There’s nothing worse than spending time preparing your next meal only to have your baked chicken turn out like jerky. Fortunately, we’ve compiled our top seven tips for baking perfect chicken every time.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- How brining chicken can help
- The best way to season chicken
- Which cooking fats work best for baking
- What temperature you should bake your chicken
- And more
While each tip applies to all cuts of chicken, you’ll want to be mindful of which cut you choose. Bone-in cuts like chicken thighs and drumsticks tend to be more flavorful and juicy, so you’ll want to focus on retaining the flavor. Keep a closer eye on boneless cuts as they bake since they cook up faster than their bone-in counterparts.
Follow the tips on our list to ensure that your baked chicken turns out succulent and tender, no matter the cut.
1. Try a Brine.
If you’ve ever taken a bite of chicken and felt it almost fall apart from juiciness, there’s a good chance that chicken was brined.
Brining is the process of treating meat with salt and other flavorings (think peppercorns, herbs, or sugar). This tenderizes the meat and packs in more flavor. You can use a liquid brine solution or dry brine to achieve perfectly moist chicken.
You can break out a brine for any type of chicken recipe, but it works especially well when you’re frying, smoking, or roasting chicken in the oven.
2. Season Generously.
Don’t skimp on the salt and pepper if you want to keep your chicken flavorful. While salt and pepper are essentials, there are plenty of great seasonings that you’ll want to apply liberally to baked chicken as well. This is especially true for less forgiving cuts like boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
Here’s an all-purpose dry rub that jazzes up any cut of chicken. It’s made with five ingredients that you likely already have on hand!
3. Make Herbs Your Friend.
Nothing goes better with baked chicken than aromatic herbs. It’s a classic combination and for good reason. When you bake your chicken, consider working in some fresh or dried herbs into the seasoning. Here are some herbs that pair beautifully with chicken:
4. Add Succulence with High-Temperature Fats.
Use a high-temperature cooking fat to keep your baked chicken moist. It’s important if you bake your chicken at high temperatures to use a cooking fat with a high smoke point. Avocado oil, olive oil, and coconut oil are great choices. You can also use rich cooking fats like ghee, tallow, or butter (lower smoke point).
Not only will a high-temperature cooking oil ensure your chicken doesn’t smoke, but fat also packs in tons of succulent flavor. It will also help skin to crisp up if you’re using a skin-on cut.
5. Bake It at a High Temperature.
Consider baking your chicken at a higher temperature for less time. Many cooks say 375–400°F is the sweet spot for baking chicken. If you bake it for longer at a lower temperature, you risk drying out the meat. Of course, this means you leave less margin for error if you leave it in the oven too long. More on that below.
6. Bake It for the Right Amount of Time—No More, No Less.
If you bake your chicken at 400°F, you’ll want to watch it like a hawk. Err on the side of less time, checking every once in a while with your meat thermometer. You want to bake chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F, and not a degree more if you can help it. The juices should run clear when it’s done.
Here are some suggested bake times for different cuts of chicken (baked at 400°F). Naturally, size will determine your bake time:
- Chicken Tenders: 15–20 minutes
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast: 20–25 minutes
- Bone-In Chicken Thighs: 35–45 minutes
- Chicken Drumsticks: 30–40 minutes
- Whole Chicken: 1–1.5 hours
Like any cut of meat, baked chicken benefits from a rest period. Wrap your baked chicken in foil and let it rest for five to 10 minutes. If you’ve baked a whole chicken, it should rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Allowing your meat to rest will help keep it juicy and moist when served.
7. Try a Sauce.
Don’t toss those pan drippings! You can make a tasty pan sauce to serve over your chicken. Plus, this is a great solution if your chicken ended up a tiny bit over-baked. Pan sauces add moisture back into the meat, along with plenty of flavor.
Baked Chicken Recipes to Get You Started
With these tips, you’ll be a chicken-baking pro. So, get in your kitchen and start baking. Here are a few recipes we love and recommend:
Boneless Chicken Recipes
- Quick and Easy Baked Chicken Tenders
- Herb and White Wine Marinated Chicken Breasts
- Lemon Tarragon Chicken
Bone-In Chicken Recipes
- Easy Baked Chicken Wings with Tangy Yogurt Dip
- BBQ Dry-Rubbed Drumsticks
- Fennel-Rubbed Drumsticks with Spinach and Apple Slaw
- Coconut Party Wings with Gluten-Free Ponzu Dipping Sauce
- Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken
- Easy Roasted Whole Chicken