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Can you pan fry chicken without oil?

Quick Answer: Yes, you can pan fry chicken without oil

You can absolutely pan fry chicken without using any oil. While oil helps promote browning and crisping of the chicken skin, there are a few simple tricks that allow you to get a nice golden crust on boneless, skinless chicken breasts pan fried without oil. The keys are using a non-stick pan, keeping the heat medium, and resisting the urge to move the chicken too soon. Dredging the chicken in cornstarch, breadcrumbs, or flour before cooking also aids browning. With a little experimenting, you can pan fry juicy chicken with a nice exterior texture without needing to add any oil or other fat.

How to Pan Fry Chicken Without Oil

Pan frying chicken without oil requires paying close attention to temperature and chicken contact with the pan surface. Follow these tips for the best results:

Use a Non-Stick Pan

Choose a good quality non-stick frying pan to cook the chicken. The non-stick surface allows the chicken to brown more easily without added fat. Make sure to use a pan that is in good condition and avoid metal utensils that could scratch the finish.

Pat Chicken Dry

It’s important to thoroughly pat the chicken dry with paper towels before cooking. Any excess moisture on the surface will cause splattering when it hits the hot pan and steam the chicken instead of browning it.

Preheat on Medium Heat

Preheat the non-stick pan over medium heat for several minutes. The pan needs to be hot enough to cook the chicken through while also promoting the Maillard reaction for browning. Medium heat around 350°F/175°C is ideal.

Use a Thermometer

Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the pan temperature. This allows you to maintain the proper heat for even cooking and avoids overheating the pan which can cause the chicken to burn.

Dry Dredge Chicken

For extra browning and texture, dredge the chicken in a dry mixture before cooking. Cornstarch, flour, breadcrumbs or panko all work well. Shake off any excess coating before adding the chicken to the pan.

Cook in Batches

Avoid overcrowding the pan which causes steaming. Cook chicken pieces in a single layer with space between each one. Cook in batches if needed to allow proper browning.

Let Cook Undisturbed

Resist the urge to move the chicken right away once in the pan. Let it cook undisturbed for 2-3 minutes to allow the surface to brown. Then flip only once and cook a few minutes on the other side.

Check Internal Temperature

The chicken is done cooking when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F/75°C. Use a food thermometer to confirm doneness.

Let Rest Before Serving

Once cooked, transfer the chicken to a plate and let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting to allow juices to redistribute. The chicken will stay hot and finish cooking while resting.

Tips for Crispy Chicken Without Oil

It can be tricky getting crispy pan fried chicken without the use of oil. Here are some extra tips:

– Pound the chicken to an even thickness which promotes even browning
– Use boneless, skinless thighs instead of breasts for better texture
– Chill chicken in the fridge for 30 minutes before cooking to reduce moisture
– Use instant brown rice flour for dredging to increase crispness
– Add spices like garlic powder, paprika, or cayenne to the dredge
– Cook over slightly higher heat, but watch closely to avoid burning

Best Fats to Use for Pan Frying Chicken

While it is possible to pan fry chicken without any added fat, using a small amount of oil or other fat can help the chicken brown better and adds flavor. Here are some of the best options:

Olive Oil

A heart-healthy option, olive oil has a high smoke point and monounsaturated fats. The flavor pairs well with a wide variety of seasonings. Extra virgin olive oil offers the most flavor.

Avocado Oil

With its mild flavor and very high smoke point, refined avocado oil is excellent for pan frying. It also contains beneficial monounsaturated fats.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil remains solid at room temperature which makes it easy to pan fry with. It has a neutral flavor that works well in both savory and sweet recipes.


For rich flavor, butter is ideal for pan frying chicken. Clarified butter has a higher smoke point than regular butter. Use just enough to coat the pan surface.

Bacon Grease

If you happen to have some reserved bacon grease, it adds delicious smoky flavor to pan fried chicken. Use in combination with another fat.

Duck Fat

Duck fat might sound decadent, but it actually has less saturated fat than butter or coconut oil. Its rich flavor takes chicken to the next level.

How to Pan Fry Different Cuts of Chicken Without Oil

You can pan fry a variety of chicken parts without oil. Just follow a few modifications based on the cut:

Chicken Breasts

The leanest part of the chicken, breasts easily overcook and dry out. Use thinner sliced breasts and remove from heat as soon as they reach 165°F.

