Crispy chicken parmesan with panko bread crumbs topped with zesty marinara sauce and melted mozzarella cheese. A satisfying Italian home-cooked dinner that everyone’s going to love!
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An Italian feast wouldn’t be complete without a chicken parmesan, aka chicken parmigiana, appearing on the dinner table. What’s not to love about crispy chicken piping hot with tomato sauce and cheese? This method delivers evenly cooked pieces with just the proper ratio of crusty breading.
Pan-frying is the most optimal cooking method to achieve the sought-out golden color and crunchy crust. The chicken sizzles in hot, shallow oil, then flip to complete the fusion process. The layers of flour, eggs, and bread securely stick to the surface so that every bite is delicious.
Bread crumb selection
The type of bread crumb chosen for making the chicken parmesan recipe impacts the texture of the crust. Finely ground bread crumbs that are traditionally used cling well to the surface of the meat. However, the problem is they tend to provide minimal crackling texture and quickly get soggy when combined with the sauce.
For a better taste, panko bread crumbs are my top choice. It’s a Japanese-style crumb made from crustless white bread. What makes it unique is the large-sized crumbs, oblong shape, and porous structure. When used as a coating, the shape prevents packing, making the layer more light and crispy. If you don’t have panko available, coarsely ground homemade bread crumbs work well too.
Prepare the chicken
It’s critical to have the chicken breast equal in thickness for even cooking. I recommend about a ½-inch thick. You can use a meat tenderizer or rolling pin to help flatten. If the chicken is too thin, it will cook quickly and dry out before the coating is done crisping.
The opposite happens if too thick. The coating overcooks while the chicken will still be raw inside. As a convenience, some markets sell thinly sliced chicken breasts that are pre-cut and work well for pan-frying. If using substantial pieces over 10 ounces, purchase two, then cut them in half lengthwise to create chicken cutlets and flatten them.
Coat the chicken
I use the standard breading procedure to help the bread crumbs adhere to the surface of the chicken. Season the chicken with salt and pepper before coating. If you enjoy extra allium flavor, sprinkle on garlic powder as well.
Set up a breading station with three shallow bowls containing the following ingredients; flour, eggs combined with olive oil and panko mixed with parmesan cheese. Start by dipping the pieces into the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally, the breadcrumb mixture.
How to select oil for pan-frying
The key to ensuring juicy chicken with golden breading is oil selection and using enough for proper frying. You want to use a high smoke point oil like vegetable or canola so the oil doesn’t break down and cause off-flavors in the chicken.
Add enough oil to the pan to reach ⅓-to-halfway up the chicken. No more than that, or you’ll be in deep-fry territory. This height ensures the oil surrounds the submerged food, and the browning will be consistent.
How to pan-fry breaded chicken
To fry, use a large 12-inch nonstick pan, stainless steel, or cast iron skillet. It’s best to cook in batches, two pieces at a time. If you crowd the pan, the excess moisture will cause steam and result in uneven cooking. After frying the first two pieces, add fresh oil for the next batch; otherwise, any leftover breading particles will burn and transfer those flavors to the meat.
The process takes about 2 to 3 minutes per side, about 15 minutes of total cook time for all pieces. Look for a golden brown, crispy crust, and the chicken to reach around 160ºF (71ºC).
Bake the chicken and toppings
Chicken parm is not complete without delicious toppings! Transfer the fried pieces to a sheet pan or baking dish. Add a generous layer of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese on top. Bake at 450ºF (232ºC) until the cheese has melted and the sauce is warm, about 5 minutes.
Garnish with chopped parsley or fresh basil right before serving. My family loves the crisp and juicy pieces with gooey cheese!
I also serve this meal with spaghetti or penne pasta, but spiralized zucchini noodles make an excellent low-carb option. Here are some other side dishes for a complete Italian feast!
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Baking is your best bet if you’re not a fan of frying with oil. The trick to crispy baked chicken parmesan is to use a high temperature of 450ºF (232ºC). Just note that using panko will still be crunchy but not as golden in color as finely ground bread crumbs.
Place the chicken on a foiled-lined baking sheet, then broil on the lowest oven rack. Once the pieces are hot, move the tray to the center rack to crisp, keeping a close eye to not burn the crust. Check every minute. The broiler is very hot!
Make sure to dry the chicken before breading. Excess moisture will create steam beneath the layers, causing the crust to separate. After breading, try refrigerating the pieces for 30 minutes. This will give the starches in the flour time to hydrate, creating a tacky glue-like texture to bind to the other layers.
The importance of drying the chicken before breading
Removing any excess surface moisture from the chicken will ensure the breading sticks to the surface. The flour coating helps to further wick up any liquid. Too much moisture causes steam to form when frying. This will cause the coating to separate from the bread crumb and parmesan-crusted chicken.
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- 4 pieces boneless skinless chicken breast, about 2 pounds
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, for seasoning
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, for seasoning
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ¼ cups panko bread crumbs
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 cup vegetable oil, divided
- 1 cup marinara sauce, jarred or homemade
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella
- 2 teaspoons chopped parsley, or basil
- Preheat the Oven – Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 450ºF (232ºC).
- Prepare the Chicken – Thoroughly dry chicken breasts with a paper towel. Place one of the pieces in between two plastic sheets or in a large plastic bag and flatten to an even ½-inch thickness. Repeat with remaining pieces. Generously season both sides of the chicken breast with salt and pepper.
- Setup a Breading Station – Put the flour into a separate shallow bowl. Whisk together eggs and olive oil in a shallow medium bowl. Combine panko and parmesan cheese in a shallow bowl.
- The Breading Procedure – Dip chicken in flour, shaking off any excess coating. Next, dip in egg wash, making sure to coat completely and drain any excess. Lastly, dip in the breadcrumbs lightly, pressing to coat evenly. Repeat the process with the remaining pieces.
- Fry the Chicken – Heat ½ cup of vegetable oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, carefully place two pieces of chicken in the pan. Fry until the first side is golden brown and crispy, 2 to 3 minutes.Turn heat down to medium and flip the chicken. Cook until golden brown and an internal temperature of 160ºF (71ºC), about 3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a paper towel-lined plate to briefly drain the excess oil, and then place on a wire cooling rack set on top of a sheet pan.
- Use Fresh Oil – Discard the excess oil and wipe the pan clean. Add in ½ cup of fresh vegetable oil, and repeat the same cooking procedure with the 2 remaining pieces.
- Bake the Chicken – Place fried chicken in a baking dish or foil-lined sheet pan. Top each piece with ¼ cup of marinara sauce, and top with mozzarella cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted and the sauce is warm, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- To Serve – Right before serving, garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
- Storing: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Reheat individual pieces in the microwave on high power in 30-second intervals until warmed through. Alternatively, place on a foil-lined sheet pan and bake at 375 degrees until lightly crispy and warmed through, about 15 to 20 minutes.
- Breadcrumbs: Traditional fine Italian breadcrumbs can be used but won’t be as crunchy.
- Broiling the Cheese: Broil chicken in the center of the oven until cheese is melted and lightly brown. Check every minute, as it will cook quickly.
- Heartier Topping: Add ½ cup marinara sauce and evenly spread 1 cup of cheese on the chicken pieces.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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