Test Kitchen Tips for Any Breaded Meat Cutlet

Breaded cutlets promise a moist, tender interior and crunchy, crisp exterior. But to get there, you have to follow the rules.

Core Techniques

PROPER POUNDING

“Pounding” meat may be a too-aggressive term for what you’re really trying to do, which is flatten it—relatively gently—to a uniform thickness. This ensures that the meat cooks evenly. A meat pounder is your best tool option, though in a pinch a small saucepan or a rolling pin will do the trick. Start at the thick end and pound gently (don’t take your aggression out on it) until the cutlet is a consistent shape. Covering the meat with plastic wrap keeps it from sticking to your utensil and helps prevent splattering, too.

THREE-TIERED APPROACH

A classic bound-breading technique works with most cuts of meat. A very thin layer of flour creates a dry surface on the meat, which allows the egg to adhere evenly. The beaten egg, in turn, gives the bread crumbs something to stick to. This technique is the surest route to crisp, unsoggy breaded cutlets.

SHALLOW FRYING

Deep frying is a popular and reliable way to get a moist-on-the-inside, crisp-on-the-outside result for many foods. But shallow frying, which uses much less oil and can be done in a skillet, works for thin cuts like these because the meat doesn’t need to be fully submerged to cook through.

Cutlet Know-How: Make Your Own Bread Crumbs

Cutlet Know-How: Make Your Own Bread Crumbs: Bread crumbs have a handful of primary uses for home cooking: They make a crisp coating (as in chicken cutlets), they help bind together meats (as in meatballs or crab cakes), and they create a crunchy topping on baked dishes (think macaroni and cheese or baked fish). Bread crumbs also add texture when sprinkled over pasta, meats, and salads.

Premade bread crumbs abound at the supermarket, but shop with care. In tastings, we found traditional packaged bread crumbs dusty and artificial-tasting, and they don’t cling well to meat. Japanese-style panko bread crumbs fared better: Some brands produced a crisp crust on breaded meats (our favorite supermarket option is Ian’s Panko Breadcrumbs, Original Style).

But the advantages of fresh bread crumbs far outweigh the convenience of premade. They’re much less expensive, they adhere better to the meat, they cook up crunchy, and they’re easy to make.

Don’t Make this Mistake: Breading That Doesn’t Stick

Don’t Make this Mistake: Breading That Doesn’t Stick: PATCHY, PEELING COATING: Our techniques help you steer clear of this mess.

Getting a crisp, crunchy coating that sticks to the cutlets isn’t hard if you follow our technique for a bound breading (see “Three-Tiered Approach” above). And one more thing: Be patient. If you try to cook the cutlets immediately after applying the coating, it still has a tendency to fall off. Instead, let the breaded cutlets rest for 5 minutes before frying so the coating has a chance to stabilize.

Essential Gear: Meat Pounder

Essential Gear: Meat Pounder: Our favorite meat pounder is the Norpro GRIP-EZ Meat Pounder. The shape and heft of this vertical-style model provide the right combination of control and force to produce nearly flawless cutlets.

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