Source: JJ Butler's Bar and Grill. That's right, JJ's.

Okay, let’s start here: Why in the world would you want to blacken chicken? Reason #1 is that it’s delicious. But reason #2 is that the blackening sears and quickly cooks the chicken, keeping moisture in while smoldering the seasoning to bring the flavors out a little more. Not convinced? Try this recipe and tell me it’s not the best thing ever.

Blackening chicken isn’t nearly as tricky as it may seem. The first thing that you have to have is a cast iron skillet. These pans can withstand very high temperatures, making them perfect for searing or frying. They are super non-stick, which makes them perfect for blackening, which would cause the chicken to stick to other types of pans. You have to get one that is “seasoned”, meaning it has been treated to make sure that the food doesn’t interact with the iron in the pan, as well as protecting it against rust and wear. These pans will last a lifetime (literally, my mom has a few pans that were my great grandmother’s) and aren’t too expensive. All home goods stores carry them. I personally love the ones from Williams-Sonoma.

So, to blacken chicken or salmon:


Spices (Double or triple as desired):

  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 3/4 tsp white pepper
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp oregano


  1. Mix the spices in one bowl, placing enough seasoning onto a plate to cover the bottom.
  2. Melt a stick of butter in another bowl.
  3. Before you go further, open a window. I’m serious. I have smoked out my roommates by not doing this. Not that the chicken didn’t come out fabulous, but sitting around eating a great meal smelling like smoke is not cute. So open a window and get a fan going.
  4. Heat the skillet to medium high/high temperature. Make sure the pan is hot before proceeding.
  5. Dip the whole chicken breast in butter. Press the chicken into the plate, ensuring it is completely covered with the seasoning.
  6. Place the breast into the pan, and cook until the meat looks cooked, and seasoning is dark and butter has evaporated/sizzled. Flip and cook on the other side. So just a note here: blackening is not burning. Just eyeball it, but when it looks like it’s done, it’s done. If you’re worried, you can use an instant-read thermometer to measure the internal temperature of the chicken. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, avoiding the bone. A chicken breast is done when the internal temperature is 155°.

I serve this spicy chicken with a fettucine and a cream-parmesan sauce (butter, heavy cream and freshly grated Pecorino Romano to taste). The spice is cooled off by the cream in the pasta. You can also roast some red and yellow bell peppers to add to the mix.



UPDATED: My dad had a few words of wisdom, with regards to blackening:

We halted a window/door salesperson’s sale pitch that overstayed his welcome with a pungent plume of blackening smoke. We gave him a fair warning and he tried to continue but finally gave up and left quickly. With that in mind you can use a low heat method so you don’t have to open all the windows and get a fan going (but it is a great deterrent!). You can opt to heat the skillet to a hot but not a red hot temperature. Once you start the blackening process in the pan, lower the heat to maintain the cooking but not the smoking. The lower temperature will serve the same blackening function with almost no smoke, however the cooking time will be a little longer. You also must keep a watchful eye on your chicken or salmon to maintain the seared quality.

~Dana’s Dad