How to Make Chicken Paillards, the Quickest Cooking Cut of Chicken

Paillards are endlessly versatile and cook super fast.

chicken paillard

Every cook needs a trick or two up her sleeve—a tried-and-true technique to rely on when time is short and people are hungry. Preparing chicken paillards is one such method: All you have to do is pound a piece of chicken, cook it in a flash, and make a savory sauce right in the same pan. It's quick, delicious, and crowd pleasing. Learn what a chicken paillard is, why we love them, and how to make and cook them—then try our recipes as starting point for your chicken paillard adventures.

What Is a Chicken Paillard?

A chicken paillard is a pounded chicken cutlet—but it is also a dish (more on that later!). The French term "paillard" may sound fancy, but it just refers to the flattened meat. When you pound meat, you're essentially tenderizing and thinning it out, which makes for a faster-cooking, more tender, juicier cut, says Alison Cayne, author of The Haven's Kitchen Cooking School and founder and CEO of Haven's Kitchen. She's a big fan of the chicken paillard: "It's a fantastic way to get an easy, delicious meal on the table, and you don't need much seasoning if you're choosing high-quality chicken," she says.

Why Chefs Love Chicken Paillards—and You Should, Too

Chicken paillards are so versatile; there are endless ways to prepare them. "They can be grilled, sautéed, or breaded (and then become Chicken Milanese)," says Lisabet Summa, chef and co-owner of Big Time Restaurant Group in South Florida. Typically, the paillard is accompanied by a sauce or salad with a vinaigrette, says Summa—and "you can pick any trajectory for the seasonings based on what you have in the fridge or what you're craving," she adds.

"Chicken paillard is one of those recipes that reminds me of my French culinary training," says Trisha Pérez Kennealy, owner of the Inn at Hastings Park in Lexington, Mass., who earned both her Diplôme de Cuisine and Diplôme de Pâtisserie from Le Cordon Bleu. "You learn a technique and then use it in so many different ways, depending on the flavor profile you are using."

Versatility aside, there are plenty of other reason why you should master chicken paillard.

You Can Buy or Make Them

You can find chicken paillards at some grocery stores, but you will save money by buying larger pieces of chicken and pounding them out yourself.

They're Quick to Cook

"By pounding the cutlet, you are creating a larger piece of thin meat that can be cooked quickly and easily—just a few minutes on each side on a grill or in a grill pan or skillet and it's done," says Summa.

The Technique Works for More Than Chicken

"Paillard refers to any meat cut and pounded gently to make it both thinner and more tender," says Pérez Kennealy. For instance, you can make beef, or pork or veal paillards.

The Best Chicken to Use for Making Paillards

The short version: boneless, skinless chicken breasts. The longer version? Boneless, skinless chicken breasts from pasture-raised birds are the ideal cuts of meat for chicken paillard, says Cayne. "You butterfly the breast to thin it out (less chance of overcooking the outside and undercooking the inside)," she says. "Pounding with a tenderizer or a rolling pin wrapped in plastic wrap finishes off the paillard effect."

How to Prepare Chicken Paillards

Here's what you'll need to make a chicken paillard: boneless skinless chicken breasts, a chef's knife, a cutting board, plastic wrap, and a meat mallet.

  1. Place the chicken: If you are right-handed, place the chicken breast under your left hand with the middle of the top of the breast aligned with the tip of your middle finger. Use the knife to cut slowly through the middle from right to left to butterfly. (If you're left-handed, place the chicken breast under your right hand with your middle finger and the middle of the top of the chicken breast lined up in the same fashion.)
  2. Prep for pounding: Lay a length of plastic wrap on the cutting board. Place a butterflied chicken breast on the plastic wrap and fold plastic wrap over the top of the chicken.
  3. Pound out: Start to pound the chicken fillets in the center pushing slightly outward to flatten. Then begin to pound the breast until it is about two-and-a-half times bigger than it was. The chicken should be the same thickness all over, between 1/8- and 1/2-inch thick.

Pro Tips

  • One boneless, skinless chicken breast will yield two paillards.
  • You'll need a sharp knife to butterfly the chicken effectively, says Pérez Kennealy.
  • Don't skip the plastic wrap: Covering your cutting board and the chicken prevents the meat from sticking to your board or meat mallet.
  • A meat mallet is the traditional tool for pounding meat, but you can also use a rolling pin or the bottom of a small skillet to pound the chicken flat. Remember: It's not necessary to pound forcefully—a gentle, repeated tapping motion is best.
  • Once you've prepped the paillards, Summa suggests you stack them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate them until you're ready to cook. "The thin cutlets are a little fragile but even if they're a touch uneven or torn, they'll be delicious," she says.

The Right Way to Cook Chicken Paillards

Ready for dinner? Since the meat is so thin, season just one side with sea salt and a few grinds of black peppercorn, says Summa.

Both Pérez Kennealy and Summa use extra virgin olive oil to cook chicken paillards, but some cooks prefer a mixture of oil and butter. The best pan to use depends on your preference; try a cast-iron skillet, a nonstick skillet, a grill pan, or use the grill. Summa tends to cook one paillard at a time since these thin, pounded chicken cutlets are large.

"Cook a chicken paillard until it releases from the pan and is golden brown," says Pérez Kennealy. Depending on thickness, that might be as little as one minute or as much as three to four minutes.

  1. Heat pan over medium heat. Add oil (or oil and butter). Add chicken, cooking just one paillard or two if your pan is large enough. Cook until golden.
  2. Turn and cook on the other side for the same amount of time.
  3. Once the paillard is cooked, deglaze the pan with stock or wine and some butter to make a quick pan sauce

3 Chicken Paillard Recipes to Try

Now that you've nailed the prep work and read through the technique, give one of our go-to chicken paillard recipes a try.

01 of 03

Chicken Paillards with Lemon Butter Sauce

This is a classic recipe with a quick pan sauce this is really delicious.

02 of 03

Chicken Paillards with Squash and Spinach

Our 30-minute entrée skips a pan sauce and calls for serving the paillards with fried sage leaves, baby spinach, and roasted squash.

03 of 03

Grilled Chicken Paillards with Mint Salad

Ready to grill chicken paillards? Try this easy recipe that takes just 25 minutes.

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