Perfect Cutlets

While most cutlet recipe’s are pretty simple, the key to success begins with the cutlet itself. It can’t be too thin or too thick,nor can it be cut just any way. For the best cutlets, they have to be cut correctly and then pounded to the right thickness.

If the cutlet is too thin, the meat can dry out by the time the outside is browned to a presentable finish. On the other hand, if the meat is too thick the exterior could over brown and even burn by the time the meat finishes cooking.

Besides the right thickness, most cutlets should be cut against the grain. Short muscle fibers are more tender and less likely to constrict and buckle when cooked over high heat.

Many cutlet recipes direct you to simply slice the meat to the desired thickness and pounding is not necessary. Perhaps that may be true, but I like to use a mallet to pound the cutlets to an even 1/4" thickness.

In most cases not all of us can always cut an even slice. It may be thick at the top and taper off at the bottom. That unevenness is especially noticeable on a chicken breast that tapers naturally.

Pounding can take care of the unevenness on most meats. And while these cuts of meats are naturally tender, flattening breaks down the tougher connective tissues to make the cutlet more even and tender.

Slice your own cutlets since you don’t know the cut or quality of pre-packaged ones.

PORK: Use loin. Trim it well and slice across the grain. Each slice should be about 1/2" thick before pounding.

CHICKEN: While some cooks cut breast in layers for cutlets, it is almost impossible to do to a consistency thickness. cut in half and pound gently.

TURKEY: I use tenderloin that I’ve sliced on the bias for nice large cutlets. Again, keep them in that 1/2" thickness range.

COVERING: Before flattening the cutlets, cover them with plastic wrap for better shaping and cleanup.

PLASTIC WRAP: Use a plastic wrap that is as thick as possible to prevent tearing. Regular wrap is o.k. but it will tear after two or three cutlets.

SHAPING: As the mallet hits the meat, the pressure is slightly displaced and less traumatic, preserving the cutlets smooth appearance.

POUNDING: There is an art to pounding out a cutlet. It’s not just whaling at a piece of meat. The secret is gentle, glancing taps. After covering, gently pound the meat with the flat side of your meat mallet (there is no point in using the waffled tenderizing end). Strike the meat with glancing movements until the cutlet is about 1/4" thick. This motion will preserves the meat’s smooth appearance and when cooked, the 1/4" thick cutlet will be golden brown on the outside and remain moist on the inside.