10 chicken recipes everyone should know how to make

In the words of Bob Dylan, "the times, they are a-changin'." Chicken has long been relegated to the unglamorous role of reliable-but-boring mealtime protein. Perhaps it's about time this unsung hero gets its moment in the culinary spotlight, considering its steadily increasing popularity in the last 50 years. The National Chicken Council has found that the amount of chicken consumed per capita in the U.S. has increased from 28 pounds a year in 1960 to an estimated 93 pounds a year in 2016.

The steady climb in chicken consumption can most likely be attributed to its versatility as an ingredient as well as its widely acknowledged health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, chicken is an ideal alternative to a diet that's heavy with red meat. Since it contains less saturated fat than beef, lamb, and pork, it's a natural choice for whipping up protein-forward dinners that are nourishing, delicious, and low in cholesterol.

Some people might consider chicken to be the little black dress of the food landscape. I don't disagree with its ease and versatility, but there's no need to equate these steadfast qualities with any kind of blandness. With a handful of simple cooking techniques and a few choice ingredients, you'll discover chicken's full potential in no time. To get you started on making deeply satisfying, decidedly unboring, downright fabulous chicken dinners, here are ten signature dishes for you to master and make your own.

Chicken noodle soup

There's a reason why you're often told to eat chicken noodle soup when you feel less than 100 percent. Warm, soothing, and cozy, this ultimate comfort food tastes like a dream and feels like a gigantic bear hug. Learning how to make it from scratch means you can finally say goodbye to the sodium-laden canned versions you'll find at the store. Once you figure out a good soup base, it's actually super fun to swap out different vegetables and seasonings to give this classic a personalized spin.

To get you going on your chicken noodle soup adventure, though, I suggest trying out this rich and flavorful streamlined version by the Barefoot Contessa herself, Ms. Ina Garten. You know she wouldn't feed her husband, Jeffrey, anything that wasn't absolutely perfect. Ina makes her own chicken stock (of course), but feel free to use your favorite store-bought kind if you're short on time. Here, roasted chicken is masterfully combined with rich egg noodles and a classic aromatic trifecta of celery, carrots, and parsley. Cue pure happiness.

Chicken Parmigiana

This Italian-American mainstay is wildly popular, and it's easy to see why. The dish is basically a delightful hybrid of fried chicken and pizza. Breaded chicken is slathered with tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese — a winning combination that would appeal even to the clinically insane. This chicken preparation is extremely easy when you use store-bought sauce and dry breadcrumbs. If you're feeling more ambitious, you could also make your own tomato sauce and use fresh breadcrumbs. Either way, your kitchen will smell bonkers and you'll win lots of completely deserved praise.

Here is a basic chicken parm recipe from Food.com that's almost too easy, making you wonder what the catch is. Chicken breasts are pounded thin, then breaded and pan-fried. Top with tomato sauce, add slices of creamy mozzarella, and cook until the cheese is melted. Finish with a sprinkling of Parmesan and admire your handiwork, then dig in ASAP while it's piping hot. Experimenting with different types of cheeses can be fun, so try as many as you like. I assume you'll be making this dish at least twice a week, right?

Chicken Caesar salad

One of the most widely ordered dishes at restaurants all around the world, classic Caesar salad is comprised of romaine lettuce, Parmesan cheese, croutons, and a zesty vinaigrette made with anchovies and raw egg yolks. Grilled chicken is sometimes added to the dish for some extra protein. This popular salad was created by chef Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurant owner who was living in Tijuana, Mexico, at the time of invention.

Florence Fabricant's recipe for The New York Times is an evergreen choice that never disappoints. For those of you who are squeamish about using raw egg yolks in the dressing, Florence feels you big time. As such, this recipe calls for using hard-boiled eggs instead. Grilled romaine lettuce leaves are beautifully dressed with a satisfyingly salty, deeply savory sauce made with olive oil, lemon juice, anchovies, garlic, Worcestershire, Parmesan, and cooked yolks. Topped with grilled chicken and fresh croutons, this dinner tastes like a restaurant-caliber dish.

Arroz con pollo (chicken with rice)

A traditional comfort food dish in Spain and Latin America, arroz con pollo is as cozy as can be. It's an ideal meal for nights when you don't know what to make for dinner, but you don't exactly want to eat greasy takeout either. I've been there. Chicken with rice is a simple concept that gets its flair from great seasoning and bold aromatics. There is no better example of dressing up humble ingredients and making a dish shine. Arroz con pollo is the real deal.

This recipe from Joy the Baker is warm, nourishing, and brimming with flavor. As a huge fan of dark meat, I love that she calls for chicken thighs — but you can certainly opt for leaner chicken breasts instead. White rice is cooked with tomatoes, broth, spices, and olives. I always make this recipe as is, but if you are not a fan of the strong briny olive flavor, I would skip that and season to your own liking. Also, here, Joy calls for using expensive saffron. While these beautiful threads add color and subtle floral flavor to the overall dish, I would be okay with skipping it.

Chicken Marsala

There's a reason these classic Italian-American chicken dishes are so popular. They are fast to whip up and deliver on flavor big time. Chicken Marsala is no different. This beloved meal gets its name from the Sicilian city of Marsala, where the fortified wine used for the sauce reduction comes from. In this quick and easy preparation, seared chicken is paired with a rich and earthy pan sauce made with mushrooms and Marsala wine. The fact that this dinner comes together in about 30 minutes makes it a great choice for busy nights.

