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Easy Lemon Pepper Chicken is great on the grill, on the stove, or in the oven. If you have a jar of this citrusy, peppery seasoning somewhere in the pantry, put it to use tonight. Your dinner problem is solved in 30 minutes or less, and it couldn’t be more delicious.
Lemon pepper seasoning: You may already have a favorite brand. If you’re shopping, read the ingredient labels. Lemon pepper doesn’t mean just lemon and black pepper. Usually, brands add salt, sugar, onion powder, thyme, MSG, and bunch of other stuff, some needed, others not so much. If you’re being careful about sodium intake, for example, seek out a salt-free variety. Or better yet, make your own; there’s a recipe in the tips section below.
For baking in the oven:
Here’s a fantastic secret I’m sharing for baking chicken breasts without drying them out. Through much trial and error while perfecting my Chipotle Chicken recipe, I learned that wrapping a sheet of parchment paper over the tops of baking chicken breasts keeps them super juicy–and therefore super delicious. The parchment paper also helps them cook evenly.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Start by swirling some olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Then arrange the seasoned chicken in a single layer over the oil.
- My secret: Cover the chicken with a piece of parchment paper, tucking the edges around the sides of the chicken like a blanket.
- Bake until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees–usually about 30 to 40 minutes.
No matter what kind of grill you have, start the chicken in the hot zone, then finish it off in the cool zone, so it can cook through without burning.
- Start by preheating or loading up and lighting your grill. You should also clean and oil the grates.
- Next, lightly coat the chicken with olive oil and then sprinkle the lemon pepper seasoning over every side (you can use more than 2 tablespoons if you want to).
- Sear the chicken first on the hottest part of the grill. Then flip, transfer to indirect heat, and continue cooking until the chicken hits 165 degrees on the inside.
For sautéing in a pan:
Using a pan frees you up to get creative: a splash of white wine, heavy cream, or some softened onions and garlic beforehand take a chicken breast to the next level.
- Drizzle some oil in a pan and get it nice and hot over medium-high heat. The oil should start to shimmer–that’s when you know you’re ready to go.
- Arrange the seasoned chicken in a single layer, without crowding. Most importantly, don’t move it. After it cooks for a while, it will develop a crust that will release the chicken so you can flip it.
- Partially cover the skillet, turn the heat to medium, and continue cooking until the chicken reaches 165 degrees internally. If you are in a hurry, or if you’re having trouble, add a ¼ cup water (or white wine) to the skillet and cover to semi-poach the chicken over the finish line into dinner territory.
Recipe tips and variations:
DIY Lemon Pepper Seasoning: Here’s a simple recipe for making homemade lemon pepper mix. Makes about ¾ cup of lemon pepper.
- ½ cup dried lemon peel granules*
- 2 ½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
In a small bowl or a jar with a tight-fitting lid, mix together the ingredients. Store in a dry, dark corner of the pantry. Use liberally.
*Dried lemon peel granules are made from dried or dehydrated lemon peel/zest. They’re easy to find online or in well-stocked spice stores, and MUCH easier than zesting a million lemons to make your own.
How much seasoning to use: I usually aim for about 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of lemon pepper per chicken breast. If you’re making chicken thighs, use the same amount. For wings, go crazy with the stuff. For a whole chicken, use about 3 tablespoons of lemon pepper rubbed all over the bird.
More easy dinner recipes:
Lemon Pepper Chicken
To prepare the chicken:
- Drizzle chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning, coating all sides of the chicken evenly.
To bake the chicken:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a baking dish with oil or nonstick spray and arrange chicken in a single layer. Cover with parchment paper, tucking the paper around the chicken so it is completely covered.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken reaches 165°F when tested with an internal thermometer. Remove to a platter and tent with foil for 5 minutes.
To grill the chicken:
- Preheat grill over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Oil grates. Grill over direct heat, close the cover, and grill 5 minutes on each side, turning once.
- Transfer to indirect heat and continue to cook until an internal thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the largest chicken breast reaches 165 degrees, 5 to 10 minutes longer.
To sauté the chicken:
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chicken in a single layer and cook until browned on one side, about 5 minutes.
- Flip chicken, reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and continue cooking until the internal temperature reaches 165°F on a thermometer, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Meggan Hill is a classically-trained chef and professional writer. Her meticulously-tested recipes and detailed tutorials bring confidence and success to home cooks everywhere. Meggan has been featured on NPR, HuffPost, FoxNews, LA Times, and more.