With a little know-how, you can turn simple chicken breasts into something extraordinary. Stripped, stuffed, flattened, shredded, diced, ground or even butterflied – any good chicken dish starts with the correct technique. Cutting chicken breast into strips is one of the most common preparations, and doing it correctly can make or break your next recipe. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you learn how to cut chicken breasts into strips to maximize texture and flavor.
When Chicken Breast Is Best
Some people think chicken breasts are dry and lack flavor compared to thighs and darker meat. Model and celebrity cookbook author Chrissy Teigen weighed in about her preference for chicken thighs on Twitter, sparking a fierce battle between the chicken breast versus chicken thigh camps.
“Chicken breast is extremely popular for being literally the worst part of a chicken,” she wrote, arguing that thighs are more flavorful and moister. Plenty of folks disagree and remain die-hard breast fans. She responded that because of all the breast fanatics, she was going to develop a chicken teriyaki recipe for her next cookbook using chicken breasts, according to the “Today” show. She later reversed that decision, going back to thighs, explaining, “I cannot give you food at 50 percent.”
But, for plenty of people, breast remains best. And when a recipe calls for strips, the chicken breast is superior for slicing. Here’s how to do it like a pro.
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Cutting Raw Chicken Breasts Into Strips
Always follow general guidelines for handling raw chicken, including using a separate cutting board for chicken and avoiding cross-contamination with other foods.
Also, use a sharp knife, so you’ll have cleaner strips and safer fingers.
If your local butcher or supermarket meat department sells untrimmed, whole skinless chicken breasts, start there. Otherwise, skip to Step 3.
- Cut along either side of the cartilage, creating individual breasts.
- Flip over the breast and remove the cutlet on each side.
- Pound the breasts so they are an even width throughout.
- Lastly, cut even strips either on a diagonal or straight across.
Once the raw chicken breast and chicken cutlets are sliced evenly, you can use them for all sorts of recipes, including to make fried chicken strips, fajitas, stir-fries and more.
Other recipes call for cooking the chicken breast before slicing it into strips. David Tanis recently reported in the New York Times how to achieve the juiciest, most succulent, chicken possible. He suggests pounding out the meat to an even thickness and not overcooking the chicken breasts, which can leave the meat dry.
Cutting Cooked Chicken Breast Into Strips
Once your chicken breasts are perfectly cooked and rested, they’re ready for slicing.
Once again, start with a nice, sharp knife. Then comes the big question: with the grain or against? The answer is that it depends on the kind of slice you want. Cutting with the grain will help the chicken shred. But if it’s nice, even chicken breast slices you’re after, go against.
- Place rested, cooked chicken breast on a clean cutting board.
- Cut strips against the grain.
Use cooked, sliced chicken breast to top salads, in chicken salad recipes, or to add quick protein to grain bowls. It can be made ahead for a week’s worth of dinners.
Using chicken breasts, despite the occasional social media controversy, is one of the most flexible and easy ways to add nutrition without a lot of fuss, fat or calories. With a little practice, you can take your chicken breast slicing skills to the next level and help make every meal a little more delicious, from quesadillas to couscous. And when you’ve got it mastered, don’t forget to tweet Chrissy and brag about your delicious results.
Becky Bracken is a lifestyle, parenting and real estate journalist who has written for outlets including Realtor, Babble, SheKnows, CafeMom, Complex and more.