Chicken Thighs

With more fat and collagen, boneless thighs stay juicier when pan fried without oil. Cook to 175°F for the best texture.

Chicken Legs

Chicken legs require longer cooking to become tender but the skin gets quite crispy. Make sure the skin is very dry before cooking.

Chicken Wings

Wings have the most skin relative to meat. Pat wings very dry, fry over medium-high heat and toss in sauce afterward.

Chicken Drumsticks

Cook drumsticks until they reach 185°F internally. To crisp the skin, finish cooking under the broiler for a minute or two.

How to Make Pan Fried Chicken Without Oil Crispy

Getting pan fried chicken crispy without oil requires special treatment. Here are the secrets:

– Use boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts
– Chill thighs in freezer for 30 minutes before cooking
– Pat chicken very dry and season well with salt and pepper
– Dredge in very fine instant brown rice flour
– Use a cast iron skillet or non-stick pan and preheat 3-4 minutes on medium
– Cook chicken undisturbed for 5 minutes per side
– Sprinkle chicken with a bit of flour once flipped
– Press chicken down firmly in pan as it cooks
– Remove chicken as soon as it reaches 175°F internal temperature

The well-heated cast iron plus par-cooking and pressing the chicken results in a beautifully browned and crisped exterior without oil. Be very careful not to burn the chicken.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Pan Frying Chicken Without Oil

It’s easy to make mistakes when trying to pan fry chicken without oil. Avoid these common pitfalls:

Not Patting Chicken Dry

Failing to remove excess moisture from the chicken’s surface leads to steaming instead of searing. always thoroughly pat dry.

Overcrowding the Pan

Too much chicken in the pan causes steaming. Cook in a single layer with some space between pieces.

Moving Chicken Too Soon

Frequently flipping the chicken doesn’t allow the surface to brown. Let cook at least 2-3 minutes undisturbed before moving.

Cooking Over High Heat

High heat often overcooks the exterior before the inside cooks through. Medium heat is best for even cooking.

Not Preheating the Pan

Starting chicken in a cold pan doesn’t properly brown the surface. Always preheat at least 3 minutes.

Undercooking the Chicken

Not cooking to a safe final internal temperature of 165°F can lead to illness. Use a thermometer.

Overcooking the Chicken

Cooking chicken beyond 175°F dries it out. Remove it from the pan as soon as it reaches temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pan fried chicken healthier without oil?

Pan frying chicken without oil significantly reduces the fat and calorie content compared to using added fats like oil or butter. However, chicken still contains a decent amount of fat without any additions. Removing the skin further reduces fat.

What is the best oil to pan fry chicken?

For pan frying, refined avocado oil is one of the best choices due to its very high smoke point of 520°F and neutral flavor. Olive and coconut oil are also good options. Butter can be used for flavor but has a lower smoke point.

Is pan fried chicken supposed to be crispy?

Properly pan fried chicken can develop a lovely crispy crust, especially if it is floured or breaded prior to cooking. Getting crispy chicken without oil requires using thighs, pressing the meat firmly as it cooks, and accepting that it won’t be quite as crispy as using fat.

Can I pan fry frozen chicken breasts without oil?

It’s best not to pan fry frozen chicken without oil. The frozen chicken exudes too much water, steaming the surface and making it nearly impossible to get browning or a crust. Defrost first before attempting to pan fry without oil.

Should you salt chicken before pan frying?

Seasoning the raw chicken with salt and pepper before cooking is highly recommended. Salting in advance flavors the meat all the way through and aids in browning. Just be sure to pat off any excess moisture after seasoning.


While pan frying chicken without any oil requires a few special tricks, it can absolutely be done. Getting the pan nice and hot, thoroughly patting the chicken dry, dredging in a starch or crumbs, and resisting the urge to constantly flip or move the chicken are the secrets to success. While skinless, boneless chicken breasts or thighs may not get ultra crispy, they will develop a nice browned exterior with some texture when pan fried sans oil. Be sure to use a thermometer to cook the chicken to a safe internal temperature. With a good non-stick pan and a little trial and error, you can turn out juicy, golden pan fried chicken without needing to add extra fat or oil.