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Be a Better Cook

Mix and Match Your Favorite Ingredients to Make These Quick-and-Crispy Cutlets

Quick-cooking cutlets allow you to stretch and wrap lean cuts of meat with succulent flavors and crunchy textures, totally customizable to your tastes.

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There are several ways to prepare cutlets, but perhaps the most flavorful and popular way is in the traditional style of Milan, Italy. This technique includes pounding pieces of meat to an even thickness and then dredging them in a series of coatings: usually flour, egg and bread crumbs.

Each coating has a necessary purpose and provides an opportunity to build your own combination of flavors. The flour layer creates a dry surface on the meat that the wet layer can cling to. It’s also the layer that is most suitable for dry seasonings, spices and dried herbs that could be used to for unique flavor. The egg layer creates a wet “glue” to hold the outer crumb layer. Plain egg or beaten egg white is the most common ingredient in this wet layer, but low-fat milk or buttermilk could be used instead. If desired, season the wet layer with a little mustard, salad dressing or pesto.

Finally, the purpose of the outer layer is to provide a flavorful coating that crisps when cooked to complement the tenderness of the meat. Bread crumbs are the usual ingredient in this layer, but ground nuts, crushed dry cereals and panko are also commonly used. If desired, season this layer with fresh herbs, citrus zest, or minced garlic.

In addition to the seemingly endless flavor possibilities, cutlets have other benefits. The even thickness of meat makes it possible to fully cook cutlets in a mere five minutes or so. Another plus: The pounded meat gives you a larger portion (and more bites) out of a healthful amount of two to three ounces of meat, which may otherwise seem small. Traditional cutlets are pan fried, which can add a lot of fat, but sautéing cutlets in a little olive oil creates a nicely crisp crust.

Crunchy, flavorful, quick-cooking cutlets that are lower in fat? Sounds like another deliciously clean dinner!

What You’ll Need

Plastic wrap
Meat mallet
Shallow dishes or plates
Large nonstick skillet
Paper towels


Step 1

Slice lean, tender meat or poultry, such as pork tenderloin or boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, into 2- to 3-oz pieces. Place a 12-inch long piece of plastic wrap on a cutting board or hard surface. Center one piece of meat on the plastic wrap. Sprinkle a few drops of water over and around meat.

panko cutlets

Step 2

Cover the meat with another sheet of plastic wrap. The water helps to prevent the meat from sticking and tearing, and plastic wrap prevents the meat from spattering as it’s pounded. Using the flat end of a meat mallet and working from the inside out, pound the meat with gentle but firm taps until it’s flattened to ¼- to ½-inch thickness. Remove plastic wrap.

panko cutlets

Step 3

Dredge the pounded cutlet first in whole-wheat flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip the cutlet in a mixture of egg and water. Finally, dredge the cutlet in a dry coating, such as whole-wheat bread crumbs or panko. Place the cutlet on a plate and repeat with remaining cutlets.

Step 4

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. When oil is hot, add the coated cutlets, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook cutlets in batches, if needed, adding and heating more oil for each batch. Cook cutlets 2 to 3 minutes per side, turning once.

panko cutlets

Step 5

Transfer cutlets to a paper towel–lined plate to soak up any excess oil, and keep warm while you cook the remaining cutlets.

panko cutlets

Step 6

Grab a fork, it’s time to enjoy!

panko cutlets

Get the full recipe here


Follow these Better Cook tips for perfect cutlets, every time.

The First Rule of Cutlets: 

Never crowd the pan. Choose a skillet large enough to allow the cutlets to cook in an even layer or cook cutlets in batches.

The Second Rule of Cutlets: 

Make sure the pan and oil are hot before adding the cutlets. Hot oil in a hot pan allows the outer surface to crisp on contact rather than soak up the oil. 

The Third Rule of Cutlets:

When making cutlets, gentle taps with a heavy mallet are enough to pound tender meat or poultry to an even thickness. Heavy pounding is usually unnecessary and may tear the meat. 

The Fourth Rule of Cutlets:

You can use another heavy object, such as a rolling pin instead of a mallet. Very tender meats, such as pork tenderloin, sometimes can be pressed flat with the palm of your hand.

For more Better Cook inspiration, check these out:

A high-protein, plant-based curry

Pillowy sweet potato gnocchi

Shuck your own oysters at home!