Tired of dry, tasteless chicken breast? Problem solved. In 10 minutes, you can make the perfectly tender chicken breast of your dinner dreams.I’m cooking my way through Mark Bittman’s 1,000+ recipes in How to Cook Everything, and this is what we learned.

If you like cooking challenges, you might also like Real Food Cheap (feeding a family of 5 big eaters on $90/week), our Cheapskate Whole30, or Cheap Healthy Costco!


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We’re doing a crazy challenge. Our goal at Cheapskate Cook is to empower and equip you to save money and eat healthy. Tackling these two seemingly opposite goals usually means you need to try new things, learn a few new skills, and decide what works for you in this season.

Sometimes it helps to watch someone else do it first.

So I’m cooking my way through Mark Bittman’s cookbook: How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Foood. This cooking tome boasts over 1000 pages and 1500 recipes & variations. We’re calling it the Cook Everything Challenge.

Cook Everything Challenge: Recipes 14-31

Dry, overcooked chicken breasts, bitter green peppers, and leftover stale birthday cake. This last batch of Cook Everything recipes solved all those problems. Here are recipes 14-31 of the #CookEverythingChallenge!

chicken, yellow rice, and veggies
Not an actual photo of a perfectly cooked chicken breast (this one is actually a little dry) – I didn’t get to take any good photos of the recipes we made.

14-15. Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breasts

p. 380

I grew up cooking frozen chicken breasts at 350 F for an hour. Then I picked at the dried, flavorless patty and wondered why I didn’t like chicken. Turns out I was cooking chicken breast all wrong.

Tender, perfectly-cooked chicken breast only takes a few minutes to cook, and it doesn’t cost a penny more to make it taste incredible.

Two Drawbacks to Cooking the Perfect Chicken Breasts:

  1. You have to remember to thaw them
  2. You must pound them lightly with a meat mallet

The first step, unfortunately, is asking a lot of most of us. We’re not used to thinking ahead when it comes to dinner.

Using a meat mallet only takes a few seconds, but it’s an extra step, not everyone has a meat mallet, and it creates extra trash from the wax paper or the plastic wrap we place on the chicken to prevent chicken juice splatter.

While these steps might be a deal-breaker for some of us, they are the keys to making perfectly cooked, tender chicken breasts.

How to Make Perfectly Cooked Chicken Breasts:

  1. Thaw them completely.
  2. Turn on the broiler and set the rack to no more than 6 inches below the broiler.
  3. Place a sheet of wax paper or plastic wrap over the chicken breast and pound it gently with a meat mallet until the chicken is an even thickness.
  4. Season chicken (we like this or this with some olive oil. Bittman shares a handful of delicious, simple options in his book.)
  5. Place chicken on a baking sheet.
  6. Cook it for 3-4 minutes under the broiler on one side, then flip it.
  7. Cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side.
  8. Remove the chicken from the oven. Chicken continues to cook for a few minutes outside the oven, so it’s okay if it’s not cooked completely.
  9. Chicken should be 165 F when done. This is a little tricky with thin cutlets, but you can insert a meat thermometer lengthwise into the center of the cut. Additionally, check to make sure the juice runs clear, not pink.

THAT’S IT. The perfect chicken breast doesn’t cost a penny more than the dry, tasteless wedge too many of us eat for dinner. It just takes a little forethought.

TO GRILL: Follow the same instructions. Just pop it on a hot grill!

If I’m honest, I will probably keep making The Only Chicken You Need to Make, and I’ll toss them in the Instant Pot because it produces really tender chicken breasts.

But these were better and so delicious. If you don’t own an Instant Pot or you want to cook an even better chicken breast, Mark Bittman is your man.

We made the Basic version and the Olive Oil version in How to Cook Everything.

green peppers

16. Marinated Grilled Peppers

p. 593

An easy, straight-forward recipe that takes a little patience. I’m not sure I would have the patience if I used a broiler (like one of the recipe variations suggests). But a grill? No problem.

My biggest takeaway about bell peppers is, if they’re green, don’t bother. Reading Bittman’s opinion in black and white gave me permission to admit what I always knew: while green peppers are cheaper than their red, yellow, or orange cousins, they will never beat their flavor.

Where I live, bell peppers are more expensive than other vegetables, so why waste money on the disappointing ones? Lesson learned: Stop buying green peppers. Either buy less red or orange peppers or buy a budget-friendly vegetable that is actually delicious.

peach brown betty

17. Peach Brown Betty

p. 624

I made this Live on Facebook without actually having any idea what Peach Brown Betty was. I just saw I had all the ingredients and we dove in together on Facebook.

It turned out as delicious as you would expect anything made from leftover birthday cake, peaches, sugar, and butter.

This was a great use of leftover cake, but you can also use leftover stale bread, biscuits, or any other pastry. Budget-friendly, and delicious! Similar to a fruit cobbler or crisp. Next time I’ll cut the pastry cubes smaller so it doesn’t have chunks that burn.

18. Weekday Morning Scrambled Eggs

p. 735

Years ago, I consistently overcooked scrambled eggs. They were gross. I’ve gotten better, but this recipe took it up a notch. Low and slow when it comes to scrambled eggs. Keep the burner on low, and stir it slowly, not letting the bottom of the eggs turn brown.

They turned out delicious, creamy, and miraculously cheesy-tasting even though there was no cheese. This is what scrambled eggs should taste like.


19. Fastest Yeast Bread

p. 228

In about 90 minutes, you can serve a fresh loaf of bread. I already do this with my Easiest Bread recipe, but Bittman’s method was a little different. No molasses/honey, so that cuts the cost, and the bread is baked in high heat then turned down in order to form a nice crust. We liked it! If I make it again, I plan to use more whole wheat flour.

We made the leftovers into Bread Crumbs (p.239) to use in other recipes, like the one below.

20. Baked Eggs with Onions

p. 737

One of my favorite dishes so far in the Cook Everything Challenge. It was a little different. However, baked eggs with bread crumbs, cheese, and sauteed onions were very comforting (and the perfect way to use a bunch of onions that were on their way out).

21. Feta Dip

p. 21

I didn’t think my family would like this, as they are not big fans of American Feta (my Greek husband only likes feta in Greece – apparently sheep’s milk and cow’s milk feta makes a big difference). But this was a popular dip and unfortunately, I didn’t get the whole bowl to myself.

Pasta with Butter, Sage & Parmesan

Cook Everything Recipes 22-31

These recipes were all great too! I have cooked variations of many of them before, but I learned a few new techniques from Bittman.

As a formerly gluten-free family, all these bread-crumb-coating and pasta recipes make me nervous. We aren’t allergic, but we certainly feel better with less white flour in our lives. Our next batch of recipes will focus more on vegetables and protein and less on comfort food.

22. Sourdough Pancakes (p. 749)

23. Potato Croquettes (p. 597)

24. Stewed Chickpeas with Chicken (p. 519)

25. Bread Crumbs (p. 239)

26. Pasta with Butter, Sage & Parmesan (p. 140)

27. Lentils with Curry (p. 524)

28. Deviled Eggs (p. 19)

29. Chicken with Indian Spices (p. 370)

30. Oatmeal Cookies (p. 712)

31. Chocolate Chip Cookies (p. 711)

Want to See Me Cook Live?

This week I made something I have never tried before – have never seen or eaten before, actually! – LIVE on Facebook. Watch the replay here!

potato croquettes
Potato Croquettes

What You Can Do Now:

What was the last new recipe you cooked?

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