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Is there a standard method for pounding chicken breasts flat?

  • t

It's all pretty much in the subject line. Every time I try to pound a breast, it pretty much turns into a splayed, shredded, uneven lump of raw meat-things. Had better luck when halving the breast before pounding, but even then... Would like to know if there's a standard way to get even, flat, discs of breast. Thanks.

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  1. I always put mine between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound evenly with a rolling pin, turning the paper as I go for to keep it even. My mom uses wax paper.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Novice Cook

      I've only ever pounded chicken for marsala (and only when I'm having someone over who refuses veal) and I usually use thin sliced cutlets. But if I were using breasts I'd cut them in half horizontally (to make them thinner to start with). Then sandwich them between plastic wrap like Novice Cook does. I like to use my heaviest wooden spoon and basically spank the meat until it's flat enough. Since it's a pretty gentle method, I've never had my meat break or shred or lump. It probably takes longer than using a meat pounder tool, though.

    2. I prefer not to use one of those expensive pounders and instead use the bottom of a small to medium pot with plastic wrap to protect the flesh. Hit the whole piece at one time, not side to side, etc.

      1. Whether you sandwich it in plastic wrap, wax paper, or pound it alone on a board, the trick is to be gentle. Yes, you'll have to pound for a little longer, but you won't shred the breast to little pieces.
        I use a very heavy round metal pounder, so that I don't have to put a lot of force into it, thus tearing the chicken. If you don't have a heavy pounder, just use a heavy rolling pin or cast iron skillet. Just raise it above the breast and let it fall...as you get more comfortable, you'll figure out how much force you can add without shredding.

        1. For what it's worth, I'd read somewhere that unlike other (basically mammal) meat, poultry stays more tender when sliced to the desired thickness rather than pounded. I don't know why it works, but I tried it and found it does stay moister than when I used to pound it.

          2 Replies
          1. re: MikeG

            It's also a lot faster!

            1. re: MikeG

              I've tried pounding and I've tried slicing. For me, the sliced chicken breast is juicy with an appealing texture whereas for me, pounding makes the meat more like shoe leather.

          2. I use an empty beer bottle.

            1. There is nothing more frustrating, exhausting and disheartening to me as pounding chicken breasts for stuffing...I've used my cast iron skillet, wine bottles and my beautiful heavy rolling pin. No matter what, I end up with a hole somewhere. My technique is wrong I suspect but I've watched so many t.v. chefs do it in various ways that I thought by now I'd get it right--NOT! So, anymore, I just cut a pocket horizontally in the breast, stuff and secure with toothpicks. I realize that the end product may not look as pretty as it should for some recipes but it gets the job done pretty nicely. I should try a thinly sliced breast sometime as others have offered. Maybe I'm using too much force but I think if I just let the cast iron pan rise and then fall, I'd be there for HOURS. It's the one cooking prep task that I've no patience for, I guess, but I've tried more than 5 times.

              1. I use a heavy wooden barrel shaped pounder that has metal grids on the ends. However, I don't use the ends, which do tend to tear the flesh. I turn it sideways and use the wooden side of the mallet head. You also get a larger surface. If you lack a large heavy mallet, try the pan method, or a beer or wine bottle. Most of the small mallets just don't have the weight to do the job.

                Sandwich the breast half between between large sheets of wax papaer or plastic wrap. Start with the thickest meatiest part of the breast and whack it straight down, rapidly moving your strokes out to the edge of the meat. You are trying to make the meat evenly thick. Don't worry about making the breast a certain size.

                You'll soon have it down, and will be achieving a nice flat filet to work with....

                1. I lean towards the plastic wrap and wine bottle method myself and have reasonable results. It helps to add a few drops of water on the meat before pounding, makes them slide better and tear less. The wine bottle's rounded surface is easier on the meat also.

                  1. I keep an extra large zip lock type bag, maybe 2 gallon sized, and cut the side seams open. I also suspect that Aaron and I have similar meat pounders, mine is Italian called batta carne. It is circular and flat with a handle in the middle opposite the pounding side. If you need a photo I can post one. Anyway the plastic bag holds up to many poundings and flatteninggs and washes easily since when I put the meat, chicken or pork between the two sheets of plastic and zip it closed it opens to a flat sheet and washes easily for re-use (am I making sense here? It seems easier to demonstrate than explain. I open a new one up anbout once a year. The heavier weight of the plastic helps to protect the meat from tearing and makes it very easy to flip it over if necessary.

