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Does reverse sear work for chicken breast?

What is reverse searing?

Reverse searing is a cooking technique where meat is first slowly roasted or baked at a low temperature, then finished by searing it quickly over high heat. This produces a steak or chicken breast that is evenly cooked throughout while also developing a flavorful, caramelized exterior crust.

Reverse searing takes advantage of carrying over the internal temperature during the searing at the end. The initial low temperature oven roasting gently brings the meat up to around 10-15°F below the final target temperature. Then a quick sear at the end not only crisps up the exterior but also pushes up the internal temp those last few degrees.

Benefits of reverse searing

There are a few key benefits to reverse searing meat:

  • More even doneness from edge to edge: With traditional high heat sear first, followed by oven roasting, it’s easy to end up with a steak or chicken breast that’s more well-done on the exterior edges while undercooked in the center. Reverse searing leads to more edge-to-edge even cooking.
  • Better moisture retention: The low heat oven roast at the start helps meat retain moisture and cook more gently. The quick sear at the end helps create a flavorful crust without overcooking the interior.
  • Better fat rendering: The initial low oven temperature renders fat and connectsive tissue slowly over time leading to more tender and juicy results.
  • More control over doneness: With traditional sear first methods, it can be hard to control how well done the interior gets. With reverse sear, the oven roast stage controls doneness precisely and the sear just provides flavor and texture.

Overall, these benefits lead to chicken breast or steak that is tender and juicy on the inside while having a flavorful, caramelized crust on the exterior.

Reverse searing chicken breast step-by-step

Here is a simple step-by-step guide to reverse searing chicken breasts:

  1. Preheat oven to 275°F. Pat chicken breast dry and season all over with salt and pepper.
  2. Place chicken on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 10-15°F below your desired final temperature (135°F for medium doneness).
  3. While chicken is roasting, preheat a cast iron skillet or grill to high heat. Brush chicken lightly with oil.
  4. Once chicken has reached target temp after oven roasting, remove it from the oven. Let it rest for a few minutes.
  5. Place the chicken in the hot skillet or on the grill and sear 1-2 minutes per side until crisp and golden.
  6. Check temperature again to ensure it has reached final target temp after searing of around 150°F for medium doneness.
  7. Let chicken rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy!

The initial gentle oven roast ensures even cooking and juiciness. The final sear gives you that nice brown crust and brings up the temp for food safety.

Tips for the best reverse seared chicken

– Use boneless, skinless chicken breasts pounded to an even thickness so they cook evenly. Or leave them thicker for more juicy results.

– Pat the chicken dry before seasoning for better browning.

– Use a digital instant read thermometer to monitor the internal temp precisely.

– Let the chicken rest after roasting and again after searing so juices can redistribute.

– A heavy cast iron skillet provides the best sear, but a grill also works well.

– Try different seasoning blends on the chicken to flavor the crust like chili powder, herbs, citrus zest, etc.

– Garnish with fresh herbs, a drizzle of sauce, or a compound butter to finish.

How long to reverse sear chicken breasts?

The exact timing will depend on a few factors:

  • Thickness of the chicken breast – The thicker they are, the longer they need in the oven phase.
  • Doneness desired – Cook to a lower oven temp for more well done.
  • Oven temperature – Lower oven temps take more time.
  • Final sear time – 1-2 mins per side on high heat.

As a general guide, for 1 inch thick chicken breasts targeting 150°F final temperature:

  • Oven roast at 275°F for around 15-20 minutes until 135°F internal temp.
  • Sear 1-2 minutes per side until 150°F.

For a 1/2 inch thick breast, start checking even earlier at 10-12 minutes. Monitor the internal temp and pull from the oven when 10-15°F below your desired final doneness.

Visual guide to doneness temps

Doneness Internal Temp Visual Cues
Rare 135°F Very pink center
Medium Rare 140°F Warm pink center
Medium 150°F Hot pink center
Medium Well 160°F Trace of pink
Well Done 165°F No pink

For food safety, the USDA recommends cooking chicken to 165°F. But by sous vide standards, 145°F and above is considered pasteurized and safe, letting you go for lower temps if desired. Use a digital instant read thermometer for precision.

Common mistakes

It’s easy to mess up reverse seared chicken if you aren’t careful:

  • Oven temp too hot – This overcooks the interior meat before searing.
  • Oven temp too low – This extends the cooking time too long.
  • Not monitoring temp – Leads to over or undercooked chicken.
  • Searing too long – Can overcook and dry out the meat.
  • Not resting – Juices leak out without a rest period.

Be sure to stick to the 275-300°F oven roast range. Check the internal temp early and let carryover cooking finish it during searing. Give it a solid 5+ minute rest after oven and again after searing.


Problem Solution
Overcooked, dry meat Use lower oven temp, monitor temp earlier, shorten sear time
Undercooked meat Increase oven temp slightly, cook longer in oven phase, let sear finish
No crust formed Make sure skillet is very hot before searing, sear longer if needed
Curled up or uneven Pound chicken to even thickness, use lower oven temp

Monitor your results and adjust oven time, temp, and sear time as needed to achieve perfect reverse seared chicken every time.

Frequently asked questions

What temperature should I roast chicken breasts for reverse sear?

275-300°F is ideal. Higher than 300°F risks overcooking before searing. Lower than 275°F extends the cook time too long. Roast until 10-15°F below desired final doneness.

Can you reverse sear chicken legs or thighs?

Yes, reverse searing works great for bone-in chicken legs or thighs too. Follow the same method, roasting low at 275°F then searing at the end. Cook dark meat to 175°F final internal temperature.

What kind of pan is best to sear chicken for reverse sear?

A heavy stainless steel or cast iron skillet provides the best sear. Make sure it’s very hot before adding the chicken. Grilling also works well for the high heat sear at the end.

Should you brine chicken before reverse searing?

Brining or marinating chicken can help keep it extra moist. But with reverse sear, it’s not required. The low oven roast helps retain moisture on its own.

Can I reverse sear frozen chicken breasts?

It’s best to thaw chicken fully before reverse searing to ensure even cooking. If needed, you can roast frozen chicken at 300°F until thawed, then reduce temp and continue reverse sear method.

What sauce goes well with reverse seared chicken?

Try a pan sauce made by deglazing the sear pan after cooking. Or serve chicken with chimichurri, salsa verde, herb butter, or your favorite barbecue sauce.


Reverse searing is a foolproof way to cook chicken breast that is tender, juicy, and full of flavor. By gently roasting in the oven first, then finishing with a quick hot sear, you get the best of both – even, edge-to-edge cooking with a crisp browned crust.

Monitor the internal temperature as you go and adjust oven and sear times as needed based on thickness. Let the meat rest before slicing for super juicy results. Once you get the hang of it, you may never go back to regular pan fried chicken again.

The reverse sear method works wonderfully for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. But it can also be used for bone-in thighs, legs, whole chickens, turkey breasts, beef steaks, and more. Play around with seasoning blends and sauces to dress up this simple, foolproof way to cook chicken or steak.