DEEP DIVE

The absolute best way to bread chicken, according to so many tests

Because a truly life-changing cutlet is hard to come by

By Ella Quittner

Published April 3, 2022 5:00PM (EDT)

 (Rocky Luten / Food52)
(Rocky Luten / Food52)

This story first appeared on Food52, an online community that gives you everything you need for a happier kitchen and home – that means tested recipes, a shop full of beautiful products, a cooking hotline, and everything in between!

In Absolute Best Tests, Ella Quittner destroys the sanctity of her home kitchen in the name of the truth. She's boiled dozens of eggs, mashed a concerning number of potatoes, and seared more Porterhouse steaks than she cares to recall. Today, she tackles chicken cutlets.


Most chicken cutlets one encounters in the wild are pretty good. The average one wears an armor of crunch that's seasoned heartily enough to play smokescreen for any dryness inside. Usually doused in a sauce, or pressed between two halves of an Italian roll, or blanketed by melted American cheese, breaded chicken is the form of cooked poultry Most Likely To Be Fine, whatever the circumstance.

But a truly life-changing cutlet is hard to come by.

I can count on one hand the number of cutlets I would betray a close family member for, cutlets I fall asleep thinking about, cutlets I would board planes to pursue. So this latest installment of Absolute Best Tests is an ode to that — to finding the recipe for an undeniably excellent cutlet that is better than "pretty good." It's an exercise in small tweaks, in hot pursuit of perfection. Ready those forks:

Controls

For each test, I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced and pounded into cutlets. I seasoned with Diamond Crystal kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

I let each piece of breaded chicken rest at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes before frying for two reasons. Primarily, it helps the breading adhere, probably because the crumbs have more time to absorb the egg from the dredging process. And it also allows the chicken to come to a less frigid temperature, which means it won't have as crazy an effect on the oil when you drop it in.

Supplies

Cast-Iron Skillet: Fabulous for ensuring maximum crunch on a breaded cutlet (or on a breaded anything, really).

Fish Spatula: Necessary for flipping the cutlets with ease, and minimal oil splatter.

Whisk: For easy egg beating or batter-mixing.

Shallow Bowls: The MVP trio for all things dredging.

Round 1: Dredging

Potato starch, then egg, then crumbs

Adapted from "That Sounds So Good" by Carla Lalli Music.

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 1/4 cup potato starch 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch.
  2. Set up 3 bowls for the breading: one with the starch, one with the egg, and one with the panko. Whisk the salt and pepper into the starch.
  3. First dip each piece of chicken into the starch, dusting off any extra; then into the eggs, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the panko, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the breaded chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? I had high hopes that a potato starch dredge would add even more crunch than all-purpose flour (see: French fries and latkes are incredibly crispy), but the results were similar, even a bit less crispy and crackly, and overall less consistent (peaks and valleys of crisp rather than tundra). It was still delicious though, and if I only had potato starch in my pantry, I wouldn't hesitate to swap it in for flour.

Flour, then egg and milk, then flour again

Adapted from Spruce Eats.

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup whole milk 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch.
  2. Set up 2 bowls for the breading: one with the flour, another with the egg. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour. Whisk the milk into the egg.
  3. First dip each piece of chicken into the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the milky egg, making sure it is coated completely; then into the flour again, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This is the batter lover's cutlet. It looked like a chicken-fried steak, with a smooth, detached-in-places exoskeleton of carb. Battering the cutlet instead of simply breading it kept the meat juicier than any other test, but at what cost? It was a deeply flavored specimen, but lacked the crepitation of those breaded in sharp shards of panko.

Flour and egg, then crumbs

Adapted from Food52.

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch.
  2. Set up 2 bowls for the breading: one in which you whisk together the egg, flour, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of water, and the other with the panko.
  3. First dip each piece of chicken in the egg mixture, then into the panko, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the breaded chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This was a Very Important Cutlet. Sam Seneviratne's smart instructions have you whisk egg and flour together, to create a sort of pre-batter, onto which you pack the panko. So it presented a combo option, for those who love batter but also want their cutlets traditionally breaded (covered in little crispy shavings rather than one contiguous shell). The result was a much thicker crust, almost chewy beneath the frizzled panko layer. It would be the ideal cutlet for someone who loves the corner piece of baked pasta.

