The Secret Ingredient for Tender, Juicy, Perfectly Browned Chicken

Chicken thighs in skillet with lemons

Chicken is a weeknight dinner workhorse. Whether it's chicken breasts, chicken thighs, ground chicken or a whole roasted bird (either homemade or rotisserie chicken), there are so many great, easy options for what to do with the crowd-pleasing poultry.

But despite chicken's versatility, it's easy to get into a rut making the same recipes over and over. A few years ago I found myself in that spot and was shocked to find a chicken dinner rut-buster in a surprising place: the salad dressing aisle.

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Why You Should Bake Chicken with Bottled Caesar Dressing

In my work as a food editor and recipe developer, I run across lots of kooky food-related trends. One that pops up every now and then is drizzling your chicken with bottled Caesar dressing before baking it. Although folks raved about it, I was always skeptical. I like to make my own salad dressing, so I wasn't sure this dish would be for me.

One day I decided to give it a try and I was shocked by how good it was, and my husband was too. Neither of us are huge fans of bottled Caesar dressing, so we worried the flavor would take over, but it didn't. It added a nice richness and tenderness to the meat and helped the chicken skin brown beautifully. (It reminded me a bit of what happens when you roast turkey with mayo.)

The other magical thing that happened is the combination of the chicken juices and the dressing created an absolutely delicious sauce in the bottom of the pan. I definitely would make sure you have some crusty bread around for sopping that up.

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Caesar Baked Chicken before and after<p>Nina Elder</p>
Caesar Baked Chicken before and after

Nina Elder

How to Bake Chicken with Bottled Caesar Dressing

The other thing about this trick is it's really easy and you don't really need a recipe. When I made my dish, I browned some skin-on chicken thighs in a skillet, took them out and tossed some broccoli florets in the chicken fat in the pan. I drizzled some dressing over the broccoli and tossed that together, then I snuggled the browned chicken thighs on top of the veggies, skin side up.

I drizzled some dressing on top of the chicken thighs (about a tablespoon per chicken thigh, but a little more or less would be fine) and then stuck the skillet in the oven. In about 15 minutes, the chicken was cooked through and the broccoli was tender but not mushy. The chicken skin was browned and crispy and I had a delicious, kind of fancy-looking dinner in less than 30 minutes. Talk about a winner, winner chicken dinner!

With a trick like this, it's super easy to make it your own. You could bake the chicken solo or swap in another vegetable. Cauliflower would be tasty and I bet sliced or quartered baby potatoes would be super delicious, too. Carrots and or parsnips would also probably be super tasty. Just be sure to choose a vegetable that will cook (but not overcook) in 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.

I like to use chicken thighs when I make a baked chicken dish, but you could also do the same thing with chicken breasts. I prefer skin-on, bone-in chicken, because I think it has a deeper, richer flavor and isn't as prone to drying out, but you can use this method with skinless, boneless chicken breasts and thighs, though the cook time will vary depending on the size and weight of the chicken you use, as well as if it's bone-in or boneless. Give it a try and see what you think!

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