The Unconventional Step For Juicier Chicken Parm

If there's an Italian-American dish more comforting than chicken parmesan, we've yet to find it. Typically consisting of chicken breasts that are dredged in seasoned breadcrumbs, pan-fried until golden brown, and then layered in a baking dish with tomato sauce and cheese such as fresh mozzarella, the dish emerges from the oven fragrant, juicy, and cheesy, ready to be piled atop spaghetti or sopped up with fresh bread.

Although there are a few variations on the classic dish, which is said to be a New World variation on authentic Italian eggplant parmesan created by Italian immigrants to the United States (via Paesana), most versions follow that basic template. But if the chicken cutlet part of your parmesan has tended to turn out dry — a common affliction — then you might want to try an approach recommended by Serious Eats, which employs a step more commonly seen in the preparation of Southern-style fried chicken.

Soak your cutlets in buttermilk before breading and frying

If you've ever fried up some Southern-style fried chicken at home, then you already know that the iconic preparation almost always includes a crucial brining step: Soaking the chicken in a buttermilk marinade that also includes plenty of salt and flavorings such as dried herbs. According to Cook's Country, buttermilk brines bring both flavor and tenderness to chicken that's going to be fried, keeping it moist and protecting it against the intense heat of the fryer. And that's exactly why over at Serious Eats, culinary consultant J. Kenji López-Alt decided to try soaking chicken cutlets bound for chicken parmesan in a buttermilk brine when he tired of the tough, dry chicken often found in the dish.

According to his writeup, the unexpected mashup works perfectly, resulting in chicken breasts that remain juicy and flavorful, with a smooth, tender texture, even after frying and then baking in the oven. In this instance, the simple buttermilk brine is flavored with salt, minced garlic, and fresh black pepper, as chicken cutlets (in this case, butterflied) are slipped in, and soak for at least four hours or overnight before being breaded and fried as usual. 

So, the next time you're struck with a craving for chicken parmesan, reach for a carton of buttermilk and revel in your juiciest, most moist batch yet.