Cooking Tips
Use Simple Poultry Geometry to Cut Chicken Breast into Three Even Cutlets
Slice chicken crosswise, then lengthwise to revolutionize your weeknight chicken dinner.
05-19-2022
Mari Levine

Quick-cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the centerpiece of some of my favorite weeknight meals. But one of the common prep steps—cutting chicken breasts in half—always trips me up.

I start confident. I place my knife at what I think is halfway up the side of the chicken breast, then start gliding it through. I think things are going well, until my knife exits the other side and I’m left with two uneven cutlets, one too thick and the other tapered and ragged. Sometimes my slices are better than others, but none are perfect.

Luckily, there's an easier way.

Why is it so difficult to cut chicken into cutlets?

Because a chicken breast is unevenly shaped and has a thick and a thin end, it can be tricky to turn into uniform cutlets. And that uniformity is important. It creates equal-size pieces that are then pounded so that they’re of even thickness, too. (Flattening them without slicing first is a recipe for torn flesh.) That consistent thickness is the key to even cooking.

Turning a chicken breast into cutlets is an important step in recipes such as chicken marsala and chicken piccata. (Those recipes are paywalled. Join today and get access!) In fact, it was during his time developing Cook’s Illustrated’s recipe for chicken marsala that former test cook Andrew Janjigian found an easier method for turning one chicken breast into three—yes, three—cutlets.

This technique isn’t about hoping for the best. It’s all about cutting the breast in a way that naturally produces the most even pieces:

How to cut a chicken breast into three pieces

The first time I used this method, I felt like I went from striking out to hitting a home run. Here’s a simple guide to pulling off this feat of (not-quite) kitchen magic.

How to cut chicken breasts into three even cutlets

  • Cutting a chicken breast in half crosswise

    1. Halve the breast crosswise.

  • Slicing the thicker half in half horizontally

    2. Split the thick side horizontally.

  • Pounding cutlets

    3. Cover the cutlets with plastic wrap and gently pound until they're all the same thickness.

What should I make with chicken cutlets?

This method can be used in any of your favorite chicken recipes that call for cutlets. Turn them into something delicious such as chicken marsala, chicken piccata, or chicken Parmesan. Or, keep it simple with the Crispy Pan-Fried Chicken Cutlets.

For the recipe that started it all, check out the Better Chicken Marsala video.