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Baked Chicken Cutlets deliver an incredibly crispy exterior, rivaling their fried counterparts, while maintaining a succulent juiciness inside. This recipe is a game-changer for those who crave the crunch of fried chicken without the added calories or mess of frying. Perfect for a family dinner or a casual evening with friends, these cutlets are sure to please.
The secret to this dish is a simple, but innovative method of slicing the chicken breasts into three even pieces, for uniform cooking and optimal tenderness. This technique not only maximizes the meat’s surface area for that irresistibly crunchy coating, but also ensures an even thickness for perfect baking.
Table of Contents
Ingredients for Baked Chicken Cutlets
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts: Choose chicken breasts that are roughly the same size for even cooking. Ensure they’re fresh with a pink hue and no foul odor.
- Flour: Any finely ground all-purpose flour works. Be sure to break up any lumps.
- Eggs: Freshness is key. Fresh eggs have thicker whites and firmer yolks that create a more consistent coating.
- Panko Breadcrumbs: Look for breadcrumbs that are light and airy for a crispier texture. Avoid those that appear overly ground or powdery.
- Parmesan Cheese: For the best flavor, grate your own parmesan cheese rather than using pre-grated varieties. Finely grating it will help it blend better with the breadcrumbs for even breading.
- Dried Italian Seasoning: Look for a blend with a balance of herbs like oregano, basil, and thyme. It should be aromatic and not too old, as dried herbs lose their potency over time.
- Fresh Italian Parsley: Select bunches that are bright green and vibrant, with no wilting or yellowing leaves. The aroma should be fresh and herbaceous.
- Lemon: Choose lemons that are firm, brightly colored, and heavy for their size, a good indicator of juiciness.
- Cooking Spray: Be sure the spray is intended for baking at a minimum of 400°F. Avocado oil and canola oil sprays will work, as will some olive oil sprays, just be sure to check the label.
One Breast, Three Cutlets: The Even-Cut Method
There is a smarter approach to crafting chicken cutlets, one that turns a single chicken breast into three evenly sized pieces. It’s a method shared by America’s Test Kitchen that’s superior to the traditional single-slice technique in terms of safety, simplicity, and precision. Rather than attempting to halve a whole chicken breast horizontally, this approach involves making two simple cuts with a sharp knife. The result? Three perfectly sized chicken cutlets, as illustrated in the diagram below. (And see more in the step by step photos before the recipe.)
5 Recipe Options
- Egg Alternative: Combine milk and a tablespoon of melted butter to replace eggs for binding.
- Breadcrumb Variations: Use standard breadcrumbs for a classic texture or ground almonds (sans flour) for a low-carb option.
- Cheese Swap: Asiago or Pecorino Romano make great substitutes for parmesan.
- Homemade Italian Seasoning Mix: Blend dried oregano, basil, and thyme as a DIY alternative.
- Lemon Alternative: Lime offers a similar zesty touch if you don’t have a lemon on hand.
Mistakes to Avoid
- Over or Under-Pounding the Chicken: Aim for an even thickness of about ¼ to ½ inch. Too thin, and they dry out; too thick, and they won’t cook evenly.
- Skipping the Flour Coating: Flour helps the egg adhere to the chicken. Missing this step can lead to uneven breading.
- Overcrowding the Baking Sheet: Give each cutlet enough space. Overcrowding can lead to steaming instead of baking, preventing that delectable crispy texture.
- Not Preheating the Oven: Be sure your oven reaches the correct temperature before baking for consistent cooking.
- Neglecting to Flip if Not Using a Rack: If you’re baking directly on parchment paper, remember to flip the cutlets halfway through for even browning and crispiness.
- Overcooking: Keep an eye on the cutlets and check for doneness at 15 minutes. Overcooked chicken becomes tough and dry.
Storage and Reheating
Store cooled chicken cutlets in an airtight container or wrap them in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, and refrigerate for up to 3 days. For longer storage, freeze the cutlets individually wrapped in freezer bags for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw in the refrigerator if frozen, and warm in a 350°F oven on a wire rack over a baking sheet for 8-10 minutes, or up to 15 minutes for thicker pieces.
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How to Make Baked Chicken Cutlets
Begin by heating the oven to 400°F and lining a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, placing an oven-safe rack inside, coated with cooking spray or lightly brushed with oil. For each chicken breast, divide it into its thicker section and thinner end, slicing crosswise near the midpoint and then horizontally halving the thicker part to create three even cutlets. Pound these between sheets of plastic wrap or in a sealed plastic bag to an even thickness, and season both sides with salt and pepper.
In three shallow bowls, prepare flour in one, beaten eggs in another, and a mix of breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and Italian seasoning in the third. Dredge each cutlet in flour, dip into eggs, and then coat with the breadcrumb mixture, applying pressure for even coating.
Place the prepared cutlets on the rack, spray them generously with cooking spray, and bake in preheated oven until golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 165°F on a meat thermometer. Serve the cutlets garnished with parsley and lemon wedges as desired.
Baked Chicken Cutlets
- 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts 5 to 6-ounces each
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- finely chopped fresh Italian parsley for garnish
- 1 lemon cut into wedges for serving, optional
- olive oil cooking spray or avocado oil cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400˚F.
- To create 3 uniform chicken cutlets from one chicken breast, begin by dividing the chicken breast into its thicker section and thinner, tapered end, cutting crosswise around the mid-point. Next, horizontally slice the thick part of the breast in two (as shown in diagram). Arrange the three cutlets between sheets of plastic wrap or inside a sealed plastic bag (to reduce mess) and pound to an even thickness (between ¼-inch and ½-inch thick) with a meat mallet or rolling pin. Repeat with remaining chicken breasts. Lightly season each cutlet on both sides with salt and pepper.
- Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (for easy clean up) and place an oven-safe rack inside; coat rack with cooking spray (or lightly brush with oil) to prevent sticking.
- Set out three shallow bowls. Place flour in one, beaten eggs in the second; in the third, stir together the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.
- Dredge each cutlet in flour, shaking off excess. Then dip into beaten eggs, letting any extra drip away. Finally, coat both sides with breadcrumb blend, applying gentle pressure to help it stick. As you complete each cutlet, transfer to prepared rack in baking sheet.
- Spray each cutlet generously with cooking spray and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and an instant read thermometer reads 165˚F when inserted in the thickest part (see recipe note). Transfer cutlets to serving platter (or divide among individual plates); garnish with parsley and serve with lemon wedges if desired.
- If baking on parchment paper without the oven safe rack, flip cutlets halfway through baking time and coat the other side with cooking spray before returning to oven.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.