Big Little Recipes

3-Minute Chicken Breasts Are a Weeknight Dinner Miracle

July 23, 2019

A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else: flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst—we don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re cooking chicken in the time it takes to listen to a song.


How long does chicken take to cook? Depends on the cut. A whole roast chicken takes 10 minutes or more per pound. Braised chicken takes between an hour and an hour and a half. Skillet chicken thighs take close to an hour. Even Instant Pot chicken takes at least 10 minutes, and that’s after the pressure builds.

This chicken takes 3 minutes—or less.

Which, for what it’s worth, I didn’t believe at first either. I stumbled upon the method at The Splendid Table, where Marco Canora writes about cooking chicken in 90 seconds: “The payoff is an insanely tender, delicious chicken breast that has all the succulence of dark meat.”

Canora’s secret is to butterfly the chicken breast, then pound it. Butterfly is a pretty way of saying: Halve the chicken breast horizontally but stop before you reach the end, so you can fold open the meat like a magazine. Pound is just what it sounds like: Hit the chicken with something heavy—think meat mallet, skillet, rolling pin— like you mean it, until the meat is thin and even.

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Top Comment:
“I did not have Burrata (family members with milk protein allergy negates this ingredient anyways, but sheep/cow's milk cheeses are tolerated well), so I mixed crumbled Feta, oregano/salt/pepper, and dash of lemon juice with the tomatoes then spooned atop the chicken as a sauce. This went over quite well with the family. ”
— Cindy
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By combining these methods, chicken becomes the sort of ingredient you can cook during even the worst of heatwaves. In my version, inspired by The Splendid Table, it cooks in 2 to 3 minutes.

In Canora’s recipe, he loves to heavily season his chicken. One version has cumin, turmeric, onion powder, and coriander. Another suggestion has cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and maple syrup.

I prefer to let salt and pepper take the lead, then concentrate on the toppings instead. In this recipe, there are three: Cherry tomatoes, which become slouchy and juicy under the broiler, like a hands-off tomato jam. Fresh mint, which I adore for its sturdy texture and zesty flavor. Burrata, a cream-filled mozzarella that’s as lush as cheese comes.

Photo by Rocky Luten

And yes, this means the tomatoes take longer to cook than the chicken. But this is a ripe time to get your other ingredients prepped (mint chopped, burrata portioned) and ready (chicken butterflied and pounded).

If you don’t want to turn on your broiler, don’t. Leave the tomatoes raw. Or use sun-dried tomatoes instead. Or opt for different toppings altogether. Here are some other three-ingredient combos that the three-minute chicken would get along great with. Add a big pour of olive oil to each.

  • Chickpeas + green olives + fresh dill
  • Shaved zucchini + sliced peaches + crumbled cheddar
  • Baby arugula + mashed anchovies + lemon juice
  • Shaved zucchini + toasted walnuts + grated pecorino
  • Smacked cucumbers + tomato wedges + crumbled feta

What’s your go-to summer chicken recipe? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cindy
    Cindy
  • Kate Crenshaw
    Kate Crenshaw
  • Dian Rogers
    Dian Rogers
  • Beth Whiteley
    Beth Whiteley
  • Judith
    Judith
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Emma is a writer and recipe developer at Food52. Before this, she worked a lot of odd jobs, all at the same time. Think: stir-frying noodles "on the fly," baking dozens of pastries at 3 a.m., reviewing restaurants, and writing stories about everything from how to use leftover mashed potatoes to the history of pies in North Carolina. Now, she lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with her husband and their cat, Butter. See what she's up to on Instagram and Twitter at @emmalaperruque.

10 Comments

Cindy August 13, 2019
Oh My! This was soooo good!! I did not have Burrata (family members with milk protein allergy negates this ingredient anyways, but sheep/cow's milk cheeses are tolerated well), so I mixed crumbled Feta, oregano/salt/pepper, and dash of lemon juice with the tomatoes then spooned atop the chicken as a sauce. This went over quite well with the family.
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 13, 2019
Yay! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for reporting back!
 
Cindy August 13, 2019
🤦🏼‍♀️That’s supposed to be “sheep’s/goat’s,” lol-cm.
 
Kate C. August 13, 2019
What toppings would go well together if a family member is allergic to dairy, peanuts, and bananas? We all love chicken, but cheese, bananas, peanuts, or most tree nuts can't be in anything I serve to my son. ALMONDS, however, are fine.
Suggestions?
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 13, 2019
Hi Kate! Few thoughts: You could follow the recipe above, but swap in an almond-milk ricotta (Kite Hill makes one I really like). Or chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumbers, tahini (assuming seeds are okay?), and fresh herbs. Or a lemony, mayo-based cabbage slaw. Excited to hear other people's ideas!
 
Dian R. August 11, 2019
What’s a smacked cucumber?
 
Suse August 11, 2019
https://food52.com/recipes/75523-smacked-cucumber
 
Author Comment
Emma L. August 12, 2019
It's a cucumber that you smack! I hit mine with the side of a wide knife, then roughly chop it up.
 
Beth W. August 11, 2019
Oh my god.... heaven on a plate! Yum!!!
 
Judith July 24, 2019
It's looks amazing and I definitely doing it!