Want perfectly crispy chicken cutlets? Time to grab your air fryer

Don't feel like standing over a hot vat of bubbling oil? There are other ways to get crispy chicken

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published June 10, 2022 11:00AM (EDT)

Chicken Cutlets (Getty Images / Mykola Lunov / 500px)
Chicken Cutlets (Getty Images / Mykola Lunov / 500px)

As Walt Whitman famously wrote, I contain multitudes. What that means, in this case, is that I love crispy chicken cutlets, but I've always abhorred making them at home. The whole process is a slog — from gathering and dirtying multiple bowls for the flour-dredge-breadcrumb coating to standing over a spitting hot pan filled with oil that bubbles and pops onto my countertops and forearms. 

That said, all I've wanted to eat recently is an absurdly crispy cutlet, ideally breaded in Panko, served with blanched snap peas, some thin-sliced radishes and super lemony aioli (which, by the way, is not just fancy mayonnaise). 

Related: How to use your air fryer to make tender, perfectly-cooked salmon

Thankfully, to borrow a quote from another great scholar, life . . . uh, finds a way. After dragging my heels on buying an air fryer for years, I've recently had success using it to make or replicate some of my favorite dishes, ranging from tater tots to crispy-skinned salmon. Why not give chicken cutlets a try? 

The method 

So, the first steps of chicken cutlet cookery remain the same. Pound however many cutlets you plan on serving until they're about 3/4-inch thick and look pretty even. This helps the entire cutlet cook at the same rate, which results in a moister, juicier final product. 

Next, it's time to set up your breading assembly line. I keep mine pretty simple, using a bowl of plain flour; a bowl of eggs whipped with either water or a splash of milk; and a bowl of Panko bread crumbs seasoned with salt, pepper and a little smoked paprika. Dredge your cutlet in the flour, followed by the egg. Shake off any excess liquid from the egg before finally coating the cutlet in the seasoned bread crumbs. 

Once all the cutlets were ready to go, I placed them in a 400-degree air fryer. I let them cook for 10 minutes on one side, then I flipped them and let them cook for seven minutes on the other side. This will likely vary from air fryer to air fryer, so I definitely recommend taking a few peeks at your chicken while it cooks. 

The result 

Honestly, it was perfect. Before I purchased an air fryer, I had this unfounded fear that proteins would become rubbery after more than a few minutes of cook time, but that was absolutely not the case with these cutlets. 

They had a moist interior with a satisfyingly crisp breading. They also didn't lose any of that "crust" during the process of flipping them, which is a problem cooks sometimes encounter when hand-frying in oil. As a bonus, I didn't have to dirty another pan (and deal with leftover fry oil) to make these. I simply wiped out the air fryer basket and got on with cleaning the rest of the kitchen. 

How to serve 

You can, of course, go with my seasonal dream meal of cutlets, greens and aioli, but this chicken would be great in a plethora of ways. Stick it between two slices of pillowy-soft milk bread with Kewpie mayonnaise and shredded iceberg lettuce. Slice the cutlets thin and toss with sliced cabbage, a bunch of herbs and a really dill-heavy vinaigrette. 

Or, do as Salon Food contributor Michael La Corte suggests: Take those shatteringly crisp cutlets, nestle them on a bed of red sauce and top them with way too much cheese. This way of making chicken parmesan is his favorite method for ensuring that the breading doesn't become soggy — and it's a winner. 

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By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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