Crispiest Chicken Cutlet Recipe

Plain pasta and leafy salads are fine on their own, but an easy way to dress up your meals is by frying up a few crispy pieces of chicken cutlet. The base of many popular Italian-American dishes like chicken Parmesan and chicken Marsala, chicken cutlets are easy to make and require less oil than fully fried chicken, making them a little lighter than most fried foods. And you can use chicken cutlets countless ways: with ramen, like a chicken katsu, with spaetzle, like a schnitzel, or covered in marinara, like the classic Italian dish we all know and love.

This recipe by Michelle McGlinn offers an easy base recipe to use or riff on for any dish from pastas to salads and takes less than 20 minutes to make (yes, really!) Plus, it saves well, making it the perfect meal prep protein, too. Check out our tips and tricks for getting that perfectly crispy chicken cutlet below.

What you need to make the crispiest chicken cutlet

Chicken cutlets are from the breasts of the chicken and are cut thin for easy frying. Most grocery stores will stock chicken cutlets sliced by the butcher, but if you can't find any, you can buy regular chicken breasts and cut them yourself. Once you have thin chicken cutlets ready, you'll just need all-purpose flour, cornstarch, and eggs to dredge with before coating in breadcrumbs.

You can opt for your favorite seasoned breadcrumbs, but if using plain, you'll need garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to give the breading a little bit of flavor. Once the cutlets are dredged and breaded, you'll need enough oil to fill a skillet about ¼-inch deep to fry in. After frying, sprinkle some flaky sea salt on top.

Slicing your own chicken cutlets

Chicken breasts can be up to an inch thick, which would take almost 20 minutes to cook through — that would cause the breading to burn if you tried to fry it as-is. To ensure a moist, evenly cooked chicken and crispy breading, you'll need to start with a chicken cutlet. Using a regular chicken breast, hold the top of the chicken flat with the palm of your hand and carefully slice horizontally through the chicken, ideally slicing in one motion rather than sawing back and forth (sharpen your knives for this). This may take some practice to perfect, but don't worry too much about getting even cuts every time. 

Once you slice the chicken, place it between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it to an even thickness. Use anything heavy, like a cast-iron skillet or a sturdy bowl. Aim for a thickness of about ¼-inch.

Prep the dredging station

Line up three plates or bowls to use for dredging the chicken. You don't need to use giant bowls for this; any surface, even a cutting board, is fine. Spread out the flour on one surface and whisk in the cornstarch. Cornstarch is the secret to crispy chicken here. The cornstarch, paired with flour, absorbs the chicken's moisture and allows the breading to crisp in the oil.

To ensure the breading adheres to our flour base, we need a glue. Beat a couple of eggs into a bowl large enough to fit a cutlet until frothy. This doesn't have to be fancy — you can whisk the eggs with a fork.

Finally, prep a third surface for your breadcrumb mixture and whisk the seasonings in. If you're using this chicken for chicken Parmesan, consider adding oregano or marjoram to the breading. If you're making a southern-inspired cutlet, try adding paprika or Cajun seasoning.

Dredge and fry the chicken

Pat each chicken slice dry, then coat in the flour mixture until covered. Shake the excess, then dredge in egg until moist. Again, shake the excess, then coat in breadcrumbs, pressing the breading into the chicken. You can prep all of the chicken first before frying, but it may be more efficient to start frying while you dredge, especially if you have a small pan. Fill the skillet with enough oil to cover about half of the cutlet, then heat the oil to 350 F. If you don't have a thermometer, stick a wooden chopstick into the oil until the tip touches the bottom. If bubbles rapidly form from the tip, the oil is ready.

Place the chicken into the hot oil and fry until golden on either side, about 3-4 minutes per side. Because the chicken is so thin, this goes quickly, so don't walk too far away. Fry 1 or 2 pieces at a time, then remove and place on paper towels or a wire rack. Sprinkle with salt while still hot.

Serve your crispy chicken cutlets

It's well worth frying a whole pound of cutlets at once because you can store them and use them for up to a week. These reheat quickly in the microwave if you don't mind losing some crisp, but to preserve the crispy exterior, pop a piece in the oven and heat at 350 F until crispy and heated through. Use these cutlets on salads, on top of creamy Alfredo, or on their own with a side of greens and potatoes. You can also transform these cutlets into chicken Parmesan by topping with mozzarella and marinara, or make a crispy chicken piccata by whisking together a lemony sauce. The uses for crispy chicken cutlets are endless, and with just 20 minutes, you can prep a delicious protein to use for meals throughout the week.

Why is breading not sticking to my chicken cutlets?

