Last Updated on 20th August 2021 by
There is a right and wrong way to cut most kinds of meat. I was surprised to learn this fact as well when I first started cooking. I thought you just cut the meat any way you like as long as it came out in the shape and size you wanted it to.
What I didn’t realise was that cutting chicken and beef and various other cuts of meat needed to be done in a certain way.
If you don’t cut them properly, you can end up with tough, overly chewy bits of meat that contain tendons and connective tissue. They may look okay, but they won’t taste right, and you can avoid that issue if you know how to cut a chicken breast or other piece of meat.
Chicken can be a little tricky to cut since it is slippery. It’s not a good idea to wash your chicken, as that potentially spreads salmonella all around. So, how to cut chicken breast into cutlets or cubes or anything else when it is so slippery?
You can simply stick it in the freezer for a few minutes. 15 minutes in the freezer will harden the chicken enough that it won’t be slippery anymore and will be easy to cut.
How to Cut Chicken Breast into Tenders
When cutting any kind of meat, you will need to cut either with or against the grain. The problem you run into with chicken breast is that the grain isn’t uniform across the entire piece of peat.
Some of the grain goes one way and some of it goes another way, making for some tricky cutting if you are going to get a perfectly sliced cut of meat.
With most kinds of meat you want to cut against the grain, like beef, to ensure you cut through the tendons and make your meat easier to chew through.
That’s not completely true of chicken breast, however. How to cut chicken breast into strips? You’ll need to cut partially against the grain. Mostly, you’ll be cutting against the grain, but not entirely. What happens when you cut entirely against the grain is that you can end up with a cut of meat that is too tender.
For chicken strips, you are cutting diagonal strips of meat, but make sure that you cut mostly against the grain. This means you have a strong bias against the grain when you cut, but it not exactly, precisely, and perfectly against the grain.
Your cuts should be slightly off from being completely against the grain, giving you wonderfully tender cuts of meat that are not too tender.
If you like your meat stringier and tougher, then don’t cut against the grain. The less you cut against the grain and the more you cut with the grain, the tougher your cuts tend to be.
How to Cut Chicken Breast in Half
What about if you just want to halve the chicken breast? That’s easy enough to do, but watch the grain of the chicken carefully. Try to cut with a strong bias against the grain, not quite cutting against the grain exactly. You’ll love how that cut of meat comes out.
When you cut the chicken breast into halves, you can then cut it into smaller pieces for tenders or strips or stir fry or just use the two pieces as chicken filets.
How to Cut Chicken Breast into Cubes
I use chicken breast cubes for soup, salad, and chicken pot pie, and I just love how healthy and hearty the chicken breast cubes are. Cutting your chicken this way eliminates the fat and other unhealthy bits of chicken.
How to cut chicken breast into cubes? It’s simple if you know how to cut the breast into strips already. You start with your strips and then line up your strips so that you can cut them all in a single slice. Be sure to use a cutting board so that they don’t slide around.
Cut the strips horizontally, slicing across all of the strips at once and cutting about half an inch each time. Depending on how uniform and attractive I want my selection of cubes to be, I may place the smaller cuts from the end of the breast to the side and use them for something else.
How to Cut Chicken Breast for Stir Fry
I love a good stir fry, mixing together succulent slices of chicken, Chinese noodles, broccoli florets, cauliflower, carrot slices, and some soy sauce. It’s such a delightfully salty and warm dish. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals in it, and I use white meat chicken for a lean meal.
How to cut chicken breast for stir fry? I cut my chicken breast in half and then slice thin strips from that, usually about a half in thick. Then, I slice all of those strips in half horizontally, leaving my small strips that are bigger than cubes but smaller than chicken tenders or chicken strips.
These are the perfect size for a stir fry, because I can eat them in the same bite as some noodles and veggies and not choke on them.
How to Cut Chicken Breast Against the Grain
Cutting against the grain or with the grain may be unfamiliar with you. It might not be something you have done before and you could have some questions.
I had no idea about any of this with the grain or against the grain stuff when I was cutting chicken for the first time. I knew wood has grain but had never really thought of cuts of meat as having grain.
When we say that meat has a grain to it, that would be the roughness of its texture. So, if you run your fingertips or palm across the surface of the chicken one way or the other, you may feel some resistance. This is the graininess and roughness.
Moving your hands one way, the chicken grain will offer more resistance than another way. The way that offers more resistance is called against the grain. The way with less resistance is with the grain.
So, when you cut against the grain (which you should do with chicken), then you are slicing in the opposite direction as the graininess. That’s all there is to it. How do you know if you are cutting with or against the grain?
If you cut with the grain, your pieces will be less chewy and may fall apart in the frying
With grain cutting gives you cuts that hold onto and absorb sauce better, whereas against grain cutting gives you pieces that can repel sauce and to absorb it as much.
Now you know how to cut chicken breast, and I know that for some of you this guide is really basic stuff, but for others it is invaluable. I don’t presume to know what your cooking experience is like and what terminology you are familiar with, so I want to make sure that everyone is able to cook at the same level by making even the basics available to anyone who visits this site looking for recipes.
I'm Pauline, a retired patisserie chef, mother of four and now a full time food blogger! When i'm not cooking i love long walks, reading thriller novels and spending time with my grandkids. Head to my about me page to learn more about the woman behind the food! You can find my Facebook here
Monday 2nd of August 2021
Thank you for sharing these helpful tips, Pauline! Because the chicken is slippery, refrigerating it for 15 minutes is a good idea. Since the grain of the chicken isn't uniform, cutting it has always been challenging for me. However, I've always cut chicken breast against the grain.