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How to Flatten a Chicken Breast

Audrey is a cook who loves creating new flavors by tweaking recipes to include healthier ingredients.

Here's the cleanest way to flatten a chicken breast.

Here's the cleanest way to flatten a chicken breast.

Pounded Chicken Breast With Less Stress and Less Mess

Many recipes call for pounded or flattened chicken breasts. The main reason for this is that you want your breasts to be of an even thickness.

There is one side that is always thicker than the other. Especially in recipes that call for chicken breast to be rolled around something, you want it to be thin, but you also want it to be symmetrical in thickness.

The only way to achieve that is to pound it out flatter than it starts out.

The techniques shown here are used on only boneless, skinless breasts. If you were using bone-in ones, you would need to remove the bones and the skin.

Many people also butterfly out the thicker part of the chicken breast and then pound it out. That is an excellent way as well and requires less pounding.

I developed my own little "non-messy" technique for pounding out the chicken breasts, as illustrated in the video and as noted in my instructions below because I didn't like cleaning up the mess it made of my cutting boards. I also worry about possible contamination by things like Salmonella.

What You Need to Pound Chicken

  • Meat mallet or pounder—any kind will do
  • Or use a heavy skillet
  • Or use a rolling pin
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts for your recipe of choice washed and patted dry
  • Remove as much fat as possible, but I remove more after I pound it out
  • If bone-in, remove bones and skins before pounding out
  • Large Ziploc freezer bag
  • Plastic cutting board
  • Kitchen shears (for trimming fat or cutting breasts into smaller pieces)

Some people use two pieces of plastic wrap, wetting the wrap slightly to help the chicken breast flatten more easily.

That also works, but it is messier. I started using the Ziploc bag because the chicken "mess" stays in the bag, and all I have to do is remove the breast with a fork to a plate and throw the bag away.

Note that I still send the cutting board through the dishwasher "just in case" any chicken bacteria got on the board, and I also send any utensils I've used through the dishwasher as well.

As a final precaution, I also scrub the sink. With chicken bacteria, you can't be too careful!

Watch out for chicken bacteria.

Watch out for chicken bacteria.

Technique for Pounding Chicken Breasts

  1. Make sure the breasts are free of as much fat as you can trim off.
  2. Make sure they are relatively dry.
  3. Place in Ziploc freezer bag—no need to close the bag.
  4. Place on the cutting board and begin pounding from the center outward.
  5. Most people pound on the "uglier" side, i.e., not the top, but if you use the Ziploc bag, it doesn't seem to mar the surface of the chicken breast as much as traditionally pounding it out.
  6. Some people use the jagged edge of the meat mallet first, then switch to the flat side later on. I use pretty much the smooth side all the time.
  7. Pound from the center out to the edge of the breast, as the center or high part is where the biggest part of the muscle is.
  8. Don't pound too hard, as it can toughen the chicken. Just be patient and work from the middle to the outside edge until you have pounded the breast to an even thickness.
  9. Cut in serving portions and remove any excess fat with kitchen shears. Transfer to a plate.
  10. If you don't have a meat mallet (which happened to me once on vacation), use a heavy skillet to pound the chicken breast in exactly the same way.
  11. Or use a rolling pin, rolling from the center to the outside edges again, evening out the breast muscle, so it is of uniform thickness.
  12. If a recipe calls for "paper thin," it will take you a while, so be patient. Practice makes perfect.

I made the video below demonstrating how I use the Ziploc bag to pound out the chicken breast. Easy cleanup!

Use a Meat Mallet to Flatten Chicken Breasts

© 2012 Audrey Kirchner