It used to be rare for my family to ask for chicken for dinner unless it was breaded and fried or smothered in cheese. That’s until I started making Ali Slagle’s Pan-Seared Ranch Chicken, a surprisingly easy and delicious recipe they now ask me for all the time.
Ali Slagle, cookbook author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don’t Have To), is a prolific recipe developer who provides weeknight dinner solutions to home cooks like me. Her ranch chicken recipe has quickly become a weeknight go-to for my family. It starts with a super simple and tasty homemade ranch dressing—half of it is used to marinate chicken and the other half for serving. The dressing keeps the chicken from drying out. It’s the star of the recipe and is better than anything out of a bottle.
I Use Chicken Tenderloin—It Cooks Faster
While Slagle’s recipe calls for chicken breasts, I use chicken tenderloins, which come from under the chicken breast—they are smaller and therefore cook a lot faster without drying out. Plus, they are pre-portioned so I don’t need to pass out knives at the table. In fact, I often pick it up and eat it with my fingers. Basically, chicken tenderloins are my weeknight dream dinner.
My grocery store carries chicken tenderloin in two-pound packages. I like that they require zero trimming and they’re all about the same size, which means they’ll cook at the same time. It takes me less than 15 minutes to cook all two pounds.
When buying chicken tenderloins, look for the word “tenderloin” on the packaging. Sometimes chicken labeled as “strips” or “tenders” may be the breasts cut down into smaller sizes.
How I Make Ali Slagle’s Ranch Chicken
Start by making the ranch dressing. Chop fresh dill and chives—a small clamshell is about the right amount of each. In a spouted two-cup measuring cup (it’s large enough to be able to stir without spilling over the edge) add the herbs, 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup mayo, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and a crack of black pepper. Stir to combine—it’s very thick and that’s OK.
Spoon about half of the ranch dressing into a medium bowl. Pop the rest in the fridge until dinner’s ready.
Add 2 pounds chicken tenderloins to the bowl of ranch, and stir to coat. I’m always surprised that just 1/2 cup ranch can coat all that chicken, but it really is plenty. Let the chicken marinate for 15 minutes. This is just enough time to make this cheesy broccoli. Or chop carrot sticks and sample the ranch dip because the perks of cooking is you get first dibs.
Set a large cast iron skillet over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil starts rippling, but before it starts smoking, use tongs to transfer half of the marinated chicken to the pan in an even layer. Cook until the bottoms get a dark crust and they release easily, about 4 minutes. Turn them over and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until the chicken is cooked through to 165°F.
Add another tablespoon of olive oil and cook the remaining batch the same way. Now be ready to make this again and again because your family will beg you to.
GET THE RECIPE: Ali Slagle’s Pan-Seared Ranch Chicken