Lemon-garlic marinade, then flour, then egg, then crumbs

Adapted from Food52 and Bon Appétit.

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • Kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice, garlic, and a big pinch for salt for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the breading: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the panko. Whisk 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the pepper into the flour.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and let the juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the eggs, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the panko, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the breaded chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? I feel like a fool for sleeping on this lemon-garlic technique, which came to me in a DM from Emily Schultz, who learned it from a Molly Baz recipe. This simple, two-ingredient marinade ensures juicy, flavorful, tender meat every single time. I have dabbled with other, fussier marinades in the past, to little result with such notoriously thin chicken. The lemon-garlic swim imparted a somehow cheesy (!!!) flavor to the chicken, which was less tough than any other specimen from this round. The dredging technique also produced a supremely crunchy exterior, a textbook cutlet shell.

Mayo then crumbs

Adapted from Hellmann's.

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise 
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch.
  2. Set up 2 bowls for the breading: one with the mayonnaise, and one with the panko. Whisk the salt and pepper into the mayonnaise.
  3. First dip each piece of chicken in mayo, using a knife to make sure it's coated with an even, thin layer. Then, dip into the panko, coating evenly on all sides. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? I sometimes eat mayo straight from a spoon, which I suppose I don't have to admit, but I want to be honest about my expectations for this trial. Unfortunately, the resulting cutlet was less mayo-flavored, and more soft and bland. I suspect the oil and egg in the mayonnaise separated during cooking, contributing to greasier, squishier panko, and chicken that tasted extremely chicken-y, not in an amazing way. It should be said, though, that the meat of the chicken was very tender and juicy, coming in second place to the battered cutlet.

Round 2: Breading

These tests were all conducted with the most consistently crunchy method from round one: flour, then egg, then crumbs.

Saltines

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 15 Saltines (about 1/2 sleeve) 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Place the Saltines in a zip-top plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal. Use a rolling pin — or a wine bottle, or anything heavy — to pound into fine crumbs.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the Saltine crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the Saltine crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This cutlet was somehow reminiscent of schnitzel, a veal cutlet which is obviously not made using Saltines as breading.The crisp was present, but subtler, thinner, a fizz to panko's crackle. And the overall flavor was slightly yeasty; one taster asked if I used alcohol in the dredge.

Ritz Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 20 Ritz crackers (about 1/2 sleeve) 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about ½ inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Place Ritz crackers in a zip-top plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal. Use a rolling pin — or a wine bottle, or anything heavy — to pound into fine crumbs.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the Ritz crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the Ritz crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for at least 15 minutes and up to 30 at room temp.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? Slicing into the Ritz cutlet sounded like a commercial for the concept of crunch. The crackers lent each bite a sweet flavor (sugar features prominently in buttery Ritz), which was extremely delicious and unlike any other trial. The chicken itself was juicy. The Ritz cutlet would be ideal on a roll with melted American cheese, ketchup, and chile crisp. It just needs a little extra salt, either sprinkled onto it directly or in its serving accoutrement, to reach full potential.

Cheez-Its

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 3/4 cup Cheez-Its 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Place Cheez-Its in a zip-top plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal. Use a rolling pin — or a wine bottle, or anything heavy — to pound into fine crumbs.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the Cheez-It crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the eggs, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the Cheez-It crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? I would eat Cheez-Its out of a pile of hot garbage, so my findings from this trial are, admittedly, biased. The initial presentation of the Cheez-It cutlet was surprisingly not-neon; the fry process toned the crust down to a generic toasty brown. Flavor-wise, it was incredibly cheesy. Probably a 7 on the 1 to 10 scale of cheesiness, wherein 10 is actual cheese. The jaunt in hot oil also produced a warm, toasty flavor I don't typically associate with my Its, but which I particularly enjoyed. Other tasters were less enthused, and felt the flavor of the crust was "gimmicky" and overshadowed the chicken.

Panko Parm

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)  
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup panko 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan (or Pecorino Romano) 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the panko. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour, and stir the grated Parm into the panko.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the panko, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? In the dredging round, one taster noted that it would be hard to beat the flavor and texture of panko. I am happy to report that adding grated Parmesan does just that. The crust was still just as crisp, but with a subtle, salty chew. The Parmesan also caused some of the panko to clump together for more overall crunch, almost reminiscent of when you get a good cluster of granola.

