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How to Season Chicken

Flavorful, Moist and PERFECTLY SEASONED chicken will adorn your table from now on! It’s easy, you just need to know how to season chicken perfectly! 

Chicken thighs in a cast iron pan with seasoning over the top

 

Adding the PERFECT seasoning to ANY cut of Chicken is EASY when you follow one of the methods I’ve listed below! 

 I’ll show you how to decide if you want to season chicken using a marinade, rub or if you simply want to add some great flavored seasonings and cook immediately!

Why This Recipe for How to Season Chicken Works!

  • Easy
  • Fast
  • You Already Have All the Ingredients

How to Season Chicken

Choose method: 

Marinating

STEP 1. Place the chicken into a container or ziplock type bag. 

hands placing chicken into bag

STEP 2. Pour the marinade over the top and place into the refrigerator. 

heating the marinade ingredients in pan with wooden spoon

 

Dry Rub

STEP 1. Salt the chicken and set aside, wipe off any moisture after 30 minutes and then pat and rub the dry rub season chicken mix onto the chicken pieces. 

Dry Spice Rub falling from a spoon into a bowl

 

STEP 2. After the chicken has rested in the fridge, grill or roast for the best flavor! 

Chicken thighs on the grill with grill marks and flames

Immediate Seasoning

STEP 1. Cut the chicken into the size pieces you need for your recipe.

chicken breast being cut in half with chefs knife

 

STEP 2. Apply the seasoning mix directly to the chicken and then grill, roast, pan fry or bake! 

pieces of seasoned chicken cooking in a frying pan

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about How to Season Chicken!

Which method should I use? Marinating, Dry Rub or Immediate Seasoning? 

That depends on a couple of things! How much time do you have? What are you trying to achieve? What cut of chicken will you be using? How Do You WANT to season chicken? 

I’VE GOT ZERO TIME: 

Go with a quick marinade and then a surface seasoning. 

I’VE GOT ALL DAY!

Try a dry rub!

BONE IN MEAT ONLY AND I WANT IT TO BE JUICY!

You’ll want to do a marinade with lots of flavor and plenty of vinegar. 

BONELESS CHICKEN BREASTS AND I’VE GOT ABOUT 20 MINUTES. 

You’ll want to use a quick surface seasoning and to get moving quickly! 

***PRO TIP***  Surface seasoning works for ANY cut of chicken, bone in or out, skin on or off and any cooking method, therefore, it is the seasoning choice we’ve made for the recipe card below. HOWEVER, we also give lots of instructions for a perfect marinade or spice rub if you have time for either of those. 

How Do You Add Flavor To Chicken

The best way to add flavor to chicken is to either marinate, add a seasoning rub or directly season just before cooking. Which one of these you pick depends greatly on…

  • How much time you have
  • The Cut of Chicken you plan to use
  • The cooking method you are planning. 

***Depending on your recipe, you may want to combine a couple of these methods. 

How Do You Get Seasoning To Stick to Chicken

To get seasoning to stick to chicken, you’ll want to do the following: 

  • Dry the chicken very well and apply a liberal coat of kosher salt, set it aside. 
  • In a small bowl, mix up the marinade, spice rub or seasoning mix you plan to use. 
  • After the chicken has been allowed to sit with the kosher salt applied, dry it again very well with paper towels.
  • If using a spice rub, massage the spices into the chicken. If there is skin on the chicken pack a little up under the skin where it may be loose. Then place the chicken into a dish and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
  • When using the direct spices, you’ll want to sprinkle these liberally onto the chicken and allow it to sit for a few minutes while you prepare your dish for cooking. 

**PRO TIP** Sometimes you’ll note that a recipe calls for brushing the chicken skin with butter or oil first, if it does, do that after you have salted chicken and allowed it to sit for a moment. 

What Is The Best Seasoning For Chicken? 

The best seasoning for chicken is going to be either a marinade, a spice rub or a direct seasoning mix. Those recipes follow. 

