Cutting chicken breast might sound easy – it’s just chicken after all. But there is actually a right way and wrong way to cut chicken.
This article will cover everything that you need to know about properly cutting chicken.
Table of Contents
- 1 How To Cut Chicken Breasts Against The Grain – Step-by-step Process
- 2 10 Mistakes Beginners Make When Cutting Chicken Breasts
- 2.1 1. Not Putting The Chicken In The Freezer
- 2.2 2. Cutting Cooked Chicken
- 2.3 3. Cutting With The Grain
- 2.4 4. Using a Dull Knife
- 2.5 5. Using a Short Knife
- 2.6 6. Improper Finger Placement
- 2.7 7. Improper Cutting Technique
- 2.8 8. Not Washing The Chicken Before Cutting It
- 2.9 9. Not Using a Cutting Board
- 2.10 10. Cutting Different Sized Slices of Meat
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions – Cutting Chicken Breasts
- 3.1 Q. Do you cut chicken with the grain or against the grain?
- 3.2 Q. Why you should cut chicken against the grain?
- 3.3 Q. How to determine which direction the grain runs on chicken breast?
- 3.4 Q. How to not shred chicken breast when cutting against the grain?
- 3.5 Q. What happens if I cut chicken breast with the grain?
- 3.6 Q. Can I cut chicken breasts diagonally against the grain?
- 3.7 Q. What is the best knife for cutting chicken?
- 3.8 Q. Can I cut cooked chicken breast against the grain?
- 3.9 Q. Can I use a meat slicer to cut chicken breasts?
- 3.10 Q. What is the best meat slicer blade for cutting chicken breast?
- 3.11 Q. How to slice chicken breast in a meat slicer?
How To Cut Chicken Breasts Against The Grain – Step-by-step Process
1. Choose a long, sharp knife
A long knife is preferable for cutting chicken breasts because you will not have to make as many cuts. Fewer cuts will also save you time and trouble.
Obviously, you should always use a sharp knife when cutting meat. It’s safer, faster, and results in better cuts.
Always use a sharp knife!
If you do not have one then please go over to Amazon and buy the Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch or the MOSFiATA 8” Super Sharp Titanium Plated Chef’s Knife. Both are universally popular and would make your job of cutting chicken breast super easy.
2. Put the chicken breast in the freezer for 10 minutes
This is actually one of the most important steps on the list. Chicken breast is slippery and soft, which makes it difficult to cut.
Putting it in the freezer will make the meat a little firmer and less slippery, and that should make it easier to cut. I understand this isn’t always an option, but you should do it whenever possible.
3. Debone the chicken breast
This only applies to bone-in chicken breast, obviously. Fortunately, removing the bone is a very simple process. Just cut the meat as close to the bone as possible. Then remove the bone and tendons.
4. Hold the chicken breast with your non-cutting hand
You must hold the chicken breast with your non-cutting hand. Simply push the chicken breast into the cutting board. Try to let your first knuckles (the knuckles nearest your fingernails) brush up against the broad side of the knife as you cut downward. Doing that prevents you from cutting off your finger.
5. Cut against the grain
You should always cut chicken breast, and all meat, against the grain. The grain refers to the direction that the muscle striations have formed. Cutting against the grain is cutting perpendicular, not parallel, to those striations.
6. Gently cut the meat
Gently cut the chicken breast with long strokes. Don’t apply too much pressure because that can shred the meat, and you don’t want shredded meat.
7. Cut uniformly sized slices
The exact thickness of your slices does not matter. However, you should make sure that they are all roughly the same size.
This makes cooking them much easier. If they were different sizes, then some would cook faster than others.
10 Mistakes Beginners Make When Cutting Chicken Breasts
As I mentioned earlier, cutting chicken breasts might sound easy, but it does take a certain amount of practice. Beginners often make mistakes when they first start, so here is a list of mistakes to avoid when you start cutting chicken breasts.
1. Not Putting The Chicken In The Freezer
Most beginners will try to cut a thawed chicken breast, and that just doesn’t work. The meat is soft and slippery.
Good luck cutting that without any tears.
Always put the chicken in the freezer before you begin cutting it. I recommend 10 minutes. But the exact amount of time doesn’t matter. You just don’t want it frozen solid.
2. Cutting Cooked Chicken
Beginners will often try to cut an already cooked chicken breast. That just doesn’t work if you’re using a knife. It will result in torn or shredded meat.
3. Cutting With The Grain
Many beginners will cut chicken breast with the grain because it’s a little easier and intuitive. It’s also the wrong way to cut it.
As I mentioned earlier, this results in chewy, tough, and less flavorful meat. Don’t do it.
4. Using a Dull Knife
Many home cooks use a dull knife to cut their meat. I’d say that most home cooks have never sharpened their knives. This obviously makes cutting meat difficult.
It also makes it dangerous since a dull knife is much more likely to slip and cut you. Please make sure to use a sharp knife.
If you do not have a sharp meat cutting knife then you can go for the the Zelite Infinity Chef Knife 8 Inch or the MOSFiATA 8” Super Sharp Titanium Plated Chef’s Knife. Both are perfect for cutting chicken and will retain their sharpness for years despite heavy usage.
5. Using a Short Knife
This mistake commonly occurs with extremely new beginners that often like to use any knife they can find to cut chicken. You can cut chicken breast with a short knife: a short knife is still a knife, but it’s not ideal.
A short knife will require more movement, and it’s much more likely to get turned around. Plus, you don’t need the extra maneuverability of a short knife.
I recommend using an 8-10 inch chef’s knife to cut chicken breasts and thighs.
6. Improper Finger Placement
Beginners often have a difficult time with finger placement when they cut vegetables, chicken breasts, and chicken thighs.
All you really need to know about finger placement is that you want to bend your fingers. You should then let the broadside of the knife brush up against your knuckles.
This is dangerous, I know. But you won’t get hurt doing it. It will actually prevent you from accidentally cutting off your finger.
Finger placement is the most important thing about using a knife to cut food.
7. Improper Cutting Technique
Everyone that cuts a chicken breast for the first time does it wrong. They will often use way too much pressure, saw the meat, or use too many cuts.
Use long strokes with a medium amount of pressure when cutting a chicken breast. Don’t use much pressure – let the blade do the work. That’s also why you should use a sharp blade.
8. Not Washing The Chicken Before Cutting It
Beginners, and even experienced cooks, often forget to wash chicken before they cut it. Yes, you should wash chicken before cutting it. It will wash a little slime off the chicken, and that makes it easier to handle.
9. Not Using a Cutting Board
Many beginners make the mistake of trying to cut chicken breast on a plate. And sure, this will work. However, it is very unstable and you run the risk of breaking the plate, cutting yourself, or getting a sloppy cut of meat.
That said, always use a cutting board when you are cutting chicken breast. It will just make everything so much easier for you. Fortunately, cutting boards are affordable and durable.
10. Cutting Different Sized Slices of Meat
An extremely common mistake beginners make is cutting different sized slices of meat. For instance, they will make one big slice, one medium slice, and a few smaller slices.
Obviously, this will become a problem when you try to cook the chicken breast as different sizes cook at different rates.
Avoiding this problem is as simple as cutting against the grain while staying conscious of the size of your slices.
Frequently Asked Questions – Cutting Chicken Breasts
Q. Do you cut chicken with the grain or against the grain?
You should cut chicken breast and chicken thighs against the grain. Also, “against the grain” means cutting perpendicular to the grain.
Q. Why you should cut chicken against the grain?
Cutting chicken against the grain has a few major benefits, and you should always do it.
First, cutting chicken against the grain results in a much tenderer slice of meat. Tender meat is easier to chew. And most people find that it just tastes better than chewy meat.
Slicing against the grain also allows the meat to absorb more of the flavor because the strands of protein are much shorter. I know, it sounds strange, but it does work.
Q. How to determine which direction the grain runs on chicken breast?
To determine the direction the grain runs on chicken, or any meat, simply look for the striations in the meat. They won’t usually be that big, so look carefully. The striations may also appear white because they usually have some fat in them.
Anyway, those striations are what chefs refer to as the “grain.”
Q. How to not shred chicken breast when cutting against the grain?
The best way to not shred chicken when cutting against the grain is to cut partially frozen chicken. Freezing makes it much stiffer, and therefore much less likely to shred.
If freezing your chicken isn’t possible, then make sure to apply plenty of pressure when cutting the meat. Squeezing the meat while you cut it may also work.
Q. What happens if I cut chicken breast with the grain?
Nothing terribly bad happens if you cut chicken breast with the grain. It will result in a much chewier cut of meat, though. The chicken also won’t absorb nearly as much of the seasoning and marinade.
Every professional chef recommends cutting against the grain.
Q. Can I cut chicken breasts diagonally against the grain?
Yes. This is actually recommended if you want a slightly tender slice of meat. Just keep in mind that not every slice of meat will be the same size if you cut diagonally.
Q. What is the best knife for cutting chicken?
Ideally, you should use a very sharp chef’s knife that is about 8-10 inches long. A chef’s knife will be wide enough that you can easily maneuver it through the chicken.
Any sharp knife will work, though.
Q. Can I cut cooked chicken breast against the grain?
Yes, you can cut cooked chicken breast against the grain. However, it will result in shredded chicken.
If you have a meat slicer, then you should cut the chicken while it’s cooked or frozen.
Q. Can I use a meat slicer to cut chicken breasts?
Yes. You should cook the chicken breasts before slicing it with a meat slicer, though.
You can also cut raw chicken breast with a meat slicer. Just make sure to put it in the freezer before slicing it.
Q. What is the best meat slicer blade for cutting chicken breast?
You should use a non-serrated meat slicer blade to cut chicken breast. A serrated blade would just result in shredded meat, and it would turn into a mess.
Q. How to slice chicken breast in a meat slicer?
Slicing chicken breast in a meat slicer is easy, but you do need a properly sized meat slicer or small slices of chicken. Personally, I recommend a meat slicer with a blade over 9-inches.
Anyway, simply load the (cooked) chicken breast into the carriage, and push it toward the slicer. Make sure that the grain is perpendicular to the slicer blade.
Also, make sure the meat is frozen or cooked. Don’t try cutting soft chicken in a meat slicer. It’s just going to turn into a mess.