Quick-cooking boneless, skinless chicken breasts are the centerpiece of some of my favorite weeknight meals. But one of the common prep steps—halving a breast horizontally to make cutlets—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.
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: