On busy weeknights, chopped, cooked chicken can be a secret weapon for getting a meal to the table in no time flat. In casseroles, soups or salads, it is amazing how versatile chopped chicken really can be! I love to have a few bags in the freezer to pull out and use at a moment’s notice, and over the years, I have developed a little system for cooking and prepping the chicken that I truly feel results in the very best, most delicious chopped cooked chicken around. The secret to turning plain-Jane boneless, skinless chicken breasts into something special is to coat them in a savory spice rub before roasting them for tons of delicious caramelization and flavor. Today, I’m sharing my fool-proof recipe for making and storing the best chopped cooked chicken you’ll ever eat!
First things first: the spice rub. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon onion powder and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon paprika. If you prefer more or less of a certain spice (some might prefer more salt), adjust to your liking. I have found this recipe to be just the right amount for 2 pounds of chicken, which is what I prepared here. Also, if you prefer a simpler flavor profile for the chicken, skip the added seasonings and simply rub with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 375. While it is coming to temp, grease a jelly roll pan with nonstick spray. For this purpose, I absolutely love my stoneware jelly roll pan, as it really is the best thing going for helping the chicken brown up beautifully, but a metal pan will work just fine. Arrange the uncooked chicken breasts on the pan, then then rub each one generously with the spice rub. (Both sides, please!)
Place the pan in the preheated oven, and set the timer for 15 minutes. When it goes off, flip each chicken piece over, and continue roasting until each piece is golden brown and cooked through, about 15-20 minutes more. (The cooking time will vary depending upon the thickness of your pieces of chicken, so for particularly thick pieces, you will likely need to cook a bit longer. I always cheat and cut into the breasts to test them for doneness, since I know I’ll be chopping them up later anyway.) Remove the pan from the oven, and transfer the chicken to a plate. At this point, I like to drizzle the chicken with the yummy juices that have accumulated on the pan during cooking for added flavor and moisture.
Now, my secret to achieving perfect cubes when chopping: Pop the plate of chicken in the fridge for a half hour or so until each piece is cool and firm. This helps so much for keeping the chicken intact as you slice through! After the half hour is up, place the chicken on a cutting board, and grab a very sharp knife. This chicken is about to get chopped!
I used to think chopping chicken was downright tedious until I developed a little system for doing so. First, slice the piece from top to bottom into 4-5 equally sized strips, keeping all of the slices together, like this:
And then make 4-5 additional slices from side to side, like this:
The end result? Perfect, even cubes of delectable chopped chicken that are ready and raring to be added to your favorite casserole, soup or salad recipe!
Once the chicken is chopped, either use it immediately, or divide it into portions and place in zip-top storage bags in the freezer for up to 3 months. If frozen, simply thaw on the counter for an hour or two before using. So easy!
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon paprika
- Preheat oven to 375.
- In a small bowl, mix together the salt and next 5 ingredients. Place raw chicken breasts on a greased jelly roll pan, and rub both sides of each piece with the spice mixture. Place pan in preheated oven and cook for 30-35 minutes, flipping the chicken over after the first 15 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate and chill, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes until cool and firm.
- Place chilled chicken on a cutting board and cut into cubes, first cutting each piece into 4-5 slices from top to bottom and then cutting into 4-5 slices from side to side.
- Use chicken immediately, or divide into portions and freeze for up to 3 months in zip-top plastic freezer bags.
What is your favorite recipe for using chopped chicken? I would love to add some great ideas to my arsenal!
Thanks so much for making PS a part of your day!