The Skinny on Skinless Chicken Breasts

Chicken and Veggie Dinner

Angela Ollison / Moment / Getty Images

You might hear many people complaining that skinless chicken breasts are bland, boring, and dry. Skinless chicken breasts can be all of these things, but they needn't be. You can make succulent and flavorful chicken breasts if you know-how.

Why Remove the Skin

Chicken has most of its fat in the skin. Peel it off, and you're pretty much free and clear, except for the odd blob of fat here and there, which easily can be removed:

  • A 4-ounce chicken breast with skin has 188 calories, 49 percent of which are from fat. It contains 10.5 g total fat and 3 g of saturated fat.
  • A skinless chicken breast has 118 calories, with 11 percent of calories coming from fat. It contains a mere 1.4 g of total fat and 0.4 g of saturated fat.

If you're eating low fat, it makes sense, then, to opt for skinless chicken breasts.

Cooking With the Skin on

You can keep the skin on while cooking, and remove it before eating because the meat doesn't absorb the fat from the skin, and you will undoubtedly enjoy juicy chicken—unless you overcook it!

The downside is that you will likely lose almost all the flavor you added to the skin. All the herbs, spices, and basted juices will be for naught, so you'll end up eating plain chicken anyway. That's fine, but you probably want your skinless chicken to have some flavor as well as moisture.

Cooking Skinless Chicken With Dry Heat

If you intend to cook chicken breasts without the skin using a dry-heat method (such as broiling, grilling, baking, or roasting), here are some tips to ensure you don’t end up with dry, stringy chicken:

  • Pound the chicken breast to an even thickness before cooking so it cooks evenly.
  • Brine the chicken breasts—assuming they haven’t been pre-brined. Brining involves soaking the chicken in a salt-water solution for about 30 minutes before cooking.
  • Use marinades and rubs. Broths, juices, vinegar, yogurt, herbs, and spices all can add flavor and moisture to your skinless chicken breasts.
  • You must cook chicken breasts to an internal temperature of 165 F but don't go higher than that; it will be overcooked. There's no such thing as rare, medium and well done when it comes to chicken—165 F is the way to go.

Cooking Skinless Chicken With Moist Heat

If you're cooking skinless chicken breasts with moist-heat methods such as microwaving, steaming, slow cooking, baking or sautéing in broth, sauce or other juices, then you're a little less likely to end up with dry chicken breasts.

Moist heat generally requires longer cooking at a lower temperature than dry-heat methods. That said, chicken doesn't need to be “broken down” like tough cuts of meat, so cooking skinless chicken breasts for hours, unless it's specifically a slow-cooker recipe, is not necessary and will result in tough meat.