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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A family favorite!
An Italian feast wouldn’t be complete without chicken parmesan, aka chicken parmigiana, making an appearance on the dinner table. What’s not to love about crispy chicken served piping hot with tomato sauce and cheese. This method delivers evenly cooked pieces with just the right ratio of crusty breading.
I use the standard breading procedure with a mix of parmesan cheese and panko bread crumbs for the outer coating. To achieve the sought out golden color and crunchy crust, pan-frying is the most optimal cooking method. 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 undeniably delicious.
Why do you pound the chicken before breading?
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 very 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.
Finely ground bread crumbs (average taste)
Oftentimes, people reach for the store-bought types of bread crumbs when making chicken parm. The problem is they tend to provide minimal crackling texture and quickly get soggy when combined with the sauce.
Panko bread crumbs (better taste)
Panko is 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 coating more light and crispy. If you don’t have panko available, coarsely ground homemade bread crumbs work well too.
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 that the oil doesn’t break down and cause off-flavors in the chicken.
Make sure to add enough oil in 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 allows the oil to surround the food that’s submerged and the browning will be consistent.
How to pan-fry breaded chicken
Use a large 12-inch nonstick pan, stainless steel, or cast iron skillet to fry. 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.
Can you bake the chicken?
Yes! If you’re not a fan of frying with oil, then baking is your best bet. The trick to crispy baked chicken parmesan is to use a high temperature at 450ºF (232ºC). Just note that if using panko, it will still be crunchy but not as golden in color as finely ground bread crumbs.
What to serve this with
I love to add a generous layer of marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. Just quickly bake until the cheese is hot and bubbly and sauce is warmed through, then sprinkle with chopped basil for more flavor.
The importance of drying the chicken before breading
Removing any excess surface moisture from the chicken will ensure that the breading sticks to the surface. Too much moisture causes steam to form when frying, which will make the coating separate from the 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
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella
- ¼ cup chopped basil
- Set the oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 450ºF (232ºC).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Right before serving, garnish with freshly chopped basil.
- 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 1/2 cup marinara sauce and evenly spread 1 cup of cheese on the chicken pieces.
- Make it Gluten-free: Use gluten-free flour and breadcrumbs.
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