By deep-frying chicken cutlet, you can perfect the consistency of golden brown crumbs around the chicken. This is how Japanese people make Chicken Cutlet that is deliciously crispy.
Chicken Cutlet is called ‘chikin katsu‘ (チキンカツ) in Japanese. The word ‘katsu’ (カツ) is a short form of ‘katsuretsu’ (カツレツ) which came from the English word ‘cutlet’. As you can easily guess, ‘chikin‘ (チキン) is chicken.
The major differences between chikin katsu and the Western-style chicken cutlet (chicken schnitzel) are that you don’t tenderise the chicken piece by pounding and flattening; use panko breadcrumbs and you deep-fry instead of shallow-fry.
I love cutlet in any form with any kind of meat or seafood, particularly when coarse Japanese panko breadcrumbs are used. I like the sound when I bite into a cutlet coated in crunchy breadcrumbs.
How to Make Chicken Cutlet (Japanese Chicken Schnitzel)
I use chicken thigh fillet as it is juicier than breast fillet when cooked but you can use chicken breast if you like. The method of making Chicken Cutlet is almost the same as Tonkatsu, except for the preparation of the meat.
- Even out the thickness of the fillet by butterflying the fillet.
- Season the fillet with salt and pepper.
- Coat in flour, drench in egg, then coat in panko breadcrumbs.
- Deep-fry at 170-180°C/338-356°F until golden.
Thigh fillet is often uneven in thickness. The centre of the fillet is usually the thinnest and both sides of it can be much thicker.
If you fry the thigh fillet in this state, you will end up with the over-cooked meat in the centre and the under-cooked meat in the thicker parts of the chicken. To cook the thickest part through, you will need to fry it for longer, and then you end up with burnt breadcrumbs.
Butterflying Chicken Fillet
To make the thickness of the thigh fillet even, you need to butterfly it.
- Place the fillet on the cutting board, lengthwise. Position a sharp knife in the centre of the thigh fillet where the thickness starts.
- Slice horizontally into the chicken outward, dividing it half. Stop about 1-1.5cm / ½” from the opposite side.
- Open up the chicken outward by flipping the flesh above the knife.
- Do the same for the thick part of the meat on the other side.
This technique can also be used to make a breast fillet thinner. Breast fillet is just a thick block of meat, so you can slice the meat lengthwise to halve the thickness in the same way and open up the chicken so it resembles butterfly wings.
Deep-fry, Not Shallow-fry
Just like Tonkatsu, Chicken Cutlet is deep-fried. Deep-frying uses up more oil than shallow-frying, but I think that in the case of chikin katsu, and Tonkatsu for that matter, it is better to deep-fry.
In the case of the Western-style schnitzel, as you can see in the RecipeTin Eats post Schnitzel, the meat is pounded until it’s thin. Even if the meat is coated in breadcrumbs, it is much thinner than my crumbed chicken fillet. For those thin fillets, shallow-frying is perfect.
But my crumbed chicken can be a couple of centimetres / ¾” thick. You will need much deeper oil to nicely brown the breadcrumbs. The ideal amount of oil is 3-3.5cm / 1¼-1⅜” deep regardless of the size of the pan/pot you use. The idea is that the crumbed chicken fillet submerges in the oil, allowing for the consistent browning of the crumbs.
If you are concerned about using up a lot of oil, my suggestion would be to use a small pan and deep-fry the chicken pieces one by one.
Chicken Cutlet is often served with shredded cabbage and accompanied by tonkatsu sauce (fruity thick sauce), such as the Bulldog tonkatsu sauce that I talked about in my post Yakisoba. As a main meal, Chicken Cutlet is eaten exactly in the same way as Tonkatsu.
But in my recipe Katsu Curry, I placed the Chicken Cutlet on rice, and poured over Japanese curry. Who would have thought of mixing a cutlet with Japanese curry? But it’s delicious!
This is how Japanese people make Chicken Cutlet that is deliciously crispy. By deep-frying the cutlet, you can perfect the consistency of golden brown crumbs around the chicken. Pour over fruity tonkatsu sauce to eat it.
Cook Time assumes chicken is cooked in two batches.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 4 x 150g / 5.3oz chicken thigh fillets (note 1)
- Salt and pepper
- 30g / 1.1oz flour
- 1 egg beaten
- 1 cup panko breadcrumbs (note 2)
- Oil to deep fry (note 3)
- Shredded Cabbage mixed with julienned carrot and cucumber
- Tonkatsu sauce (note 5)
If the thickness of the thigh fillet is not even, cut into the thick part of the meat horizontally without cutting all the way through, then open it so that the fillet’s thickness becomes consistent (see the ste-by-step photo in the post).
Season the chicken all over with salt and pepper.
Place flour, egg and breadcrumbs in a shallow plate or bowl individually and line them up in this order. Place an additional clean plate or a small baking tray next to the breadcrumbs.
Working one fillet at a time, coat a fillet with flour, shake off excess flour, then place it in the egg and coat all over. Allow excess egg to drip, then transfer to the breadcrumbs.
Cover the entire fillet with breadcrumbs, making sure that a good layer of breadcrumbs is stuck on both sides. Repeat for the rest of the fillets.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan to 170-180°C / 338-356°F (note 6). The amount of oil should be about 3-3.5cm / 1¼-1⅜” deep.
Gently place a fillet into the oil. Depending on the size of the pan, you may fry more than one at a time. But do not over crowd.
Fry for about 3-4 minutes or until the bottom side is browned. Using tongs, flip the fillet and cook for further 3-4 minutes until the other side is browned.
Transfer the cutlet onto a tray lined with a couple of layers of paper towel to drain excess oil. Rest for 5 minutes.
Cut each chicken cutlet into 2.5cm / 1” wide strips. Serve with shredded cabbage.
1. I used chicken thigh fillets, but you can use breast fillets if you like.
2. The quantity of breadcrumbs required is approximate as it varies depending on how much you coat the fillets.
You can use normal breadcrumbs, but Japanese panko breadcrumbs are much more coarse than standard breadcrumbs, developing a crunchier texture when cooked.
If you can’t find panko breadcrumbs, you can make them by placing stale white bread in the blender and coarsely grinding it.
3. Vegetable oil, canola oil or sunflower oil is good to use. Olive oil does not work with this dish.
4. Shredded lettuce and salad leaves are also good to go with Chicken Cutlet.
5. I use Bulldog tonkatsu sauce that I buy from Japanese or Asian grocery stores. You may find it even at supermarkets. Bulldog is the brand name of the sauce company. You can find more details of Bulldog sauces in my post Yakisoba.
6. To check the right temperature of the oil without using a thermometer:
a. Drop a small number of breadcrumbs into the oil. The breadcrumbs will spread with tiny bubbles around them.
b. Stick a pair of bamboo chopsticks into the oil. Bubbles appear around the chopsticks and come up constantly.
7. Nutrition per serving. It assumes 10% of the weight of the meat is absorbed into the cutlets, and all of the flour, egg, breadcrumbs are used up (unlikely).
serving: 209g calories: 566kcal fat: 40g (62%) saturated fat: 707g (39%) trans fat: 0.3g polyunsaturated fat: 8.1g monounsaturated fat: 21g cholesterol: 189mg (63%) sodium: 516mg (22%) potassium: 362mg (10%) carbohydrates: 22g (7%) dietary fibre: 1.3g (5%) sugar: 1.7g protein: 30g vitamin a: 4% vitamin c: 0% calcium: 5.3% iron: 14%