Surprisingly, I find that there must be quite a few ways to make a chicken cutlet. I know this because I am often astonished when I order one at an Italian restaurant I have never been to, and they have some how managed to really mess it up.
It is so disappointing when this happens, because it is truly one of my favorite guilty pleasures. So, in order to help you all make your own at home and avoid the potential sadness from going out and getting something less than you deserve– I will now share my delicious Italian fried chicken cutlet recipe with you all!
A Little History
As some of you may know by now, I am half Italian (well, Sicilian actually). One of the wonderful dishes I remember my Grandma (not the same Grandma as my easy baked chicken thighs recipe) making was fried chicken cutlets. Although I do not know her exact methods, I have come up with my own wonderful version that still totally hits the spot.
The breading is super important. There is really only two parts to this dish: The chicken and the breading. So, if you mess up either one of these it isn’t going to be good.
One crucial thing about the breading is not to make that weird greasy, floury coating that just falls off when you go to cut into the cutlet. It is really crazy how often I come across this at restaurants.
Also I am not a big fan of Panko, even though it’s all the rage. Most of the experiences I have had with it is that it doesn’t evenly coat, which just does not make an excellent cutlet in my opinion.
With that said, here is my secret breading ingredient…croutons! This is the easiest, yummiest way I have found to get a nice even and lightly crunchy coat. I usually just buy a bag of whatever brand flavored croutons are on sale. I lean towards the garlic seasoned variety if I can. The last bag I bought was $1.25.
Then I pour the whole bag in the food processor and grind it down to a powder. It takes less than a minute.
Ingredients (For Two People)
- 5 oz bag of croutons
- 1 cup flour
- 3 eggs
- about 2 lbs chicken breast (2-4 breasts)
- Canola Oil
- Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder
Depending on the size of the breasts I usually get one or two per person. I always try to make enough to have some leftovers.
You want to pound out the breasts to about 1/4 inch thick. I must say this is the hardest part of the whole process. If you go the gym and do arm exercises on a regular basis, then this may be nothing for you, but for the rest of us it’s a bit of a workout. Don’t get me wrong though, it is totally worth it and it is probably not a bad idea to burn a few calories before you indulge.
Make sure you wrap and cover you chicken well so that you aren’t splattering raw chicken all over your kitchen. I generally put it in a plastic baggy and then put that inside of one or two plastic grocery bags. When you are beating the meat it tends to rip holes in whatever is covering the chicken, so I like to double or triple wrap to avoid leaks.
Seasoning and Coating
Once you have your chicken the desired thickness you can season it. I recommend a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder (not garlic salt) on both sides of each piece of chicken. Your breading will have seasoning too, but you don’t want your chicken to be bland.
You are going to need 3 plates and a bowl.
Put the flour on one plate and add 1/4 tsp of salt and a 1/4 pepper to the flour and mix it around.
Crack the 3 eggs into a bowl and whisk it.
Put about half of your crouton powder onto the next plate.
Now you will take one piece of chicken at a time. First lay the breast in the flour and then flip it over and get the flour on the other side. It should be a very light layer, not chunky or globby in any way. You should be able to see the chicken through the flour.
Then dip the chicken in the egg. Make sure every part of the breast get covered in egg. Pick it up letting the excess drip off for just a second.
Then place on the crouton plate. Cover every part with the breading. Press it on both sides making sure it stick and is totally covered.
As you finish breading each cutlet lay them on a plate together to wait for cooking. It is ok to pile them up. Add more of the ground croutons to the plate as needed.
Time To Fry
You will want to use a large frying pan. Fill it up with about 1/2 an inch of canola oil. You want to make sure you leave enough room for the oil level to rise with the addition of the cutlets without even getting close to overflowing. You just need enough to barely go over the top of the cutlets.
Heat the oil on high until it sizzles and pops when you flick a drop of water in it. I am sure there is some perfect temperature, but this how I learned to test the oil and it has always worked for me.
When the oil is hot take two of your cutlets and gently place them into the oil. If you have smaller pieces you can put an extra one in. You just don’t want to over fill the pan, because the oil will cool down if there is too much chicken in there and it is important that each piece is surrounded by oil and not touching another cutlet.
