Pan-Seared Heart Chicken

By Ann Fulton

A few simple cuts of the knife transform a boneless, skinless chicken breast into a festive meal. Fun for Valentine’s Day…or any time!
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A few simple cuts of the knife transform a boneless, skinless chicken breast into a festive meal. Fun for Valentine’s Day…or any time! ❤️


Special occasion dinners can be memorable for many reasons. Perhaps the artistically plated tapas at a swanky new restaurant made an impression, or the view while cracking crabs by the bay at sunset was simply unforgettable.

Sometimes, however, a special dinner is less about what’s on the plate or where it’s enjoyed than the particular sentiment that goes into the preparation.

Before having children, my husband and I usually went out for dinner on Valentine’s Day. Eventually, however, my husband’s job required him to travel most weeks. That, of course, meant a lot of restaurant fare, and with two sons in the picture, we all looked forward to a family meal when he returned.

Fancy clothes and reservations need not be the backbone of a special dinner. Of course, I absolutely enjoy eating out, but I also relish family time around the kitchen table.

Over the years, family dinners have been as much a source of general catching up and serious discussion as they have been of silly jokes, random trivia, and perplexing brainteasers. I also like to add an occasional helping of quirkiness to the actual meal. Meatloaf “cake” on April Fool’s Day, stuffed peppers that look like jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, and this amusing spin on chicken for Valentine’s Day.






No special recipe is needed for this craftily cut boneless breast of chicken. Your favorite marinade, spice rub, or a quick brush of barbecue sauce will all add flavor, but kids and adults will likely be most impressed that you’ve lovingly fashioned the protein on their plate in the shape of a heart.

And though perfect for Valentine’s Day, heart-shaped chicken is an ideal way to perk up an otherwise ordinary dinner any time of the year. I’m quite sure that adding a measure of fun to the food makes it taste better, too. 



I’ve made Heart Chicken several times with the recipe for Pat’s Seared Sesame Chicken, pictured above. It’s easy and everyone here loves it. The flavor of Perfect Skillet Chicken, below, is equally divine. Simply reduce cooking time by a few minutes, as slicing the breasts horizontally and opening them like a book means there’s half as much thickness to cook through.  

You may also enjoy using one of the following chicken recipes:

A gorgeous, golden brown crust and meat that's tender and juicy on the inside is an achievable goal thanks to this foolproof technique. Simple and delicious! 
Heart Chicken
Yield: as many as needed
A few simple cuts of the knife transform a boneless, skinless chicken breast into a festive meal. Fun for Valentine’s Day…or any time! Follow the simple instructions below, and feel free to combine the technique with your favorite sauces and marinades.
  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (keep tenders on)
  • Barbecue sauce, marinade, or spice rub of choice
  • Olive oil or cooking spray for pan
  1. Cut the chicken breasts horizontally (from top to bottom rather than across) without cutting all the way through. You want to be able to fan the chicken open like a book, keeping the tender underneath. (Tip: the breast is more likely to split in two if you remove the tender.)
  2. Cut a small notch in the middle of the thick end-just enough to make the heart shape. You should not have to do much shaping. I remove just a little from the top of each side, right in the center. (Some chicken breasts naturally cooperate a little more than others.)
  3. If using a rub, sprinkle it over both sides of the breast. If you are using chicken that you have marinated, remove it from the marinade and allow the excess to drip off. (This will reduce splattering.)
  4. Heat an oiled skillet over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, place the chicken breast, tender side facing up, and cook for about 3 minutes. Then, flip and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on the size of the breast, or until the chicken is just cooked through the center. (Look for an internal temperature of 160℉, as the temperature will continue to rise once removed from the heat.) If using barbecue sauce, baste both sides of the cooked chicken with the sauce and flip a few times in the hot skillet to caramelize in the final minutes of cooking.
  5. Serve with love to smiling faces!
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The Fountain Avenue Kitchen

And a photo from a Valentine’s Day, circa 2013…

 Sometimes the simplest things are the most loved. Such is the case with heart chicken. ❤️ A few clever knife cuts do the trick, and I've mentioned some favorite sauce options along with the easy how-to.

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  4. Beth Granai

    We love your “eight thumbs up” feedback, Ann! When we decided to start our business, we had busy moms and active families like you in mind. A great tasting sauce is a huge time saver in the kitchen and makes healthy “fast food” at home a reality. We look forward to sharing your Pan Seared BBQ Heart Chicken recipe far and wide! Thank you again for trying out our sauce! We *heart* your creativity! 🙂

    1. Ann

      It was truly my pleasure, Beth. I am all about making fast and healthy food in one’s own kitchen and, sometimes, a great prepared product can make that happen. When it is made with a passion for quality ingredients as well as taste, all the better! This sauce is like homemade…just made in your kitchen instead of mine!