What are Cutlets?
A cutlet is a small, boneless cut of meat which can be used in a variety of dishes. Cutlets are usually cooked whole, and since they are very small, they cook quickly and tend to be tender as well. Most butchers stock cutlets in a range of meats including as chicken, pork, lamb, and veal. It is also possible to find vegetarian versions, usually fabricated from soy or seitan.
Typically, a cutlet is taken from the leg or ribs of an animal. In some regions of the world, a boned rib cut is referred to as a cutlet, but otherwise it is a boneless meat cut. Some cooks also refer to mixtures of ground meat formed into a cutlet like shape as cutlets, which can lead to some confusion. As is the case with other boneless cuts, cutlets can dry out quickly if they are not handled well, and they may not have as rich and complex a flavor as a bone-in cut.
One of the classic preparations for cutlets involves dredging them in flour, following with beaten eggs and bread crumbs. The breaded cutlets are fried and served hot with lemon or other sauces, along with side dishes such as vegetables or mashed potatoes. Cutlets may also be simmered in curries, broiled, roasted, baked, or simply sauteed plain. Generally, the shorter the cooking process, the better the cutlet will be.
Sauces for cutlets also vary widely, depending on the preparation. They may be served with coulis, gravy, sliced lemons, or compound butter. The type of sauce used is usually influenced by the type of meat and what marinade may or may not have been used. Lamb cutlets, for example, are often simply cooked and served with a mint relish, while pork cutlets may be sauced with tarragon butter or another compound butter. Chicken cutlets, on the other hand, often taste excellent with a heavy gravy.
Generally, one cutlet is enough to serve one person. Since the cuts are so versatile, they can be used in a wide range of meals. They are especially convenient for single people or small families, when the idea of making a whole roast is daunting. Like other meats, cutlets can also be frozen for future use, and some people like to cook a large batch of cutlets and freeze them for convenient later meals. In these instances, make sure to label the cutlets clearly with the date, and use within six months for optimum flavor.
In the UK one of the most popular take away foods after a night at the pub is the 'parmo'. That's the nickname for a parmesan, which is simply a meat cutlet covered with sauce and cheese.
Although I've been known to consume half a parmo I try not to indulge too often, as I'm sure it's pretty high calorie.
I think it's interesting that what started as a classic Italian dish has been transformed into a competitor for pizza, kebabs and fish suppers!
@animegal - I am so glad to see another tonkatsu fan here. Having lived in Japan for a few years I got to eat this dish a lot.
I especially love the sauce they put on top. I wish I could find it easily here because I miss that. I guess it may not taste the same out of context though.
When I first tried a tonkatsu style cutlet it came with a really big portion of shredded cabbage, as well as miso soup and rice. I felt bad because the one vegetable I despise is there on the plate, like a mountain!
Okay, so I love to cook – but I’m not Betty Crocker by any means. It takes me a little bit to get a dish down to a science, and, well, edible in general.
You should have seen the time I had figuring out how to work with cutlets rather than whole sized pieces of meat!
I don’t know why my brain was on vacation at the time, but it didn’t register to me that these pieces were smaller than usual and required less cooking time.
Good gracious, you have never had such tough and horribly chewy chicken strips in your life. I guess those things were the most dry and flavorless birds I’ve ever cooked in my whole life.
And, would you know that I also have a stubborn streak. I was determined to get this catastrophe under control. To my husband’s disappointment, I kept trying to get the cutlets just right.
I know that I was thinking about chicken needing to be completely done, and I know that was the obsession that kept me cooking it until it was more like jerky.
I actually had to have a sister point out to me what I was doing wrong in a not so nice way before I actually got the problem!
I have two small children and time is of the essence as a result. I also love to cook great meals for them, but sometimes the whole time constraint thing doesn’t make that easy.
But, I have learned that if I substitute cutlets rather than whole pieces of meat it is a little easier to accomplish.
I guess cutlets cook faster because they are smaller, but they also have an added bonus for small kids.
The fact that they are child sized and more tender makes it ideal for little ones to chow down on rather than big chunks of tougher meat.
