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Skip the pounding, slice chicken in half instead

August 24, 2016 GMT

Q: What’s the best way to cut chicken in half for scallopini?

A: Scallopini-style refers to taking pieces of meat including poultry and pounding them thin so they cook quickly. The thin pieces are typically dredged in flour and then pan-fried. Sometimes the meat is pounded so thin you can roll it.

But it’s the pounding that can be troubling.

Sometimes, the chicken breast will tear or wind up looking like a shaggy mess. Other times, the chicken breast is simply too big and thick at one end and it will take a long time to get to the thickness needed.

An alternative method I use all the time is slicing the chicken breast in half horizontally to make it into a neat cutlet or even piece. Once you slice it, you can pound it even thinner if you need to roll it for, say, chicken saltimbocca or any dish that calls for encasing other ingredients in chicken.

Here’s how to slice chicken into two even thin pieces. It’s best to start out with well-chilled chicken breasts. Stick them in the freezer on a plate for about 20 minutes to chill them quickly if need be.

Place a cold chicken breast on a clean work surface and hold it in place with the palm of your hand. Starting at the thickest end, slice the breast in half horizontally, working away from you and toward the thinner end. You will end up with two even chicken breasts. If you want them any thinner than this, use a meat mallet or rolling pin to pound them even thinner.

Many times, I slice chicken breast this way for quick-cooking on the grill. It makes it easier than trying to grill large chicken breasts that are way too thick at one end. What happens when you grill a whole piece is that it takes so much longer for the thick end to cook on the grill and then the thinner, tapered end becomes overcooked and dry.