This fairly traditional recipe from chef Emeril Lagasse is an excellent way to get acquainted with chicken Marsala prep. The ingredients are traditional, and the prep is streamlined. As with chicken piccata, here, you coat the meat in a light layer of flour before searing. This small but important step helps the chicken build a flavorful crust as well as thicken the pan sauce later on. You can choose whichever mushrooms you prefer, but wild mushrooms generally lend more flavor than the white button variety. If you don't have Marsala wine on hand, try mixing 1/4 cup of dry white wine with 1 teaspoon of brandy. This blend will mimic the flavor of fortified wine.

Sheet pan-roasted chicken

This go-to chicken dish is a one-pan wonder. Think crisp and caramelized skin, juicy meat, and unbeatable, herbaceous flavor. By using a single sheet pan, you get to eliminate the lengthy cleanup after dinner and spend more time at the table enjoying it instead. Oven roasting bone-in chicken renders it insanely flavorful, making this meal one of my favorite ones to prepare as the days grow shorter and the evenings get longer. Psst! You can even add some seasonal vegetables to the same sheet pan and roast alongside the chicken.

This warming recipe from The New York Times is perfect for making exactly as is, but you can also customize it to your own liking. Chicken thighs and drumsticks — along with Yukon Gold potatoes — are seasoned with cumin and harissa, then roasted along with citrusy leeks. For serving? A dollop of Greek yogurt aioli adds refreshing creaminess, while arugula and dill lend touches of brightness. If you prefer white meat, you could use bone-in chicken breast instead, roasting for a little longer until the meat is completely cooked through. Swap potatoes for squash or skip polarizing dill. The beauty of this preparation is that it's all up to you.

Beer can chicken

Be a hero at your next barbecue when you produce a ridiculously aromatic caramelized chicken infused with beer. This rustic preparation is one I love for its mouthwatering flavors and dramatic presentation. I have a feeling you will, too. Why go through the trouble of sticking a beer can inside a chicken? For one thing, the brewski magically seasons the meat while also rendering it moist and juicy.

This recipe from Epicurious will make you feel like the ultimate grill master. Chicken is rubbed with a suggested spice blend that's at once sweet, spicy, and salty. (If you have your own special blend, feel free to use it instead!) Open a can of lager, remove half the liquid (somehow), and place it in the cavity of the chicken. Then stand it upright, cover, and grill until the skin is a beautiful dark golden color and the meat is completely cooked through. Check the internal temperature with a food thermometer to ensure your chicken is done cooking and safe to eat. Stunning to behold and a joy to devour, this meal is sure to impress.

Chicken piccata

"Piccata" refers to an Italian preparation that involves lightly coating a thin piece of chicken (or other meat) with flour, sauteing it, then serving it with a reduced pan sauce of lemon juice, butter, and capers. The chicken is tender and juicy, while the accompanying sauce is rich and full of bright, citrusy flavor. Like chicken parm, this is an easy, universally loved weeknight dish you'll be glad you mastered.

This recipe from Epicurious is classic and unflappable. Here, chicken breasts are pounded thin, coated, and pan-fried until golden. The sauce is made by reducing white wine, lemon juice, and broth together for extra oomph. It is then thickened with a small amount of flour mixed with butter, rendered creamy by the addition of more butter, and finished with briny capers and fragrant parsley. Use the same pan for both the chicken and the sauce so you can scrape up all those tasty caramelized chicken bits and incorporate them back into your sauce.

Chicken sandwich

Chicken sandwiches are a fast food staple in America, but they are so much better when you make them at home. If you've ever been disappointed by one that you bought, read on. Grilled chicken stuffed between pieces of bread is an infinitely customizable formula, and that's a good thing.

This packed sandwich from Serious Eats is inspiring. Be warned that the ingredient list is lengthy, but well worth the trouble. Sesame buns are slathered with a spicy avocado sauce and mayo, then stuffed with crisp lettuce, juicy tomatoes, salty bacon, crumbled potato chips, and tender grilled chicken. It seems like overload, but somehow this sandwich manages to make a strong case for a new adage: More is more. Mic drop.

If most of your time is spent thinking about what you're going to eat for your next meal, I hope these delectable dishes encourage you to consider chicken as an exciting option and not just a fallback. If you're still unsure, check out the chicken parm again.

Chicken and broccoli

Chicken and broccoli is an oft-ordered Chinese stir-fry, owing to its generally inoffensive reputation. While I like it just fine, I usually find that takeout versions are much too greasy and salty to make it worth the money. The good news? This ubiquitous dish is extremely easy to make from scratch. Better tasting and better for you, I vote for homemade chicken and broccoli any day.

This authentic-tasting recipe from Rasa Malaysia hits the spot every time. Chicken is marinated in a small amount of cornstarch to help develop a light, flavorful crust. The addictive brown sauce is made with soy and oyster sauces, sugar, and fragrant sesame oil. Quickly cooked over high heat, the broccoli stays crisp-tender and the chicken is moist and juicy. I appreciate the brevity of the ingredient list and the simplicity of the steps. Served over rice, this dish also makes terrific leftovers for lunch the next day.