                    Don't know what else to do with the big bags? I pack my clothes in them when traveling. With soft sided luggage I find my things are vulnerable to spills from other luggage. I returned from Grenada (island not Spain) and opened my luggage to find that someone's soft luggage had leaked some really nasty smelling oily
                    vitamins into my softsided luggage. I had a real b***h of a time gettng that and the smell out of my clothes. I don't fly anywhere anymore without first packing in the plastic bags. It also makes it easy to find stuff. Hoisery in one bag, underwear in another etc. and I pack extras for bringing things home that might be vulnerable to the bagge smashers handling or other spills and leakage.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Candy

                      Yep...that's the pounder...good description. I love mine.

                    2. I have found other tasks in the kitchen more daunting so maybe i've been lucky. I bought a cheap heavy cleaver in Chinatown years ago that has served no other purpose but chicken pounding. I place the breast smooth side down between two pieces of plastic wrap (I found wax paper ripped to easy and Glad bags more expensive). A couple to three good whacks and I find the right thickness. I may find a ABC gum size morsel on the cutting board after, but the results always get raves for tenderness from guests.

                      1. Put away the pounder. Place the breast on a work surface and take a sharp thin knife and holding the breast with the palm of your hand, slice beginning at the thick side, until you are almost completely through. Flip back the top part. You have just butterflied the breast. The slicing cuts the connective tissue and stops shrinkage when you cook the breast.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: genepark

                          Exactly the prep we used in my former Korean restaurant. Use it for boneless thigh meat also.
                          Don't pound.

                        2. I don't pound a chicken breast unless I want something like McDonald's chicken nuggets. Cut off the thumb of the breat (the tenderloin). Then,depending on the thickness of the breast, slice it horizontally into two or three cutlets. Like me, you may make a mess of it when you first try it. Make sure your knife is sharp and take your time. It is worth the effort. [Marcella Hazan gives good directions in her classical Italian book.]

                          1. I flatten it out best with my hand cut the tenderloin off. I use either plastic wrap, or sheets of paper that are in box. I have a heavy round meat pounder that has the weight on nice big round circle of stainless, and the handle project up from its center giving me a better grip and control of where its landing. After using several different meat pounders where the weight isn't balanced and tearing the meat, I really prefer this type.

                            Then butterfly the the breast, I pound the cut side. Seems to flatten faster than on the side where the skins been removed. Only a couple of pounds, the paper holds up nicely, and I have flattened chicken breasts. I had not thought of cutting a plastic bag that's reusable, I'm stealing that idea!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: chef chicklet

                              I use a cast iron skillet with a larger surface than the piece I am pounding. To me, using a rolling pin or other rounded object is asking for trouble, although I'm very interested to read that it works for others. Place between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. Cooks Illustrated in their usual fashion pounded 887 chicken breasts and concluded that you should do it smooth side up (ie, skinned side up) and I have always done it that way since reading that and I think it does work better.

                              1. re: GretchenS

                                The paper has a very light sheen on one side, waxed/ and the other side dull, not waxed. The wax is so light not at all like waxed paper we get on the roll. I buy this at Smart and Final.

                                I can't argue with CI if that's the way they say to do it, by all means. I just find it tougher and requires more pounding. Could be that I don't have enough oomph.

                                887 breasts? Wonder what they did with all that chicken breast, that's quite a bit of chicken.

                            2. I usually want relatively thin cutlets. I cut them in half lengthwise first then pound them between plastic.

                              1. If I'm going to pound something (not always chicken breasts), I have a rubber mallet from hardware store. I recently pounded a piece of veal shoulder from about 2" to 1/2" using that. And it took for bloody ever but worked great. And, yes to between sheets of plastic wrap or waxed paper.

                                1. I would love to make a dish with the beautiful pork loin cuts I have. I was first thinking along the lines of Pork Milanese. I don't want a cream sauce, more like chicken picatta.
                                  OR another idea I am tossing around is schnitzel. I don't really want to do the egg was, bread crumb drop though. I didn't reazlie most recipes for schnitzel serve a creamy dill sauce with it. I want a lemon sauce or lemon and caper sauce.
                                  Artichokes with a garlic and red pepper aioli

                                  This seems to me will be just fine. I am serving a mixed berry bowl with Grand Marnier and whipped cream. ( My favorite dessert ever!)