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Dumb question, sorry

I want to flatten chicken breasts, to make them thinner and more cutlet-like. For this purpose, I just bought a "meat tenderizer" (that two-headed hammer gadget).One side of the "pounder" is smooth, and the other side is gridded. Which side do I use to flatten the chicken breasts, and what is the purpose of the other side?
Thanks so much.

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  1. I believe you use the flat side if you're merely flattening the chicken. I like to put the chicken in a packet of saran wrap before pounding it. The gridded side is for tenderizing meat, which makes it softer and breaks down the skin of the meat a little. That allows for any marinade to soak up more thoroughly.

    3 Replies
    1. re: geekyfoodie

      Yes, that's correct. Flat side for poultry. Always season the meat *after* it's been pounded.

      BYW: No question is dumb if you need the answer.

      1. re: geekyfoodie

        Instead of wrapping in saran wrap before pounding, put it in a clean, empty liner bag from a box of cereal. Much tougher than saran wrap and won't rip to shreds. And it comes free with your box of cereal!

        1. re: AmyH

          Awesome! I'm going to have to try that next time.

      2. I would use the smooth side for chicken breast and the "tooth" side for tougher cuts of meat. Actually that is exactly what i do with mine.

        1. I use a rolling pin for this purpose, so I'd use the flat side. My guess is that you'd use the "rough" side to mess up a tough piece of beef to make it "tenderer", but that's just a guess.

          1. That griddled, textured side has two purposes: First, it is used on tough beef to create a texture similar to cube steak or chicken-fried steak, tearing up some of the fibers. Second, it is included to justify the greatly increased price for the tenderizing hammer rather than just using a rolling pin, as mentioned above, or even an empty wine bottle.

            3 Replies
            1. re: nosh

              That wouldn't have justified it to my mom, who tenderized the tough round steak we got with the edge of a dime-store dinner plate.

              1. re: Will Owen

                Will, my mother always used the mouth of a Coke bottle to tenderize her cheap cuts of beef steak. Works great, and unlike a plate, doesn't cut through the meat easily the way the side of a plate can. She would season and flour the meat first, then pound it. She used it for chicken fried steak, swiss steak... Well, she had dozens of recipes for "tenderized beef steak" that kept my father from guessing she was cooking on the cheap.

                There is a large, flat heavyweight tool for flattening veal or chicken or pork or whatever available in four to six inches in diameter. Not only flattens meats or poultry, it also gives you at least one great bicep! Works great.

                The problem with a rolling pin or wine bottle is that, like the side of a plate, you can go through the chicken breast or whatever you're working on. Been there, done that, ticked me off! Two piece schnitzel is not my thing.

              2. re: nosh

                ...or a rubber mallet. That's what I generally use, my husband's rubber mallet. I put my chicken between two pieces of waxed paper, usually.

              3. If you have a good sharp knife, you may find it easier to cut horizontal cutlets than to pound the single breast into a thinner version of itself. I can get several out of a single breast and have gotten as many as five or six from those huge Mutant Boneless Breasts that the stores sometimes have. I often cut them as thin as 1/4 inch but I usually do them a bit thicker.
                I freeze them separately on a cookie sheet, keep them in a ziplock, and defrost as many as I need. They thaw in minutes and cook very quickly. Great for sandwiches, salads or any recipe.

                7 Replies
                1. re: MakingSense

                  Where do they find MBBs? I bought 2 at Luckys that weighted over 2 pounds. Not
                  some chicken I want to run into in a dark alley.

                  1. re: wolfe

                    That's why I started slicing them into cutlets. The man at the poultry market told me that's what they do for turkey and chicken cutlets that cost so darned much when they package them in the supermarket.
                    The breeds of chickens that are raised for market these days are just big. They really aren't mutants. They're special breeds that grow to that size normally.

                  2. re: MakingSense

                    Do you always use them just as they are cut? Have you thought to flatten them a little more and fill them and roll them up and stab them with a tooth pick before cooking? Just musing.

                    1. re: yayadave

                      They work great for filling, actually better than if you pound meat out. You can cut them very thin and overlap edges making a much larger "sheet." Spread a filling very thin and roll it up like a pinwheel or jellyroll, using saran or cheesecloth. Poach. Because the meat is very thin, there's less chance of overcooking. They look pretty sliced on the bias.

                    2. re: MakingSense

                      MS, if you "par-freeze" the chicken breasts before slicing, you get really uniform slices. Or maybe that's what you do and left that part out? I even par-freeze when I'm "slivering" a chicken breast for Chinese whatever. Makes it soooooooo much easier!

                      1. re: Caroline1

                        I do partially freeze them when they have to be pretty. Most of the time, it's not that important. I just want them in the house for quick meals. I've been doing this for so long that it's second nature. Just refused to buy cold cuts when my kids carried lunches to school. In addition to all the chemicals, they're so much more expensive than freshly cooked chicken or roast, which taste better anyway.
                        This is one of those times that a good quality sharp knife is very important. The value of that can never be overestimated. If nothing else, buy a good knife and keep it sharp.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Agree with the knife thing... My favorite knife is a 47 year old 10" Sabatier chef's knife that gets steeled every time I take it out of the knife block!

                    3. The flat side "flattens"... the gridded side tenderizes.

                      You don't want to tear the meat. Use the flat side. Oh, and also put your chicken breasts in between two pieces of plastic wrap. Then use your gadget like a stamp. Straight down and then kind of push off to the side.

                      1. WOW!!! You people are fabulous. That is why I LOVE Chowhound.
                        Thank you all for the responses and hints. I never thought of using a rolling pin (which, of course, I have), I like the cereal wrap idea(have to start saving those liners from my Kashi cereal), and I can see that cutting the breasts into 1/4 inch slices would work as well. What a wealth of info, you CH'ers are.
                        Thanks again.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: bxgirl

                          If you have a small heavy fry pan, it works even better than the gizmo you bought.
                          I like a large flat surface, followed by heavy weight. That will flaten the meat out in a couple of whacks. And if they are mutant size, yes slice them in thirds, horizontally. Then wrap them between plastic wrap, a bread wrapper or wax paper.
                          I think chick cutlets taste so much better done this way. You can make superb:
                          Chicken Picatta
                          Chicken Marsela
                          Chicken Cutlets with Olive Sauce
                          Chicken Cordon Bleu
                          Chicken Parmesean Cutlets
                          Any cutlet that is breaded and then rolled with a sauce...have fun!
                          oh and pork is really good this way too!

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I agree on the "large flat surface", chef cutlet. I'm fortunate to have a concrete landing with steps, just outside the kitchen door, where the concrete can absorb full force, mitigated by a section of the newspaper.

                            For the "plastic", bxgirl nailed it: cereal box liners always have a place in my "re-useable plastics" box, dedicated for thin cutlets or chicken fried steak.

                            The favored tool is the 3 quart heavy Calphalon saucepot, for its heft, diameter, and the rounded edge for focused attack if necessary... a wee bit more controllable than the iron frypan.

                          2. re: bxgirl

                            Since you have the rolling pin, the cereal wrap, and the Kashi, you might think about putting them all together to make Kashi "breading" for your thin chicken slices.

                          3. For better control and convenience use your fist.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Sam, do you do that karate thing where you break boards with your bare hands? '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                Ha! Jamie Oliver once explained, "I just use me fist...got one at the end of each of me arms!".