Let’s get one thing straight: We love chicken parm, but we’ve had our fair share of mediocre versions. So we took it upon ourselves to do a deep dive into this iconic dish, and come up with what we deemed our ideal recipe. In the end, that means we kept the cutlets a little bit thicker so they wouldn’t get overcooked. We gave them a shallow fry to achieve a crispy, evenly golden-brown breading.
We blanketed them in a simple yet rich tomato sauce, which gets extra depth from tomato paste. And as for the cheese, we landed on a combo of Parmesan, for its salty edge, and mozzarella, for its creamy ooey-gooey texture. A word to the wise: Although you’re only using four chicken breasts, this recipe will feed up to eight people (and even more if you’re serving other dishes along with it!). But don’t fret about leftovers: They make for a great sandwich the next day.
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 Tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste
- ¾ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 28-oz. cans tomato purée
- 2 tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1¼ tsp. kosher salt
- 1½ tsp. sugar
Chicken and Assembly
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (about 3 lb. total)
- 5 garlic cloves, finely grated
- ⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt, plus more
- 4 large eggs
- 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp. onion powder
- 4 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 12 oz. low-moisture mozzarella
- 8 oz. pre-grated Parmesan
- Vegetable oil (for frying; 3–4 cups)
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until softened but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until paste is slightly darkened in color (it should start to fry in the oil), about 1 minute. Add tomato purée, salt, and sugar, and bring to a simmer. Partially cover pot with a lid (to avoid splattering), reduce heat so sauce is at a very bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 40–50 minutes.
Do ahead: Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool. Transfer to an airtight container; cover and chill.
Chicken and Assembly
Working one at a time, place a chicken breast on a cutting board so a short side is towards you and holding a chef’s knife parallel to breast, slice along the middle of a long side to make a slit. Continue to slice until you are about ½” from the other side. Open breast up like a book and place between 2 sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or a rolling pin, pound until ⅓” thick (not making it super thin will keep it from overcooking).
Combine garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil in a large baking dish. Season chicken cutlets all over with salt (about ¾ tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt per cutlet). Add to marinade and turn to coat. Let sit at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. (The lemon juice will turn the flesh opaque, but that’s nothing to worry about.)
Make a dredging station: Whisk eggs, garlic powder, onion powder, ½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or Morton kosher salt, and 2 Tbsp. water in a large shallow bowl (cake pans or pie plates work great). Place panko in another large shallow bowl and flour in a third. Whisk remaining 1 tsp. Diamond Crystal or ½ tsp. Morton kosher salt into flour.
Working with 1 cutlet at a time and letting any excess marinade drip back into baking dish, dredge cutlets in flour, knocking off excess, then dip into egg wash, letting excess drip back into bowl. Dredge in panko, pressing firmly to adhere, ensuring no bare spots remain. Gently shake off excess and place cutlets on a rimmed baking sheet. Chill at least 20 minutes and up to 8 hours.
Set a wire rack inside a second large rimmed baking sheet. Grate mozzarella on the large holes of a box grater into a medium bowl; add Parmesan and toss to combine.
Pour vegetable oil into a large high-sided heavy skillet to come 1” up sides. Heat over medium until an instant-read thermometer registers 400°. Working in batches to avoid crowding the pan and returning oil to 400° after each batch, very carefully lower cutlets into skillet with tongs and cook until deep golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer cutlets to prepared rack; season with salt.
Heat broiler. Arrange cutlets side by side in 2 large baking dishes or separately in 4 smaller baking dishes. Generously spoon some sauce over each cutlet (you want to mostly cover them but allow some corners and edges to remain uncovered). Spoon remaining sauce into baking dishes around the cutlets. Cover cutlets with cheese mixture (again, leaving some of those crispy edges uncovered). Broil until cheese is melted, bubbling, and browned in spots, about 4 minutes. Remove chicken from broiler. Let cool slightly and sprinkle with parsley.