Chicken Parm are two of the most beautiful words ever spoken. Tender, moist chicken breast with a deliciously crispy coating, topped with a rich homemade tomato sauce and ooey-gooey melted mozzarella cheese, oven-baked to perfection. Can you say OMG delicious?
It’s such an easy dish to make, that you’d think it’s always the perfect meal to get when you order at your favorite Italian Restaurants. Unfortunately, it’s not.
Chicken Parmesan (also called Chicken Parmigiana) was one of the most popular dishes in my restaurant days. Sadly, most of the time, the chicken parm you’re served in restaurants comes out too dry or doesn’t have enough sauce, cheese or flavor.
But I’m going to share the Italian Chef’s secret chicken parmesan recipe with you and your life will never be the same!
What Ingredients do I need to make a Restaurant-Style Chicken Parm?
Let’s start by gathering the ingredients we need to make my Restaurant Style Chicken Parm. In Chef Speak this is called the “Mise en Place” which translates to “Everything in its Place”.
Not only does setting your ingredients up ahead of time speed the up cooking process, but it also helps ensure you have everything you need to make the dish.
These are the ingredients I used to make chicken parmesan.
- chicken breast
- mozzarella cheese
- spaghetti sauce
- all-purpose flour
- sea salt and black pepper
- seasoned bread crumbs
- water or milk
- vegetable oil
How do I make Chicken Parmesan?
The key to making the perfect chicken parmesan is in flattening the skinless breasts (which also tenderizes them) with a meat mallet. This makes for the perfect bite. Not too thick so the flavors don’t carry through and not too chewy.
The chicken breasts should weigh between 4-5 ounces each.
Flattening the Chicken Breast
Cover the boneless skinless chicken breasts with plastic wrap before pounding them. It keeps bits of chicken from flying around the room and makes the process easier.
If you don’t have a meat hammer a regular hammer (wrapped in plastic) will do. Use the flat side of the hammer not the part you drive nails in with. Just don’t go crazy on it, you don’t want to tear up the chicken breast.
While pounding the chicken breast, don’t strike straight down. You want to almost push the meat towards the outer edges while you pound. We want the breast intact; this is the best way to gain size without breaking the breast apart.
I recommend this meat hammer if you want to work like a chef and get a little medieval with your meats -> Westmark (Robusto-Spezial) Meat Hammer.
Do I have to pound the chicken breasts for Chicken Parm?
The short answer is no. But trust me, the difference between a pounded chicken breast and a not pounded breast is night and day. The pounded breast will be more tender and will spread out more allowing you to cover it with more sauce and cheese. And that means more flavor.
Once the chicken breasts have been prepped it’s onto the breading station.
Breading the chicken
Set up three shallow bowls (or other containers) that you are big enough to get the flattened chicken breast in for the breading process.
- flour seasoned with sea salt and black pepper
- egg wash (eggs whipped with milk or water)
- Italian seasoned bread crumbs (or your choice of bread crumbs)
Start by dipping each piece of chicken into the seasoned flour. Then into the egg wash, and finally into the seasoned bread crumbs.
**Make sure to get a good coating on the chicken breast at each step of the process.
Once all the chicken breasts have been breaded, you’re ready to move on to the next step.
Chef Dennis Tip:
I hate breading food. It’s a messy job and no matter how hard I try I can’t do the one dry hand one wet hand process. So when I bread chicken or eggplant I triple the amount I’m making so I don’t have to go through the process as often.
Make a large batch, fry them up, freeze them, and store them in ziplock bags. Then on a day, you’re too tired to cook you’ll have deliciousness waiting for you in the freezer!
When you’re done breading the chicken cutlets it’s time to fry the chicken up to a golden brown.
Frying the chicken
Heat a large saute pan on high heat and add about half an inch of vegetable oil. Carefully place the breaded chicken cutlets into the oil using tongs. Add as many as you can into your pan without crowding them.
Fry the chicken cutlets until they get a nice golden brown color. Using tongs turn them over and saute the other side until golden brown (2-3 minutes per side). I usually use corn oil to pan-fry the chicken, but olive oil will also work.
Drain the fried chicken cutlets on racks over a sheet pan (or baking sheets). Allowing fried food to drain removes much of the fat associated with frying. Most of the fat will not penetrate the food, staying only on the outer layer (as long as the oil is hot enough).
This half-sheet pan with a wire rack is perfect for draining fried foods.
The skies the limit for the number of toppings you can add to a perfectly breaded and fried chicken cutlet.
Chef Dennis Tip:
If you’re serious about home frying I suggest the T-Fal Deep Fryer. It’s the one I use at home for any deep-fried foods.
The secret to making a perfect Chicken Parm is using enough tomato sauce on top of the fried chicken cutlet to completely cover it.
Some restaurants give you a huge order of chicken cutlets, then don’t use enough pasta sauce or cheese to cover them. If I wanted a plain fried chicken cutlet, I’d order one!
It’s all about the sauce and the cheese.
And while you don’t want to smother the chicken cutlet with mozzarella cheese (okay maybe you do). Don’t scrimp on the cheese!! And although it’s called chicken parmesan, parmesan cheese is not the star of the dish. Although I recommend serving chicken parm with grated parmesan cheese or grated Romano cheese.
And for that restaurant-style look, sprinkle finely chopped parsley on top of the cheese before putting the chicken parm in the oven to finish cooking.
The parsley melts into the cheese, making the Chicken Parmesan even more tantalizing…..sigh.
What else can I make with a fried chicken cutlet?
Try a few of my favorite toppings:
- swap out shredded mozzarella with fresh mozzarella.
- bacon, tomatoes, and Swiss cheese
- sauteed broccoli rabe, roasted peppers, and provolone cheese
- sauteed broccoli and cheese sauce
- mushrooms, sauteed spinach, and melted bleu cheese crumbles
See how easy it is to create deliciousness? Have fun with the toppings making your own signature chicken dish, it doesn’t have to always be about Chicken Parm.
Now, this is a Chicken Parmesan that you’ll love eating! The sauce adds flavor and the cheese adds that ooey-gooey deliciousness that turns that chicken cutlet into a superstar.
In order to get crisp (not soggy) chicken cutlet the oil must be hot enough. In the restaurant, we cook at 350 degrees in the fryer. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, heat the oil until it’s shimmering but not smoking. It should be hot enough so a piece of breading dropped into the oil will sizzle.
Technically it is not. You won’t find chicken parm in Italy, it was created by Italian Americans to mimic Parmigiana di Melanzane, which is made with eggplant.
Traditionally chicken parm is served with pasta. But other options are veggie noodles, Caesar salad, mashed or roasted potatoes, rice, or garlic bread.
I like using Italian seasoned bread crumbs and often add a little more seasoning to them. But you can use plain bread crumbs or panko bread crumbs, and add your own seasonings to make chicken parm. It’s all up to you.
Yes, you can. While I prefer making my own sauce, there is nothing wrong with cutting out that step and using your favorite store-bought tomato sauce.