If the cutlet isn’t completely submerged in oil that is fine as long as most of it is. Because the temperature can vary depending on how much oil you have and how much chicken is in it, you just need to keep an eye on it. I typically turn it down to 8 (out of 10) on my stove when I put the first pieces in, but if it doesn’t appear to be totally sizzling like it would in a deep fryer turn it back up again.
I have a hard time just letting my food sit there without checking it out. So, I usually give it about 2 minutes then lift one corner (with metal tongs) of the cutlet and see how it looks. You want each side to get a nice deep golden brown. I usually end up flipping each one 3 or 4 times, making sure each side has good color.
Once the whole cutlet is evenly golden brown on every side, it is done! Takes about 8 to 12 minutes depending on your heat levels, but when it looks done- it is done. It’s pretty simple to judge. If it is not a golden brown keep cooking it. If it starts getting too dark or burnt better get it outta there.
It should look like this picture…
This is really making me hungry!
As you cook your cutlets and remove them and add the next batch to the pan your oil level will decrease. If you started with enough oil you should be totally fine. If you absolutely need to you can add more, but the problem is it severely decreases the temperature of the oil and your cutlets will not fry right. So you want to bring the oil back up to temp, but try to avoid this, because it doesn’t always work out right.
Time To Eat!
Ok! All your deliciously fried chicken cutlets should be there just waiting for you to eat them. There is a few options on what you can do with them from here.
The way I always ate them growing up was with fresh lemon and possibly a side of spaghetti noodles flavored with butter and garlic and grated Parmesan.
You can also easily make this into Chicken Parmesan by adding your favorite marinara sauce and fresh Parmesan cheese to the top. I have also used provolone cheese as a topper for this. And I like to serve it with fettucine noodles with marinara.
Chicken cutlets actually span across a lot of different countries and cultures, even though they might call them something else. You can really make this recipe fit a lot of different food moods that you may be in.
Another option- You can make this a German dish by calling it chicken schnitzel instead, and then just add a yummy brown gravy and nice potato salad or slaw. You can check out How to Make Schnitzel Gravy here. (If you want to learn a little about the history of schnitzel on Wikipedia you can click here)
You can also use these cutlets for a variety of sandwich options, or serve them up with french fries and pretend they are chicken strips. Or cut it up and put it in a salad…There are truly many, many options.
Spicing it Up
I don’t want to forget to suggest some ways to spice up this recipe! If you are using it in its original form, and Italian chicken cutlet, I would recommend a sprinkle of hot pepper dust on the finished product. The pure dusts work really well for giving something a good kick without changing the flavor much, if at all. You just have to make sure it doesn’t have any additives like sugar or it will totally change your food.
If you are using the cutlets for a sandwich that opens up a whole bunch of hot sauce option depending on the style you are going for. If you are just going to do a standard American style Franks Original Hot Sauce would be great!
If you are going for something a little more exotic a jerk type sauce would be yummy, or one of my more recent discoveries that I have been loving with chicken- Hellacious Hot Sauce
In Summary (as requested)
- Grind up croutons in food processor
- Pound out the Chicken
- Season The Chicken
- Put Flour on One Plate (season)
- Put Ground Croutons on another Plate
- Stir up 3 eggs in a bowl
- Coat chicken in thin layer of seasoned flour (a see-through layer)
- Then dip the Chicken in the egg (don’t leave dry spots, let some of the excess drip off)
- Then lay chicken on Crouton plate. Press lightly, make sure all of the chicken is evenly covered
- Stack up all the ready to cook Cutlets on a plate
- Heat up at least 1/2 inch of canola oil in a large frying pan on high until hot (flick water at the oil, if it sizzles and pops it ready)
- Place 2 (or 3) of the cutlets gently in the oil (make sure they are not crowded and touching each other)
- Let fry for 2 or 3 minutes and check under side with metal tongs
- Usually a heat level of 8 out of 10 is good, but every stove is different. Just make sure the oil stays hot and the cutlets are frying like they would in a deep fryer, the oil will cool as you add chicken, keep it hot.
- Flip Chicken as needed to make sure both sides are a nice golden brown. Should take about 8 to 12 minutes per cutlet. I usually flip each one 3 or so times making sure the color is evenly golden brown
- Put next 2 cutlets in the oil and repeat steps 11 through 14 until done
Well, I hope you totally love my Italian Fried Chicken Cutlet Recipe! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions please let me know!