So, I can basically still make the delicious dishes I pride myself on while saving time. Plus, I’m preparing something that is a little easier on the kiddies!
Sounds like a huge winner to me!
I make a great cashew chicken stir fry, and I start with slightly thawed chicken cutlets. I have to slice them in thin slivers like coins, so cutlets are ideal for this.
I marinate the chicken slivers in a mixture of ginger, soy sauce, garlic powder, and onion powder. I cook them for just one minute on each side initially. Then, I add green beans, onion, garlic, more soy sauce, and water to the pot. I let this simmer for seven minutes.
Meanwhile, I make some spaghetti noodles and chop some carrots into thin coins. After the seven minutes is up, I add both of these to the pot and cook for two more minutes.
I like to barbecue pork cutlets. There are no bones to cut around, so I feel like I’m getting more meat. They are so easy to cook.
I simply pour a slight amount of water into the bottom of a glass baking dish, along with a slathering of barbecue sauce. Then, I place thawed pork cutlets on top of the sauce. I smother the top of the meat with more barbecue sauce.
I cook the cutlets at 350 degrees for one hour. The sauce keeps the meat juicy. I serve them with either cornbread or biscuits, lima beans, and chicken-flavored rice.
My husband uses chicken cutlets to make his delicious chicken teriyaki. He prefers cutlets because they are easy to cut into small pieces. He sautees them in a mixture of olive oil and teriyaki sauce, and then he chops them into one inch pieces that will be added back to the mixture when it is almost done.
He then makes the fried rice, scrambled eggs, and sauteed zucchini, garlic, and onions. He cooks them separately and then puts them all together in a wok.
He pours teriyaki sauce over the mixture, and then he adds the chicken back in for a few minutes. The flavors combine as everything simmers in the wok.
I love using chicken cutlets to make fried chicken. I don’t have to deal with bones and gristle, and the chicken cooks faster.
I’ve never been a fan of using breadcrumbs. I dip the raw chicken in an egg and milk, but then I roll it in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and season-all. I put it in a skillet of peanut oil and fry it until it is golden brown outside and no longer pink in the middle.
I cook my cutlets between low and medium heat. Cooking them at too high of a temperature can cause them to dry out inside. My method keeps the meat moist beneath the crusty skin.
@peabody - I've never heard of that but it sounds quite good! Are there vegetarian recipes for cutlets? I wonder what veggies might be best to use, since they would have to be able to maintain some firmness even when cooked. Does anyone have any suggestions?
Another twist on the standard cutlet recipe is to make the main cutlet with mashed potato and stuff it with ground beef. It is then dredged and fried according to the normal recipe. Very delicious and a great alternative for those who enjoy something less meat-heavy.
@animegal - What types of savory sauces are best to serve with tonkatsu? There are so many different kinds available that I'm not sure which would compliment the cutlets best.
One of my favorite things to make at home is a veal cutlet. Luckily it doesn't take to long to make and is really delicious. For a simple veal cutlet all you need is a good cut of meat, some eggs, butter, and some toasted breadcrumbs.
All you need to do is prepare the meat as you like, then before cooking dip them in the eggs and cover them in toasted breadcrumbs. You need to make sure that the breadcrumbs stick to the meat completely. One your veal is covered in breadcrumbs brown both sides of the veal in a buttered pan that is crackling.
I guarantee you a tasty and quick meal. For some extra flavor you can squirt some lemon on your cutlets or add a bit of parsley.
One of the tastiest cutlets I have ever came across is called tonkatsu and is a Japanese recipe adapted from American cuisine. Tonkatsu is a breaded pork cutlet served with a savory sauce that makes it a real treat.
Usually when you order tonkatsu in a restaurant it will come with rice and a few side dishes. Dipping your rice in the tonkatsu sauce can really be a good idea if you find rice to plain by itself.
In Korea they also have a version of tonkatsu called donkkasu. Donkkasu is a bit different and I have found the sauce they use in Korea to be a bit on the sweeter side.
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