Do I Need To Oil My Chicken Before Applying Spices? 

That will depend heavily upon the recipe you are using and the cooking method. In general, if you are going to grill the chicken, then yes, you will need to apply a high smoke point oil such as vegetable oil. 

This keeps the chicken from sticking to the grill and enhances the flavor slightly. However, if you are going to be baking your chicken, then NO you will not need to add oil to the chicken unless your specific recipe calls for it. Chicken releases a lot of juices in the oven and generally, oil is not needed. 

What Are The Basic Seasoning Ingredients? 

For chicken, as well as for anything else, you’ll want seasoning that falls into most of these categories: 

  • Fat
  • Heat
  • Salt
  • Acid
  • Smoke
  • Umami
  • Sweet

marinated chicken in a cast iron pan with forks

Our Favorite Chicken Marinade

Use this marinade with one or more pounds of chicken (bone in, skin on or boneless skinless). 

  • 1 Bottle of Zesty Italian Salad Dressing. 
  1. Place the chicken into a resealable plastic bag or into a baking dish and pour the dressing over the top of the chicken until it covers the chicken (it might take an entire bottle).
  2. Seal the bag (or cover the dish with plastic wrap).
  3. Place into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before cooking.
  4. When ready to cook the chicken, remove the chicken and then discard the dressing that the chicken has soaked in. (NEVER save the marinade that chicken has soaked in, it could make you very sick to use this to marinate during cooking).
  5. Cook the chicken the way you prefer. 

We LOVE this chicken grilled!  (use fresh dressing to paint onto the chicken while it cooks). This chicken is also very good baked! Simply put it into a baking dish and bake at 350-400 for 15-25 minutes based on how thick your chicken pieces are. 

Always cook chicken to 165 degrees internal temperature.  See my Resources page for my recommendations on thermometers. 

pice

A photo of a spoonful of dry spice rub

Favorite Spice Rub

Use this rub with one to three pounds of chicken (bone in, skin on is usually best). Apply the rub and then place the chicken into the refrigerator uncovered for 2-4 hours before using in your recipe. We love this rub for grilling and pan roasting. You can mix the rub up and just keep it in the refrigerator for months! 

  • 2 Tbs Kosher Salt
  • 2 ½ Tbs Packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp crushed cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp cumin
  1. Mix seasoning mix spices together and keep in a jar in the fridge.
  2. Sprinkle generously over both sides of each piece of chicken and rub it into the meat and skin.
  3. Great on grilled or roasted chicken. 

spices and cutting board

Direct Seasoning Method

We like to use this direct seasoning mix method when we are running short on time or really just want the great taste of the meat to shine through. It’s quick, easy and perfect for grilling, roasting, baking or any other method of cooking chicken that you can think of.

See the recipe card listed below. 

spices, salt and measuring spoons

Tips and Tricks for How to Season Chicken

  • Mix the spices together for the seasoning mix well and use a whisk to mix them up. This removes lumps and combines the spices evenly for easy spreading. 
  • If you plan to grill or roast your chicken, mix up the spices, apply a light coat of vegetable oil (olive oil won’t work for this application) and then apply the seasoning. 
  • You can wash your pieces of chicken if you prefer, however, make sure they are very dry before you try to apply the spices. It may seem like the wetness will help the spices to stick, but the extra water will lead to steam during cooking and that will wash the spices right off. 
  • Prior to cooking your chicken, you’ll want to dry the chicken well, apply a good sprinkle of KOSHER salt (not any other kind of salt). This adds flavor and pulls some of the surface water out of the chicken giving it great flavor! Dry the chicken again before you put the seasoning on. 

