Go Hulk Mode and pound your chicken breasts with a skillet

The secret to an evenly cooked, moist chicken breast? Pure brawn.

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Person cutting into raw chicken breast
Photo: Fabian Sommer/picture alliance (Getty Images)

Some joker in my neighborhood has been using Nextdoor to recruit for a “post-COVID fight club.” He reasons that by the time the virus becomes endemic, we’ll all need an outlet for our collective frustration. I’d rather not spar with my neighbors, so I turn to aggressive kitchen activities: namely, flattening chicken breasts with my cast-iron skillet. There are plenty of reasons to pound chicken breasts before you cook them; plus, the pounding delivers a teeth-chattering BANG that stirs up my endorphins time and time again.

Why pound a chicken breast?

An evenly pounded chicken breast is a beautiful thing. First, pounding a chicken breast flat allows you to cook it evenly on all sides. Yes, a fat, pearly pink chicken breast may be a thing of beauty—but when one end is half an inch thicker than the other, you’re going to have a bad time cooking it. Pounding a chicken breast can also decrease your cooking time, since thinner meat cooks much quicker.

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Finally, as reported by our friends at Serious Eats, a flattened chicken breast tends to retain its moisture since there’s very little opportunity to “build up a temperature differential gradient within the meat.” That means that the temperature at the center of the breast is going to be about the same as the temperature at its outer layers. It’s cooked evenly, which means the breast’s edges don’t have a chance to dry out.

How to flatten a chicken breast

Traditionalists will tell you to flatten your chicken breast with a meat tenderizer. A meat tenderizer is a very respectable piece of kitchen equipment, but I’ve always gotten by just fine without one. That’s because I have what is essentially a mega-tenderizer at my fingertips: my gigantic cast-iron skillet.

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I find that pounding the chicken with the skillet gets it thinner faster. I mean, the skillet weighs, what, 15 pounds? It’s heavy enough that a few hearty THWACKs will flatten even the bounciest of breasts. There’s also zero clean-up, because I house the breast in a plastic bag during the aforementioned poundage. Just place the breast/s in a baggie, stick that on a cutting board, and pound away.

I’m sure you could get the same effect with another heavy object; for example, a three-volume boxed set of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, or a very heavy jar of pickles. (Actually, no—don’t use glass for this.) Either way, if you’ve had a tough day at the office, pounded chicken breast could be just what the doctor ordered.