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How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast

Photography by: Tara Donne

Chicken breasts are lean, affordable, and oh-so-versatile, but their uneven shape presents an eternal problem for cooks. The narrow side gets overdone while the thick side finishes cooking.


Butterflying –- that is, splitting the chicken breast horizontally and opening it like a book –- allows you to then easily pound the meat to an even thickness. (Prepared this way, the split and pounded chicken breasts are called paillards.) Alternatively, you can stuff that butterflied chicken breast with something delicious and close it back up for cooking.


Step One

Place one hand on the chicken, curving your fingers up slightly for safety. Slice meat horizontally, cutting almost to the other side. Open it like a book.


Step Two

Place meat inside a plastic bag or between two sheets of plastic wrap. Working from the center out, pound with the smooth side of a mallet until meat is 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Photography by: Tara Donne

Now that you know the secret, check out some of our favorite recipes that call for butterflied chicken breasts.

Martha's Chicken Paillards

Chicken Marsala

Chicken Milanese

Grilled Chicken Stuffed with Basil and Tomato

Chicken Paillards with Squash and Spinach

Walnut-Stuffed Chicken Roulades


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