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What is Chicken Piccata? Unveiling the Classic Italian Lemon-Caper Dish

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Updated May 16, 2024
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What is Chicken Piccata?

Discover the zest of Italy with chicken piccata, a classic dish that embodies the essence of Italian cuisine. According to a report by Statista, Italian food ranks as one of the most popular ethnic cuisines in the United States, with 44% of survey respondents eating it 1-2 times per week


What is chicken piccata, you ask? It's a savory blend of tender chicken breasts, enlivened by a tangy sauce of lemon juice, white wine, and capers. The National Chicken Council underscores chicken's popularity, noting that per capita consumption of chicken in the U.S. has increased nearly every year since the mid-1960s, making it a go-to choice for meals. This dish not only offers a piquant flavor profile but is also simple to prepare, making it a perfect option for both weeknight dinners and special occasions.

Many people prefer to make this dish from chicken instead of of veal because it is less expensive, and many prefer not to eat veal since they feel growing methods for the meat are cruel. It is also acceptable to use pork instead. Vegetarians can prepare the dish using thin slices of tofu or eggplant, but meat substitutes will not produce a very rich sauce.

Using very thin slices of chicken is essential to properly constructing the dish. A half breast should usually be horizontally sliced in half and then pounded with a mallet until the slices are about an 1/8 of an inch (about 0.31 cm) thick. Since most people do not precisely measure their food, the best way to aim for the desired thinness is to pound the meat until it is almost translucent or see-through.

Pounding the meat to the desired thinness is probably the most time consuming process in the construction of chicken piccata. A cook can certainly do this the night before, but the meat should then be refrigerated again. Placing the meet in a sealable plastic bag or putting it between two layers of plastic wrap before pounding can help prevent a mess. The cook should be careful when working with raw meat, as it can sometimes harbor salmonella or E. coli. He or she should be sure to wash all surfaces used during the pounding process, and wash the hands for at least 30 seconds with warm, soapy water after handling raw meat.

The chicken is then dredged in a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper, and the excess flour should be dusted off. In a medium heat pan, the chef should cook the thin slices of chicken very quickly, about a minute to two on each side. Overcooking the meat can ruin the dish.

Once the chicken is cooked in a little bit of olive oil, the cook would traditionally add garlic, and sage. Capers, brined green berries, may also be added at this time. Once the garlic becomes translucent, wine and lemon juice are added to deglaze the pan, producing a tart sauce. The meat is then combined with the sauce and cooked over low heat for about a minute so it can become infused with the sauce's flavors.

In preparing chicken piccata, the cook should be careful when adding the wine to a dish on an open flame. It can easily flame up, particularly if any wine spills on the burner. If a chef is preparing this dish for a large group, the frying process can be done in several batches while the meat keeps warm in a 200°F (93.33°C) oven.

Chicken piccata can be served with rice or pasta as a side dish, and it is particularly good with rice pilaf. Steamed or fried vegetables, like summer squash, also pair well with it. In total, including prep time, the dish takes about 20 minutes to make, so it is a quick and tasty way to get dinner on the table. For a little added flair, a chef can add a few sprigs of parsley on the top before bringing the dish to the table.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By andee — On Nov 14, 2012

I have had some chicken piccata dishes that were a bit bland. I like to add garlic and basil to my sauce which spices it up a bit. This is one of those Italian dishes that is light but yet very tasty. Sometimes after eating Italian food I am too stuffed, but I never feel that way after eating chicken piccata unless I eat too much of it.

By julies — On Nov 13, 2012

When I make chicken piccata I dip the chicken in a mixture of egg and lemon before dredging it in the flour mixture. After I do this I put it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes as this helps it hold the breading better.

Just thinking about this is making me hungry. I eat a lot of chicken and this is one of my favorite recipes. I like to serve this over angel hair pasta. My family loves this dish and I never have any leftovers.

By jonrss — On Oct 23, 2012

Is chicken piccata a real Italian dish or an American Italian dish?

By summing — On Oct 23, 2012
I have made chicken piccata many times, but I have never tried making veal before, mostly because of the price.

But I have a little extra money this month and I am thinking about giving it a try. Does anyone have experience? Do I need to do anything different from the way I make it with chicken?

By ZsaZsa56 — On Oct 22, 2012

There is a little hole in the wall Italian place about a mile from me that serves the best chicken piccata that I have ever had.

I don't know what they do but the chicken is so flavorful and juicy but not at all greasy. I ordered four or five different things there before I finally tried the chicken piccata and now it is the only thing that I order.

By Mykol — On Jul 06, 2011

When I make Chicken Piccata, I like to add some lemon juice in with the egg mixture. Lemon chicken is one of my favorites, so adding a little lemon to this gives it a little more flavoring.

One reason I like cooking chicken is because you can make so many different dishes with it, and most people like chicken. Many recipes come together very quickly and you just need to add a salad and some crusty bread and you have a delicious meal.

By DFMeyers — On May 07, 2011

I love to make chicken piccata with capers. You can get capers in most stores and a jar lasts forever. Chicken piccata is excellent on its own, but the capers really bring out the flavors.

By surreallife — On Apr 03, 2009

A light and delicious way to prepare chicken. Tons of flavor and not high in calories. I also like to make mashed potatoes with chicken piccata.

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Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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