One of the most frustrating pitfalls of frying breaded chicken cutlets is when the breading slides off, leaving you with bare, not-so-crispy chicken and a mess of burnt crumbs at the bottom of the pan. Why is this happening? There are a couple of different reasons, one of the biggest being that the chicken was wet before you floured it. If you don't use a paper towel to pat the chicken dry, the flour won't stick, and if the flour comes off, the crumbs come off with it. You should also be sure to shake the chicken after you've floured it before proceeding with the egg and crumbs because if it's too floury, the egg wash won't adhere, which means the breadcrumbs won't have anything to cling to. After you've crumbed the chicken, you'll need to get your hands on it to pat the crumbs down onto the surface as an additional precaution against their falling off.

Once the chicken is in the pan, you should try to touch it as little as possible. Each time you give it a prod with tongs or a fork, you increase the chances that some of the breading will be knocked loose. Ideally, you should only flip the chicken once while it's cooking so both sides brown evenly. You should also make sure that you don't cram too many pieces in the pan since chicken pieces bumping up against one another can also loosen the crumb crust.

Why are my breaded chicken cutlets too oily?

Yet another potential problem when you're frying breaded chicken cutlets is having the breading on the cutlets soak up too much oil. If this happens, your chicken cutlets won't come out crispy, but will instead be a greasy, soggy mess. The main reason this may be happening is because the temperature of your oil is too low. The chicken cutlets in this recipe should be fried at 350 F, and it's best to use a deep-fry thermometer to ensure that the proper temperature is reached since this isn't the kind of thing you can really eyeball. Also, you need to be aware that when you add the chicken, this will lower the temperature. So add just one piece at a time and keep an eye on the temperature to make sure it doesn't drop below about 300 F, as this is about the lowest acceptable oil temperature for making fried chicken.

If you turn the chicken cutlets over too many times while frying them, this may also make them take on excessive oil. Turn them only once so each side will get just enough exposure to the oil to make it sufficiently crispy. Once each batch of cutlets finishes frying, immediately transfer it to a plate or pan lined with paper towels so these can soak up any excess grease.

What can I serve with crispy chicken cutlets?

Once your breaded chicken cutlets are fried, you'll probably want to eat them right away, so it's best to have your side dishes all set to go. For something light and simple, you could pair them with our everyday salad with a fresh, herby lemon vinaigrette dressing, but if you prefer a cooked vegetable side then our parmesan-crusted Brussels sprouts would make a great choice. You could also combine a green vegetable with a starchy side by cooking up some green bean potato salad or roasted garlic spinach mashed potatoes to go with your cutlets, or stick with starch alone in the form of one-pan French onion rice, creamy garlic butter noodles, or buttery garlic knots.

If you're a super-thrifty cook and you want to make use of the leftover cooking oil while it's still hot, you could keep the cutlets warm in a 200 F oven while you fry up something tasty to serve on the side. These shoestring garlic parmesan fries will cook up super-quick, while crispy golden rutabaga fries can make a tasty, nutritious change from standard french fries. For a fun pub food-type pairing with breaded chicken cutlets, you could make beer-battered onion rings or gooey, stringy fried mozzarella sticks, while another option is to go Southern-style with fried green tomatoes or Cajun andouille hush puppies.

Crispiest Chicken Cutlet Recipe
5 from 118 ratings
Don't settle for crispy chicken - make the crispiest chicken cutlet with this recipe.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
10
minutes
Servings
4
Cutlets
close up of chicken cutlet
Total time: 20 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts, or 4 pre-sliced chicken cutlets
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • canola oil, or enough to fill the pan ¼-inch deep
  • Maldon sea salt, to taste
Directions
  1. Carefully slice each chicken breast in half horizontally to yield 2 thin pieces. Place each chicken slice between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or inside a Ziploc bag. Flatten to an even ¼-inch thickness using a meat mallet or heavy-bottomed pan.
  2. Prepare 3 breading stations in shallow bowls or plates: On the first plate, whisk together the cornstarch and flour. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs. On a second plate, whisk together the breadcrumbs and seasonings.
  3. Heat the oil in a cast-iron skillet until 350 F, or until a piece of flour sizzles when added.
  4. Bread the chicken one piece at a time. Starting with the first cutlet, coat the chicken in flour, then dip into the egg, then coat completely in breadcrumbs. Repeat with remaining cutlets.
  5. Add the cutlets to the skillet, working in batches to avoid crowding. Fry until crispy and golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from the oil and cool slightly on a paper-towel lined plate.
  6. While still warm, sprinkle Maldon sea salt to taste.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 333
Total Fat 6.7 g
Saturated Fat 1.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 111.7 mg
Total Carbohydrates 46.8 g
Dietary Fiber 2.4 g
Total Sugars 1.9 g
Sodium 300.2 mg
Protein 19.6 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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