Chicken Pan Sauce
In the left corner, you! In the right corner, a package of those ubiquitous damn chicken breasts. It’s enough to make you want to drop to the ground and concede defeat – you just can’t face another boring chicken dinner. And plain chicken cooked on the stove is usually….pretty boring.
The Key to Non-Boring Chicken
But wait, what is that up your sleeve? A pan sauce recipe? You’re brilliant, you’re inspired, you’re going to make the magic happen.
Making a Simple Pan Sauce:
This is really a blueprint recipe for a key, adaptable pan sauce. Once you internalize the general technique, you’ve grabbed onto one of those indispensable “what else can I try?” dinnertime areas of expertise. This is definitely a 30-minute or less cooking process, and during that half hour you should also be able to get a salad made and some rice or pasta cooked up to take advantage of all the luscious sauce you are making.
Here are the key steps. In short, you are searing a piece of protein (in my house, it’s usually chicken), then adding some seasonings and some liquid and creating a sauce right in the pan. That’s it. The rest is just details.
This is a simple blueprint for a key, adaptable pan sauce recipe. Say goodbye to another boring chicken dinner.Tweet This
How to Make Chicken Pan Sauce:
1) Sear the Chicken:
If you want a more elegant presentation, or if your chicken breasts are more than 3/4 inch thick, you may want to place the chicken breasts between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound them with a rolling pin or a wine bottle until they are flattened and of uniform thickness. These will cook faster as well.
In a large skillet, in a bit of oil or butter, sear the boneless, skinless chicken breasts until they are browned on the outside and just barely cooked through, about 5 minutes on each side (or sear bone in-breasts, or thighs, or steak, or tofu, or piece of fish, or scallops, or whatever protein you are featuring that evening).
If you plan to finish the cooking in the sauce itself, you can take the food out of the pan before it is fully cooked through.
2) Set the Chicken Aside.
Remove the chicken to a plate—DO NOT WASH OUT THE PAN!
3) Saute Some Seasonings
Sauté some onions, garlic, shallots, or other aromatics (usually some member of the onion family) in the same pan until tender. There should still be enough fat in the pan, but you can add a touch more oil or butter if needed. Add some herbs or seasonings if desired.
4) Deglaze the Pan
Deglazing basically means adding liquid to a pan and scraping the bottom to loosen any flavorful bits of other ingredients that have caramelized (aka browned) on the bottom of the pan, which lend their flavor to the sauce.
5) Make the Sauce
Add more liquid, often broth, to create a sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
6) Finish the Sauce
Simmer to blend the flavors, and concentrate the sauce, adding other seasonings if desired (see tip) and maybe a little bit of fat or dairy for richness (such as butter, cream, olive oil, or sour cream).
7) Finish the Dish
Either pour the sauce over the chicken if the chicken is fully cooked, or return the chicken to the pan to finish cooking through. And that, that is a pan sauce.
What to Serve with Chicken with Pan Sauce:
Serve it up with a salad, some sautéed greens, or roasted vegetables. And definitely some rice or another starch to soak up all of that lovely sauce.
Below is a very basic recipe for cooking chicken breasts on the stove and making a pan sauce. But once you have the gist, you’ll be smacking out those fast and easy chicken dinners on the regular.
More Pan Cooked Chicken Breast Recipes:
- Chicken with Arugula and Mustard Pan Sauce
- Chicken with Tomato and Leek Pan Sauce with Jasmine Rice
- Grits with Chicken and Creamy Green Chili Pan Sauce
- Chicken with White Wine, Leek, Spinach and Arugula Pan Sauce
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How to Make a Pan Sauce
- 4 8-ounce boneless chicken breasts
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ cup minced shallots or onions
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Juice of one lemon or 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard or both
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken breasts and sauté until done, about 4 to 5 minute on each side (click here for more detailed directions and a video). Remove the chicken breasts to a plate and set aside; tent them with foil to keep them warm. Do not wipe out the skillet!
- Add the shallots or onions to the skillet and sauté over medium heat for 4 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender. Add the white wine, bring to a simmer, and stir to scrape up all the little flavorful bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Add in the broth, and return to a simmer, stirring occasionally for another 4 minutes until the mixture reduces slightly, by about a third. Then add the lemon juice and/or mustard and butter, and stir until the butter is melted.
