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Master the art of how to butterfly a chicken breast with this simple guide! Say goodbye to bland chicken and hello to perfectly juicy, flavor-infused results in no time.

How to butterfly a chicken breast

Our trick to perfectly cooked chicken? Butterfly the chicken breast first! Butterflying a breast into cutlets makes for the best, evenly-cooked tender and juicy meat. Why? Here’s what you need to know and a quick guide on how to butterfly a chicken breast. You’ll be a master in no time!

Why to butterfly chicken breasts

Why is this cooking technique so important? Chicken breasts are often very thick, making them tricky to cook evenly. The thin part finishes cooking before the thick part cooks through, and that’s a safety hazard if the meat isn’t up to temperature before eating (chicken’s internal temperature should be 165°F before enjoying, per the FDA).

The trick? Butterfly a chicken breast before cooking it! Slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally makes two thinner pieces which cook more evenly. They’re also easier to eat, and it’s easier to infuse seasoning into the thinner pieces of meat. Butterflied chicken breasts are called cutlets.

What about pounding chicken?

There is some debate on whether butterflying chicken means to cut it into two thinner pieces or whether that also includes pounding it. Pounding chicken is a technique used to make the pieces even thinner, more tender and easier to cook. A butterflied and pounded chicken breast is called a “paillard” in French.

Typically, we don’t do the pounding step unless it’s specifically noted in the recipe, like Chicken Piccata. But you’re welcome to do it if you’d like an even thinner, more tender piece of meat.

How to butterfly a chicken breast

You can buy a chicken breast already butterflied, which is marked on the package or they may be marked as “cutlets”. If you buy regular chicken breasts, you can butterfly them yourself. To butterfly a chicken breast:

  1. Place your hand over the top of the chicken breast. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice the breast horizontally, leaving the edge intact so it can open up like a book.
    How to butterfly a chicken breast
  2. Unfold the chicken breast, then cut along the fold to separate the two halves (each half is a cutlet).
    How to butterfly a chicken breast
  3. Pound the chicken (optional*): Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and lightly pound the chicken with a mallet or heavy pan to make it an even 1/4-inch thickness.
    How to butterfly a chicken breast

Recipes using butterflied chicken

There are so many chicken recipes that start with a butterflied chicken breast! This is our favorite way to cook chicken because it comes out so beautifully tender and seasoned. Here are some ways to use chicken cutlets:

  • Chicken Piccata: This classic Italian-American recipe starts with chicken cutlets that are lightly floured and cooked in a caper garlic butter sauce.
  • Blackened Chicken: 15 minutes is all it takes for blackened, seasoned goodness.
  • Creamy Tuscan Chicken: This skillet of goodness is outrageously delicious and comes together in just 30 minutes!
  • Lemon Garlic Chicken or Creamy Garlic Chicken: These pan-fried chicken recipes feature seared cutlets with an irresistibly cream pan sauce.
  • Pesto Chicken: Cook butterflied chicken breasts with pesto and cream for a delightful meal.
  • Grilled Chicken: Butterflying chicken breasts first is the key to juicy, succulent grilled chicken!
  • Greek Chicken: This baked chicken recipe layers chicken breast over tomatoes, olives, garlic, lemon, and feta cheese, then bakes until juicy and tender.
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How to butterfly a chicken breast

How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: N/A

Description

Master the art of how to butterfly a chicken breast with this simple guide! Say goodbye to bland chicken and hello to perfectly juicy, flavor-infused results in no time.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 or more boneless skinless chicken breasts

Instructions

  1. Place your hand over the top of the chicken breast. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice the breast horizontally, leaving the edge intact so it can open up like a book.
  2. Unfold the chicken breast, then cut along the fold to separate the two halves (each half is a cutlet).
  3. Pound the chicken (optional*): Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and lightly pound the chicken with a mallet or heavy pan to make it an even 1/4-inch thickness.

Notes

*Pounding the chicken breast makes it thinner into a “paillard,” but it’s not necessary. We typically skip this step unless it’s specified in the recipe (like Chicken Piccata).

  • Category: Essentials
  • Method: No Cook
  • Cuisine: Chicken
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Keywords: How to butterfly a chicken breast, butterfly chicken breast

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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