– Wash chicken and set to dry on paper towels.
– Create your pounding-board sandwich.
(POUNDING BOARD SANDWICH Cover the top of a large cutting board with plastic wrap making sure to tuck it under so it will stay put. Lay chicken out on the plastic. Be sure to leave extra space between each piece and edge of board. Cover the chicken with another layer of plastic wrap so it’s sandwiched between two layers. Voilá.)
– Pound. Start from the thickest part of each thigh and work your way out to the edge. Don’t make them too thin or they will begin to fall apart, plus the breading-to-meat ratio will be ridiculous. Try to make the thickness as even as possible. Trim off extra bits of meat and fry them along with the large pieces. (Right: what I used to do the trimming—one of my favorites for small jobs—a Shun 6-inch chef. For more tips, see my article on best chef knives.)
– Set up your dredging/dipping stations—one for the egg and another for the breadcrumbs.
(NOTE: Many recipes use a layer of flour, but IMHO it’s not really worth the extra step—especially with thighs.)
– Beat the egg (add a touch of half-and-half to make it go farther). I use the same stainless steel bowl I beat the egg in as my dipping bowl.
– Pour the—yes, store-bought, sorry—seasoned bread crumbs out into a largish platter or flat-bottomed bowl. I use a metal quiche pan which is perfecto. And I don’t put all the bread crumbs I’m going to use in one batch, but split them up. That way, for the last piece of chicken, they won’t be overly soggy. (Below: pounded cutlets ready to be dipped and dredged.)
– Dip each chicken thigh in egg (both sides) and let the extra drip off.
– Then, dredge in breadcrumbs. Make sure everything is covered; lightly shake off excess.
– Set each breaded thigh aside on a large plate/platter and bread the next. Don’t even dream of breading as you cook—you will have a meltdown.
– Pour oil into pan until it’s about 1/8-inch or more deep and warm up at medium-high. Use plenty of oil because the breading will soak it up. (Yes, we’re skirting the edge of deep-fry land.) Let the pan temperature stabilize. If the oil starts smoking, you’re a tad too hot.
(WHY PEANUT OIL? It can stand the hottest temperatures, thus less chance of burning and less smoke. But because peanut oil is pricey, I often mix in some canola oil—roughly two parts peanut to one part canola.)
– Fry the chicken cutlets about 3 to 4 minutes per side max. Pay attention to which are thicker or thinner and watch them. Ideally, put the thickest ones on first.
– Don’t let the pan get too hot. By the time you flip, you may need to turn the burner down a touch.
– If the pan gets dry, don’t be afraid to add a touch more oil. Just a teaspoon at a time.
– Poke the meat. When a cutlet starts getting stiff and firm, it’s DONE.