sharpening and caring for your kitchen knives

Breaded Chicken Cutlets — Simple but Irresistible

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I realize breaded chicken cutlets are terribly passe, but doggone it, they are scrumptious-deli-o-cious and conceptually simple. And if you have a picky eater in your family—such as mine who may well the pickiest in the Western hemisphere—breaded chicken cutlets are going to solve your problem. The kid will chow.

That said, chicken cutlets are kind of deceptive. Because, although the recipe’s simple and they cook up quickly, they do involve some prep time. And, once they hit the pan, you’ve got to tend them with care. Here’s what I’ve learned to get them perfect every time:

Recipe for Breaded Chicken Cutlets

Ingredient/equipment list

Four skinless deboned chicken thighs. (Forget breast meat, thighs are moister and more flavorful. But thighs do tend to tend to fall apart more. So? They’re worth it.)

One (to two) eggs

Dash of half-and-half or milk

Cup or so of seasoned breadcrumbs

Peanut oil, plus some other vegetable oil that can handle heat

Large (ideally) non-stick skillet/sauté pan (makes clean-up a cinch)

Meat pounder/flattener. You can use anything to flatten the chicken—the side of a meat tenderizer hammer, a heavy pan. But if you end up making this dish more than once a year, do yourself a favor and buy a dedicated meat pounder. It will get the job done twice as fast and with less damage to the meat.

Prep

– Wash chicken and set to dry on paper towels.

– Create your pounding-board sandwich.

pounding board(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.)

Shun chef knife– 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.)

breaded chicken cutlets prep

– 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.

Cooking

– 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.

Remove the chicken cutlets from the pan and set them briefly on a paper towel to draw off excess oil. Serve immediately. And then (fingers crossed), bathe in the satisfaction of watching your picky eater woof down their entrée like there’s no tomorrow!

breaded chicken cutlets plated
9 Comments
  1. Funny I just started making these myself but I love your tips. Like covering cutting board w Saran. Also using thighs instead of breasts. Thanks for inspiration, these are easy to do but prep essential for best flavor. Have you ever baked them? That’s what I usually do.

    • No, I have never tried baking, but I’m wondering how you get them crispy. I assume that you don’t use hardly any oil? What temp?

  2. These sound soooo delicious and can be modified to include all sorts of spices & various types of breading too!

    Have you had any luck frying these in olive oil, or does that burn too quickly for the heat needed to cook these?

    The plastic pounding board sandwich is such a simple, yet great/time saving tip–thanks!

  3. Yes, you can modify the condiments to your heart’s content. Of course, because my daughter is such a picky eater and this recipe is designed for her, I must stick to the straight and narrow :)

    You might be able to get away with olive oil, but you’d need to be super careful not to let the pan get too hot. Otherwise, put down a thin layer of peanut oil, and then mix in olive oil on top. OR, use coconut oil — which is considered one of the most healthy vegetable oils and can stand high heat.

    • Great advice–I’ll definitely try the peanut oil and mix in some olive oil or coconut oil (my other fav oil to cook with)!

      Thanks:)

  4. Hi, Nate. Such a nice website. We are glad you seem to have found your metier!

    I use panko (Japanese-style breadcrumbs) for breading, resulting in very crispy fried chicken and “Wiener Schnitzel”. I made Swedish meatballs with panko yesterday, a sacrilege in a Norwegian household, but they were delicious.

    So nice to hear from you. . .

    —Pablo

    • Hi Pablo,

      Great to hear from you, too! I love Japanese battered shrimp, so I’ll have to give panko a try.

      Currently, to save time, I’ve been doing something totally different with my chicken cutlets — simply coating them in soy sauce (reduced sodium version). Nothing else. And then sautéing them. Can you believe it? And, no, they do not come out too salty, but tasty and sweet. But it’s probably important not use regular soy sauce, but the soy with reduced sodium.

      Give it a try and let me know :)

      Best, Nate

  5. Would these work cold, in a wrap?

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An Edge in the Kitchen
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