Italian Bread Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 cup Italian-style dried bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the bread crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the bread crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This cutlet looked like it should be on the front of the bread crumbs can. It was so crisp, golden, and oil-soaked, it seemed to glimmer. Fresh from the fryer, the texture of these crumbs read almost like sand — super fine, much closer to ground-down crystal than the panko or crackers. Flavor-wise, it was mediocre. Parm would have helped. Garlic powder too. Overall, it was a middle-of-the-pack specimen, perfectly delicious but also exceedingly average.

Rice Flour

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1/4 cup rice flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup whole milk 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. When you're ready to cook, set up 2 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, and one with the egg. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour. Separately, whisk the milk into the egg.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and let the juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the milky egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the flour again, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated.
  4. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  5. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This was one of my favorite cutlets, though my tasters disagreed. I loved the chew of the crust and the subtle, toasted rice flavor. My tasters felt that it didn't represent the qualities one is looking for in a cutlet, because its exterior didn't crisp up nearly as much as the other contenders. (Their contracts are currently under review.)

Fresh Bread Crumbs

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 fist-sized hunk fresh bread, like sourdough or multigrain 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Chop bread into chunks and place into a food processor or blender. Pulse until you reach a coarse crumb size, like cake sprinkles.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the bread crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and let the juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the bread crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This cutlet surprised me most. I expected the fresh crumbs to get a little soggy, but they fried right up for a craggy, thick exterior. The flavor was also noteworthy. I used sliced multigrain bread, which became nutty when cooked into a crust. The fresh crumbs also seemed to keep the chicken a bit juicier, perhaps because of their downy, moist (so, so sorry) bulk.

Potato Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast 
  • 6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 3/4 cup potato chips, like Plain Ridged or Cheddar–Sour Cream Ruffles 
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1 large egg, beaten 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1 pinch freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 cup neutral oil, like avocado, rice bran, or peanut 

 

Directions

  1. Horizontally halve the chicken breast. Gently pound the resulting cutlets so they're an even thickness, about 1/2 inch. Marinate in the lemon juice and garlic for 30 minutes to 1 hour in the fridge.
  2. Place the chips in a zip-top plastic bag, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal. Use a rolling pin — or a wine bottle, or anything heavy — to pound into fine crumbs.
  3. When you're ready to cook, set up 3 bowls for the coating: one with the flour, one with the egg, and one with the chip crumbs. Whisk the salt and pepper into the flour.
  4. Remove chicken from marinade and let juice and garlic drip off. First dip each piece of chicken in the flour, dusting off any extra; then into the egg, making sure it is coated completely; and finally into the chip crumbs, making sure the whole piece is evenly coated. Let the coated chicken pieces rest on a plate for 15 to 30 minutes at room temp.
  5. In a cast-iron skillet or a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until it vigorously bubbles when you drop in a stray piece of breading. Add the breaded chicken to the pan, making sure not to crowd them (you may need to cook them in batches). Cook until the bottom is deep golden-brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then flip and let the other side brown, about 3 minutes.
  6. Transfer the pieces to a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate and serve hot.

Was she perfect? This cutlet's crust was so thick and crisp (from being double-fried), it produced an incredibly loud eating noise, which sounded like someone housing a bag of chips solo. The potato chip crust kept the chicken super tender, perhaps from the extra fat blanketing the mostly fatless meat, like a really confusing take on a porchetta. All I know for sure is that it was so delicious, one taste-tester started unironically doing the wave after several bites. There was, however, a somewhat greasy aftertaste that might not be for everyone.

So, what's the best way to bread chicken?

Marinate your chicken in lemon juice and crushed garlic for maximum flavor and the most tender meat.

For the biggest (and most consistent) crunch, dredge in flour, then dip in egg, then coat in crumbs. If you're into a battered cutlet but don't want to commit all the way, combine the flour and egg, then coat in crumbs.

When it comes to breading, it's tough to go wrong. If you're a big fan of the flavor of any specific cracker or chip (like Ritz or Saltine or Cheez-Its), use those. For a classic, extra-crunchy boy, use panko or panko-Parm. For something nuttier, try fresh bread crumbs made from whole wheat or multigrain.


Ella Quittner

MORE FROM Ella Quittner


Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Breading Chicken Chicken Cutlets Deep Dive Food Food52