What’s a chicken cutlet? You see the term often in recipes not only for chicken but also veal and pork.
A cutlet is simply a thin piece of chicken breast. It’s also a solution for easy weeknight cooking.
When I asked the Food Network’s Scott Conant about his favourite foods, he told me he could eat chicken cutlets “pretty much any day”.
I wasn’t surprised.
Chicken cutlets are an easy option when you want dinner done fast, and they go with just about anything. You can sauté or fry them, serve them with vegetables, put them on a sandwich or thinly slice them for a salad.
Cutlets you find at stores might not be of uniform size and shape. Many recipes call for making cutlets or thin pieces of chicken breast by pounding them to an even thickness. You put the chicken breast between two sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to pound it thin. Pounding can be troublesome. Sometimes you pound a hole through the chicken or the meat tears. Sometimes the chicken breasts are huge and there’s no way you’ll get them even close to, say, a quarter-inch (6.5mm) thickness.
An easier and more economical option is to cut the chicken yourself. Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the difference between a chicken breast and cutlet?
A chicken breast is the whole breast, while the cutlet is a thin slice of the breast.
What should you buy to make your own cutlets?
Look for chicken breasts that are about 8 ounces (225g) each, uniform in shape and no more than 1 inch (2.5cm) thick. Sometimes it’s easier if you buy the whole breast piece (so 450g or more total), which has two halves attached.
How do you prepare them?
The chicken breast should be very well chilled. If the chicken is too warm, you won’t be able to slice it as easily. If need be, you can place the chicken breasts on a plate and stick them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to chill them. They should be cold, but not frozen solid.
How do you cut them?
On a clean work surface or cutting board, place one cold chicken breast. Hold it in place with the palm of your hand. Starting at the thickest end, slice the breast in half horizontally, working away from you and towards the thinner end. Slicing them this way means you’ll end up with two even pieces of chicken breast or cutlets. If the cutlets aren’t thin enough or are thick at one end, you can pound them thinner.
What’s the best way to cook them?
The beauty of chicken cutlets is that they adapt to all kinds of prep and cooking methods. Cooking them in a skillet is the easiest method, but you can also put them on an outdoor grill. Just keep in mind that cutlets cook quickly. (Remember to cook them thoroughly to 165°F/73°C.) You can bread cutlets and sauté or deep-fry them in in oil. You can also dredge them in flour seasoned with salt and pepper and then saute them, or you can lightly season and sauté them. Really, you can cook a cutlet any way you’d cook a chicken breast.
Here’s a favourite dinnertime recipe from our archives for chicken cutlets paired with a tangy sauce. If you work quickly, you can be done in 30 minutes. – /Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service/Susan Selasky
PANKO-CRUSTED CHICKEN CUTLETS WITH TANGY MUSTARD SAUCE
Serves 4/Preparation time: 15 minutes/Total time: 30 minutes
Instead of pounding the chicken breasts, use a boning knife to cut them in half horizontally to make two even pieces.
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (450g total and 2.5cm thick)
1 large egg
1 heaping tbsp finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tsp plus 2 tbsp Dijon mustard, divided
1 cup regular or whole wheat panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 to 2 tbsp coarse-grained mustard
1 tbsp chilled unsalted butter
Place the chicken flat on a clean work surface. Carefully cut each breast in half horizontally so you have 4 pieces, each about 1/2-inch (1.25cm) thick at the thickest point.
In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, parsley and 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard in large bowl. Place the panko crumbs on a plate. Place chicken in egg mixture; turn to coat and set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken piece in panko; turn to coat. Press the crumbs onto the chicken pieces so they stick.
Add chicken to the skillet and cook until brown and cooked through, about 3-4 minutes per side.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together the broth, syrup, coarse-grained mustard and remaining 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.
Transfer chicken pieces to plates. Add broth mixture to skillet, bring to a boil and boil until slightly reduced, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Spoon sauce alongside chicken and serve. – Tested by Susan Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen