Breaded Italian Chicken Cutlets (pan-fried recipe)

A classic breaded chicken recipe that also happens to be one of the more versatile. Chicken breasts are pounded thin, pan-fried and served super-crispy right out of the pan. Keep this crunchy Italian chicken cutlets recipe in your back pocket to pull out for a quick and easy weeknight meal or leftovers for the lunchbox.

White platter of fried chicken cutlets on arugula
The winning chicken cutlet recipe ready for dinner.

Flashback to that time when my middle daughter proudly proclaimed that her chicken cutlet is legendary in some circles and she doubted mine could be better. As a food blogger and not being one to back down from a challenge —unless involving hot dog eating or swimming — I quote Barney Stinson when I say, “Challenge accepted!”

Allow me to introduce you to the crispiest, juiciest chicken cutlet recipe you’re ever going to make.

I know. Those are lofty claims. But if you follow my seasoned advice for how to make a golden, juicy chicken cutlet, you’ll be rewarded.

And you’ll be able to stand proud, knowing you’re the best chicken cutlet maker in your crowd.

Other breaded chicken recipes like this you’ll ♥️: baked chicken parmesan, parmesan and Dijon breaded chicken…both are so good!

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Qualities of an Italian chicken cutlet

Sliced chicken cutlets on a wooden board ready to eat.

From the first bite, I want you to hear that “cruuuuunch”! Here’s all that makes a chicken cutlet a chicken cutlet:

  • Pounded thin. And I mean thin! This chicken is going to grow! p.s. If you used a regular chicken breast without thinning it out, it likely would burn on the outside and be raw on the inside.
  • Pan-fried. Italian chicken cutlets are typically fried in a skillet or Dutch oven. (But…be on the lookout for new recipes coming soon with baked and air-fried versions!)
  • Well-seasoned breading. We are going to season the cutlet through each step with a mixture of kosher salt, ground black pepper and some big, warm spices to add some oomph.
  • Crispy crispy crispy texture. A three step breading process makes this a really crispy breaded chicken. Think flour>>>egg>>>breadcrumbs.

Equipment you’ll need

A meat mallet with a flat side. You can also use the bottom of a skillet.

Parchment paper. It’s sturdy enough for pounding the chicken flat without tearing or shredding.

A wide skillet with a flat bottom and higher sides. You can use a frying pan but take extra care as there might be some splatter when the chicken goes into the oil.

A reliable oil/candy thermometer. Make sure the thermometer you choose has a clip to attach itself to the sides of the pan. This way you’ll be able to monitor the temperature of the oil and adjust your temperature as needed.

Set of metal tongs. Preferably on the longer side. Avoid tongs that aren’t heat safe up to 425˚.

Cooling rack set over a paper towel lined sheet pan. To use for draining the cooked chicken when it comes out of the pan.

Basic ingredients for Italian chicken cutlets

These are Italian so you can probably guess that I’m using some cheese (✔️) and some garlic (✔️✔️).

Here’s everything else that you’ll need:

Chicken breasts on parchment and ingredients to make breaded chicken cutlets
Good quality chicken breasts are a must when making fried chicken cutlets.

Chicken breasts. I love air-chilled chicken breasts or the ones I can get from my favorite butcher. Buy the best quality your budget can handle.

Also…make as many pieces of chicken as guests you have coming for dinner. When flattened, the chicken gets really BIG so 1 is probably plenty but if you want leftovers, make some more!

Breading

white pie plate with flour and seasoning for breading chicken.
Step 1: Flour
three pie plates with ingredients for breading station for chicken
Step 2: Egg (in middle dish)
yellow quiche dish with parmesan and panko and seasoning for breading chicken
Step 3: Breading blend
  • BASE LAYER. The foundation that allows the breading to stick beautifully to the egg without falling off.
    • Flour. All-purpose works beautifully.
    • Seasoning. Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • WET LAYER
    • Egg. Easy, right?
  • OUTSIDE COATING. The crunch maximizer and the flavor wrap all in one.
    • A blend of fresh grated parmesan cheese and plain panko breadcrumbs.
    • Seasoning blend that includes garlic salt, cayenne pepper and more salt and pepper.

Pro tip

Use pie plates for each layer of the breading station with each step prepped and ready to go for quick and easy execution.

Step by step instructions

Parchment paper over chicken breasts being pounded flat with mallet.
1. Start by pounding chicken thin between two sheets of parchment.
Thickness of chicken pounded flat for cutlets
1a. This is the thickness you’re going for…about 1/4 – 1/8″ thick.
White pie plate with chicken in flour for step 1 of breading process
2. Add the chicken to the flour blend and turn to coat. Make sure it’s well covered!
floured chicken in step 2 of breading process for chicken cutlets.
3. Add the chicken to the egg mixture and turn to make sure egg is all over the chicken.
chicken dipped in egg being dipped in breading for cutlets.
4. Finally, coat the chicken in the breading on both sides. Pat more on as needed.
breaded chicken cutlet on a rack next to breading station.
5. Remove the chicken to a rack and refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow the breading to dry a bit.
Thermometer reaching 350˚ in oil for frying chicken cutlets
6. Bring the oil up to about 350˚ . It will go down once the chicken is added.
Adding breaded chicken to hot oil for chicken cutlets.
7. Use tongs to add the chicken to the hot oil taking care to gently lay it in so you don’t splash the hot oil and burn yourself.
chicken being fried in oil in cast iron skillet.
8. After 2 minutes, flip the chicken to the other side. Repeat this 4 times for a total of 10 minutes.
thermometer set at 166 for cooked chicken.
9. The cutlets are done when the chicken is cooked to 165˚ (or 166˚ 😊).


Recipe testing note

I tried this recipe using a cast iron skillet (shown above). It conducted too much heat making it brown too quickly on the outside. A stainless steel pan is best!

-Josie + Nina

You want to make the best chicken cutlets, right? Follow these tips…

Skip the “thin” cut chicken or tenderloins

While you can use thin chicken breasts for chicken cutlets, there is a chance they could be too thin and you won’t get the same results. I also would advise against using tenderloins. They won’t be cutlets. They’ll just be chicken tenders.

Which of course there’s nothing wrong with that but the cooking time will definitely have to be adjusted.

And they won’t be chicken cutlets. 😉

Let the chicken chill

Don’t skip the step of letting the breaded chicken chill, uncovered, in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before frying. This dries out the chicken and makes for an even crispier crust!

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White platter of fried chicken cutlets on arugula
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Crispy Italian Chicken Cutlets

A classic breaded chicken recipe that also happens to be one of the more versatile. Chicken breasts are pounded thin, pan-fried and served super-crispy right out of the pan. Keep this crunchy Italian chicken cutlets recipe in your back pocket to pull out for a quick and easy weeknight meal or leftovers for the lunchbox.
Prep Time:15 minutes
Cook Time:25 minutes
Total Time:40 minutes
Servings 4

Ingredients
 

  • 4 chicken breasts, air-chilled chicken is what I use. Do not use tenders, tenderloins or thin cut breasts.

Breadcrumb Layer

Egg

Flour Layer

To fry

Instructions

  • Pat the chicken dry.
    Use a flat meat mallet or tenderizer and flatten the chicken thin between two sheets of parchment. You’re looking for the chicken to be about 1/4 – 1/8″ thick.
  • Make your breading station by gathering three pie plates or wide plates/bowls with edges or sides.
    In the first dish , mix the flour with the salt and pepper.
  • Crack and whip the egg in the 2nd dish.
  • Blend the breadcrumbs, cheese, both salts, cayenne and pepper in the 3rd dish
  • Add the chicken to the flour blend and turn to coat. Be sure to coat all sides of the chicken – don't miss any nooks and crannies!
  • Lay the chicken in the beaten egg and use a fork to turn and make sure egg is all over the chicken.
  • Finally, place the chicken in the breading and firmly pat to bread the chicken. Turn and repeat on the other side. Pat more on as needed.
  • Remove the chicken to a rack and refrigerate uncovered for at least 30 minutes to allow the breading to dry a bit. (You can do this the morning of the day you plan to serve it).
  • To a large wide stainless steel fry pan with higher sides, pour in the oil to halfway up the sides of the pan.
    Heat the oil up to about 350˚ . The temperature will drop a bit once the chicken is added so watch your heat and adjust as needed to maintain 350˚.
  • Use tongs to add the chicken to the hot oil, taking care to gently lay it in so you don’t splash the hot oil and burn yourself.
  • After 2 minutes, flip the chicken to the other side. Repeat this 4 times for a total of 10 minutes.
  • The cutlets are done when the chicken is golden brown and reaches a temperature of 166˚ when the thermometer is inserted in the middle or thickest part of the chicken breast.
    Remove to the rack and salt as needed. Serve immediately. Also great chilled!

Notes

  • I have found that a stainless steel skillet works best for chicken cutlets.
  • Don’t skip the refrigeration step for best results!!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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