I’m often asked about easy dinners that use chicken breasts. Honestly, it doesn’t get any easier and faster than pan-seared chicken. It’s my favorite original one-pot dinner, and it comes together in less than 30 minutes. Once the chicken is finished cooking, you already have a hot skillet full of chicken flavor that can be used to create a pan sauce or simply sauté some vegetables. Boom, done.
There is one small trick, though, and it always freaks people out a little bit at first. I promise it’s not difficult; you just need to dive in there if you’ve never tried it! It’s called butterflying. You see, the problem with chicken breasts is that they’re uneven; one side is much thicker, meaning that it’s almost impossible to cook them evenly. You’ll always be in danger of drying out the thinner side or under-cooking the thick side. When you butterfly chicken, you’re slicing the breasts in half lengthwise to essentially create two from one. Not only do they cook evenly, but they’re done cooking in half the time. It’s a win/win technique that takes seconds once you master it. If you don’t want to deal with butterflying, most stores now carry “thin-sliced” chicken breasts, which are pre-butterflied.
Give it a try! You’ll have a world of easy, fast weeknight dinner options suddenly available to you, like this pan-seared chicken with apples and onions. I’ve used Stemilt Granny Smith Apples here because I love the way the tartness of the apples balances the sweetness of the onions. You can omit the cream; it adds a decadent finishing touch, but it’s not worth purchasing if you don’t already have it on hand, or if you’d prefer to simply leave out those calories.
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil, grapeseed oil, or clarified butter (see notes)
1 medium yellow onion, diced (large or small dice depending on preference)
2 Stemilt Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced (large or small dice depending on preference)
1/4 cup white wine
3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
Optional: 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
You’ll have a world of easy, fast weeknight dinner options suddenly available to you, like this pan-seared chicken with apples and onions.
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Place one chicken breast on a cutting board. Lay your palm firmly on top of the thicker half of the breast, lifting your fingers up and out of the way.
Use a chef’s knife to slice horizontally along the side of the breast in one continuous motion, starting with the thick end and working toward the thin end.
Repeat this step until you can open the breast like a butterfly. Slice the two pieces in half. Repeat with the second breast, resulting in four total pieces. (Note: If using thin-sliced chicken breasts, skip to Step 4).
In a shallow bowl, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess.
Heat a large skillet (nonstick or regular, see notes) over medium heat. Add the oil.
Once the oil is hot, add the chicken. Depending on the size of your pan, you can either do all 4 pieces at once, or two at a time.
Cook until the chicken is crispy and brown on the bottom, approximately 3-5 minutes, then flip and brown on the other side for approximately 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is browned and the internal temperature is 165 degrees.
Remove from the pan, set aside and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add the onions to the same pan and saute briefly to add some color, 2-3 minutes.
Next, add the apples and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring. Add the wine.
Use a spatula and the liquid to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, incorporating them back into the onions and apples (note: if you’re using a nonstick pan, there won’t be brown bits).
Once the wine has reduced, about 2-3 minutes, stir in the chicken stock and turn up the heat slightly to keep the pan hot. Let the stock reduce.
Once it has reduced down to very little, add the cream (if using), plus a bit more salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the apples and onions onto serving plates. Top with the chicken, any pan sauces, and a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley. Serve immediately.
You can use any neutral-flavored high heat oil to cook the chicken. Don’t use something like extra virgin olive oil, which smokes at a lower temperature and might cause the chicken to burn.
You can use either a stainless steel or a nonstick skillet to cook the chicken. If you use a nonstick pan, you can cut down on the oil required to cook the chicken by about half. However, the resulting dish will be slightly less flavorful since you won’t get as much of a sear.
Jennifer is the writer, food photographer and stylist behind Savory Simple, a blog dedicated to gourmet recipes and bold flavors. Jennifer graduated from the Culinary Arts program at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, MD and has written two cookbooks, including the new Everyday Gourmet. Jennifer’s favorite Stemilt fruit has to be dark-sweet cherries.