I only eat free-range chickens that I raise myself that are fed with feed that I grow myself, I’m a real person so this isn’t currently my reality.

Organic, free-range chicken at Whole Foods is usually a little more than I’m willing to spend, but their natural, regular chicken breast is $4.99/lb. I almost always buy the value packs, which are around 3-3.5 lbs., divided into 3, 1 lb. packages. You usually save $.50/lb on these value packs, bringing the total price for 3-3.5 lbs. of chicken breasts to around $15-17. If you eat half a pound per meal, that’s 6 or 7 meals’ worth of proteins at about $2.50 a serving. Not bad! Also, I love that you can use some of the packages and freeze some. It never hurts to have some good proteins in the freezer.

I recommend grass-fed butter because it is what dreams are made of. Other butters might contain hormones and other goppity gook that you don’t want in your body. Grass-fed butter is full of vitamin K2 which makes your body happy.

kitchen skills

This recipe requires two kitchen skills that are good to have in your arsenal: One is knowing how to slice a chicken breast evenly in half, and the other is pounding the living daylights out of those halves. Easy enough, right?

To slice the breast in half, lay it flat on the cutting board. Place your hand on top of the breast, applying some pressure to flatten the breast out like so:

20150716-chicken-fried-chicken-recipe-food-lab-03
photo cred: epicurious

Very carefully, use a sharp knife to slice the kitchen horizontally into 2 even-ish halves. You did it!

For pounding the kitchen, I recommend placing the breasts in a Ziploc bag (to reduce raw chicken splatters) and using a meat tenderizer like this one from Oxo.  Make sure you space the breasts out so that you evenly pound every piece of your chicken. If you have to, do a couple pieces at a time. If you’re going to be eating a lot of chicken, it’s worth the investment. It’s called a tenderizer because it literally tenderizes the meat — it breaks it down to be tender and juicy. If you don’t have a tenderizer and don’t want to buy one, you can use a hammer (just, you know, don’t hurt yourself).

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts — 2-3 breasts (best quality you can afford)
  • 2 tbsp. grass-fed butter
  • 2 tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
  • coarse sea salt
  • fresh black pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. On a cutting board, with a sharp knife, slice chicken breasts in half according to instructions above.
  2. Space chicken breasts out in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag. Use a meat tenderizer (or hammer) to pound the breasts into evenly thick pieces.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper on both sides.
  4. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, add butter and olive oil.
  5. Swirl fats around so they coat the pan, then lay the chicken breasts down. Press them down into the pan if needed to maximize contact.
  6. Cook breasts for 3-4 minutes, until they are golden and release easily from the pan. Flip them over and cook for another 2-3 minutes until golden on that side.
  7. Cut into the largest breast to make sure it is cooked through. If so, remove from heat and allow to rest for about 5 minutes to let juices distribute.
  8. Slice and store for lunch or serve immediately! Great for any type of dish: Salad, sandwich, on top of a pizza, tossed with zucchini or brown rice noodles, etc.

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