- You can slice the chicken breasts or leaves them whole. Transfer them to individual plates and spoon the sauce over the chicken breasts. You can also slice them all up and serve them with the sauce spooned over on a serving platter.
Ideas for Add-InsHot peppers, citrus juice, citrus zest, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, vinegar, capers, Dijon mustard, chopped tomatoes, soy sauce, fresh herbs, minced anchovies, hoisin sauce, whatever you have, whatever you like.
What the Kids Can Do:Measure the chicken broth, garlic, and any other ingredients, and help choose the herbs. Letting them create their own combination of herbs gives a kid nice pride of ownership, and helps them become familiar with the different herbs in the spice drawer.
The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.
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In step 2, you say: “Add in the broth, and return to a simmer, stirring occasionally for another 4 minutes until the mixture reduces slightly, by about a third.”
When was it previously simmering for it to return to a simmer. Was I supposed to bring the wine to a boil and then simmer first before adding the broth?
yes, the wine will very quickly come to a simmer,l then after you scrape up the browned bit from the bottom of the pan, add the broth and return it to a simmer, then reduce the sauce!
Is it ok to add both lemon AND Dijon?
This is SOOOOO amazing! I recently just got a cast iron pan for the 1st time, and found your recipe. I’ve been making a variation of it weekly for the last month.
Seared cast iron chicken w pan sauce is now the ONLY way we like chicken around here!!
We love it!!!
Nice ideas, thank you.
For speed and minimal clean up, I have converted all my chicken recipes to a sauce to add to chicken thighs that have been cooked in a covered casserole for roughly 15 minutes, or baked in a 350 degree oven for 30 – 45 minutes. I remove the bone-in, skin on thighs carefully from the package with a fork, to prevent getting.raw.chicken juice from getting.on anything, then put it in the covered casserole for the microwave, or 9″ x 9″ pan for the oven.
These days, I prefer the microwave, because the chicken turns out moist, not dry, every time, and there are no oven splatters to clean up, because the microwave casserole dish is covered.
I simply put the chicken in the casserole and sprinkle on Schilling’s poultry seasoning (incredible flavor, far better than any of the other brand’s poultry seasoning, imho.)
Zap 15 minutes.
In a sauce pan, I put a can of Campbell’s Healthy Request cream of chicken soup.
In another pan I cook brown rice, and either steam.green peas or other veggies over the rice after its partially cooked, or in a separate pan steam the veggies.
I start cooking rhe brown rice first, then get the chicken into the casserole dish and microwave.
The flavor or the poultry seasoning and soup combination is incredible, and so easy. I add a little salt to taste at the table.
With other chicken recipes, such as cacciatore, or teriyaki sauce, I cook the chicken thighs in the covered casserole for 10 minutes, then add the simple homemade sauce for another 5 minutes, or til the chicken is no longer pink in the middle. Then serve with brown rice and a steamed veg.
Thank you for your ideas. I will try them for variety. Some shallots, mushrooms, basil, and a deglaze of white wine are calling me!
thanks for sharing all of these ideas!
Thank you so much for this, I love making pan sauces now! I just had a quick question, if I’m adding the chicken back into the sauce to finish cooking, about long should I leave them in? I either end up with some pink or a little bit dry.
the sort of annoying answer is it depends! You can alway cut into one to see, and then do feel the way the chicken feels when you press is slightly – after a while you’ll get to know what just-cooked chicken feels like, and then you won’t have to slice into the pieces! But usually 1 to 4 minutes.
I MADE 2 BONE IN CHICKEN BREAST IN SLOW COOKER. ADDED 1/2 CUP WHITE WINE AND 3 TABLE LEMON JUICE AND SPICES. NOW THE CHICKEN HAS OVERPOWERING TASTE OF WINE AND BITTER. HOW CAN I SAVE THE REST AND LOSE THE WINEY TASTE? THANKS
I would shred the chicken and mix it into some plain grains or cooked rice. Diffuse the strong flavor if the chicken with some bland starch. Hope that helps!
Excellent advice for a quick pan sauce! I use cognac to deglazed because I like the flavor, but it’s also fun to light it for a little drama.