A 3-ingredient marinade for the juiciest chicken breasts ever
When looking for a protein to whip up a quick dinner, a few items make my list: salmon, extra-firm tofu, spicy Italian sausage, and crispy chickpeas. Chicken breasts don’t tend to make it into my weeknight dinners because, as Alton Brown once told me, “I go straight to the thighs.”
If I eat chicken, I want it to be juicy and full of flavor, which is not something that could be said for my longtime chicken breast “preparation”. I simply wiped them up with a paper towel, tossed them in lemon pepper, and tossed them in the oven, hoping for the best.
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However, new year, new me – and new chicken breasts. I decided to create a recipe for tasty chicken breasts that never go dry. The key to this? The right preparation and the right marinade.
One thing I neglected to do in my quick and dirty (and ultimately disappointing) prep was beat the chicken to an even thickness. It’s a simple step, but it’s one that I wasn’t sure was really worth it when trying to get dinner on the table as quickly as possible. Spoiler: it’s Absolutely worth it.
Take the extra five minutes to pound your chicken breasts between two pieces of waxed paper or plastic wrap. You can do this using a meat mallet, the back of a large spoon, a heavy skillet, or even the heel of your hand. Once the cutlets are a uniform 3/4 inch in diameter, they are ready to marinate.
For a marinade, we look for a short list of ingredients that provide great flavor and help to further tenderize the meat. Here’s what to grab from your fridge and pantry:
- Beer: Beer contains enzymes that help break down tough meat fibers and keep them from drying out. I like light lagers – Modelo Especial is nice because it has a sweet orange blossom honey flavor – but feel free to experiment with your personal favourites.
- brown sugar: The brown sugar flavor goes very well with the sweet hops and grass of the beer. It also caramelizes well, which encourages tasty golden bits to form on chicken breasts when cooking.
- Green onions: Green onions are one of my favorite dual-purpose ingredients, as the green part is a little more grassy, while the white part veers a little more garlicky.
You can, of course, add additional flavors here. Soy sauce would be fine, as would smoked paprika. Go crazy and add a citrus drizzle! However, these three ingredients are more than enough to get a delicious dinner on the table.
Recipe: Chicken Breasts with Beer and Brown Sugar
- 4 chicken breasts
- 1 beer of 12 ounces
- 1 finely chopped green onion (green and white parts)
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- Neutral oil for cooking
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Beat chicken breasts to an even 2/4 inch thickness. Salt and pepper them and set aside.
- Add the beer, green onions and brown sugar to a large plastic bag or bowl with a lid. Shake or stir until mixture is fully blended. Add the chicken breasts to the marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes. (Chicken can marinate for up to 24 hours in this mixture.)
- Remove the chicken breasts, salt and pepper them again.
- Prepare a baking sheet by drizzling it with neutral oil. Heat the oven to 375 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Once the chicken is ready, remove it from the pan and let it rest for 5 minutes. Cutting immediately will cause the juices to escape from the chicken breast.
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