The Chicken…

  • If you have some of those GIANT 1+lb chicken breasts, consider cutting them in half (like opening a book). They are so thick that they are difficult to cook properly without getting the edges super dry and the center not quite done. 
  • Are you cooking up some chicken pieces or cubes? You’ll want to preheat the pan to a medium temp. Put oil in the pan and then add your chicken pieces all at once (after they are all cut) so that they cook the same amount of time. If you add the pieces while you cut them, some will cook for a very long time and some will hardly cook at all! That’s a problem. 
  • If you are cooking small pieces or cubes of chicken, coat the chicken well with the seasoning mix before putting it in the pan to cook. 
  • Chicken should cook to an internal temperature of 165 degrees and it’s important to have a good thermometer. I recommend the best one on the market (in my opinion) on my resources page if you want to have a look. 
  • It is really BEST practice to NOT wash your chicken before cooking, check out this guidance from the USDA

If You Enjoyed This Recipe for How to Season Chicken, You Might Like These Other Chicken Recipes…

How to Freeze Chicken

Oven Baked Fried Chicken

Easy Chicken Pie

Basil Pesto Chicken

Pinto Beans

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A photo from slightly above and to the front of Apples and Ale Barbecue Chicken

How to Season Chicken

ONLY SERVE the most flavorful, moist, perfectly seasoned chicken EVER again! It’s easy, you just need to know how to season chicken perfectly!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: main
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken seasoning, how to season chicken
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 299kcal
Author: Wendi Spraker

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Chicken any cut, bone in or out, skin on or off.
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp brown sugar
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • ½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs butter amount varies based on the amount of chicken you used for this recipe

Instructions

  • Dry the pieces of chicken well with a paper towel and then lay the chicken out onto a platter covered with aluminum foil, apply the kosher salt liberally to all sides of the chicken. Set it aside for at least 30 minutes.
  • Mix together in a small bowl the garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, brown sugar and cayenne pepper. Set aside.
  • Once the chicken has set for 30 minutes, dry well with paper towels. Sprinkle both sides of chicken liberally with the spice mix in the bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over the top.
  • Cook the chicken by your preferred cooking method (grill, oven bake, roast or pan fry). While cooking, remove the aluminum foil from the platter and discard.
  • When the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165, remove to the platter. Put a small pat of butter on the surface of the chicken pieces and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the chicken to rest on the platter for 2-3 minutes before serving.

Notes

  • Mix the spices together well and use a whisk to mix them up. This removes lumps and combines the spices evenly for easy spreading.
  • If you plan to grill or roast your chicken, mix up the spices, apply a light coat of vegetable oil (olive oil won’t work for this application) and then apply the seasoning.
  • You can wash your pieces of chicken if you prefer, however, make sure they are very dry before you try to apply the spices. It may seem like the wetness will help the spices to stick, but the extra water will lead to steam during cooking and that will wash the spices right off.
  • Prior to cooking your chicken, you’ll want to dry the chicken well, apply a good sprinkle of KOSHER salt (not any other kind of salt). This adds flavor and pulls some of the surface water out of the chicken giving it great flavor! Dry the chicken again before you put the seasoning on.
  • If you have some of those GIANT 1+lb chicken breasts, consider cutting them in half (like opening a book). They are so thick that they are difficult to cook properly without getting the edges super dry and the center not quite done.
  • Are you cooking up some chicken pieces or cubes? You’ll want to preheat the pan to a medium temp. Put oil in the pan and then add your chicken pieces all at once (after they are all cut) so that they cook the same amount of time. If you add the pieces while you cut them, some will cook for a very long time and some will hardly cook at all! That’s a problem.
  • If you are cooking small pieces or cubes of chicken, coat the chicken well with the seasoning mix before putting it in the pan to cook.
  • Chicken should cook to an internal temperature of 165 and it’s important to have a good thermometer. I recommend the best one on the market (in my opinion) on my resources page if you want to have a look.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
How to Season Chicken
Amount Per Serving
Calories 299 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 8g40%
Cholesterol 97mg32%
Sodium 1873mg78%
Potassium 224mg6%
Carbohydrates 3g1%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 21g42%
Vitamin A 330IU7%
Vitamin C 2mg2%
Calcium 12mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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Wendi Spraker

Friday 8th of November 2019

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