How to Cut Chicken Breast

Everything you need to know about how to cut chicken breast against the grain, for stir fries…even how to cut chicken breast into tenders. After you’ve made my Foolproof Chicken Breasts or Mom’s Chicken Parmesan, learn how to cut chicken for the juiciest and most tender results.

Raw chicken breast on parchment and cutting board being sliced with a knife.

Most of us don’t give much thought to how to cut chicken breast. We just want to get dinner on the table and fast. But mastering a few easy techniques will result in chicken that not only cooks better but tastes better and performs in your recipes just how you expect!

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What is the best way to cut chicken breast?

Whole chicken breast on a piece of parchment.

The answer is against the grain.

You’ve probably heard that expression, especially when it comes to slicing something like flank steak.

So whether you are cutting chicken for stir fries, slicing poached chicken for a salad, going against the grain is a good thing.

In chicken (and, sometimes, life).

How do you know which way the grain runs in meat or poultry?

A knife laid on top of a raw chicken breast.

If you look closely, you’ll see that every cut of meat has little muscle fibers that run through it almost like stripes. Just like a piece of wood cut from a tree, those fibers are the “grain”.

In the image above, the grain is parallel with the knife.

For cutting chicken, you can cut “with the grain” or “against” it. Another way to think of this is “across” the grain.

Let me show you what I mean.

process shots for cutting chicken breast

Here’s a step by step guide.

  1. Use the image above as your guide, identify the grain or muscle fibers in the chicken breast (1).
  2. Choose a sharp knife like this Wusthof boning knife.
  3. Start at one end and slice the chicken against the grain or perpendicular to the muscle fiber “lines” (2).

Why cut chicken against the grain?

Cutting chicken against the grain (and most meats) is the key to more tender meat, especially when it’s grilled. It breaks the muscle fibers down into smaller sections making it easier to chew.

Pro Tip

Cutting chicken breast while it’s frozen is easier and you can get smaller and thinner slices.

How to butterfly a chicken breast ( slice in half horizontally)

Before we talk about cutting chicken breasts for dishes like salads or stir fries,we should probably talk about a technique called butterflying. Butterflying is essentially thinning or flattening a really big chicken breast so that it’s cooks more evenly or when you want to make a chicken cutlet or paillard (a slice of meat that is pounded or sliced thin). Before we start any of these we might have to butterfly the chicken breast which just means cutting it in half horizontally so that it’s thinner.


To butterfly a chicken breast:

  • Place your hand on top of the chicken breast and carefully insert the edge of the knife blade into the long side of the breast closest to your thumb. The blade should be parallel to your hand and should be in the middle of the breast.
  • Working slowly, slice across the chicken breast almost all the way through stopping right before reaching the other side.
  • Carefully wiggle the knife out and open the chicken breast pressing it flat like an opened book.

Cutting Chicken Breast for Different Dishes

Let’s break down how to cut chicken breast for things like stir fry dishes, how to cut chicken tenders and nuggets.

How to cut chicken breast for stir fries

Raw chicken breast on parchment and cutting board being sliced with a knife.
  • Butterfly the breast if needed per above.
  • Using the steps outlined above, slice the chicken across the grain in 1/2″ thick strips.
  • Your chicken is ready for a stir fry.

How to dice chicken breast for salads

Knife slicing chicken breast thin with diced raw chicken on parchment.
  1. Follow the steps 1 & 2 above.
  2. Dice each chicken slice into 3 or 4 1″ pieces (depending on how long the piece is)

TO THIN OUT CHICKEN BREAST

Pound the chicken breast flat between two sheets of parchment paper to thin it out using a tenderizer or the back of a skillet.

-Josie + Nina

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Raw chicken breast on parchment and cutting board being sliced with a knife.
5 from 2 votes

How to Cut Chicken Breast

Everything you need to know about how to cut chicken breast against the grain, for stir fries…even how to cut chicken breast into tenders. After you've made my Foolproof Chicken Breasts or Mom's Chicken Parmesan, learn how to cut chicken for the juiciest and most tender results.
Prep Time:1 minute
Cook Time:5 minutes
Total Time:6 minutes
Servings 1 sliced chicken breast

Equipment

Instructions

  • Identify the grain or muscle fibers in the chicken breast. If you're not sure, line the blade of your knife parallel with the little white "lines" in the breast. These are the muscle fibers or the grain.
    1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Choose a sharp knife like this Wusthof boning knife.
  • Start at one end and slice the chicken against the grain or perpendicular to the muscle fiber "lines".
    For dicing for chicken salad: Cut the slices into smaller pieces from one short edge of a slice of chicken to the other.
  • If preparing for my foolproof chicken breasts, place chicken between a folded piece of parchment paper. Use a meat pounder or tenderizer to even and thin chicken breasts out to the same thickness. Seasons with salt and black pepper before sauteeing.
    sprinkling of kosher salt and ground black pepper

Notes

If the chicken is too thick, you have a couple of options:
  1. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of parchment (or one long piece folded over it).
  2. Using a meat tenderizer or the back of a skillet, firmly rap the chicken breast until it thins out (this is a great stress-reliever!).
Course: Appetizer, Lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: All
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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2 Comments

  1. Hello, I’m confused by this sentence:
    Raw chicken can not be kept in the fridge for more than 1-2 days. Tops. If it’s cut in pieces, it can be kept up to 9 months.
    Do you mean if it’s frozen it can be kept up to 9 months?

    1. Hi Tammy! I’m so sorry for the confusion…yes, that means chicken in pieces (as opposed to a whole chicken) can be frozen up to 9 months. Good catch and I’ve fixed the sentence. Thank you!!