Fried chicken cutlets are a simple and satisfying meal. While most probably don’t put much thought into it, the type of oil you choose has a big effect on both taste and nutrition.
Is Avocado Oil a Good Choice for Frying Chicken Cutlets?
Avocado oil is great choice for frying chicken cutlets—BetterBody Foods is a favorite brand of mine. Boasting a very high smoke point of 500 degrees, avocado oil is an excellent choice for higher heat cooking methods like frying. It also contains healthy monounsaturated fats, numerous antioxidants, and a host of other health benefits.
Are you curious about some of the other health benefits of avocado oil or still looking for other good options for frying oil? Read on to discover what makes one oil healthier than another and learn some special techniques for making the best fried chicken cutlets.
What is the Best Oil to Fry Chicken Cutlets in?
When it comes to frying chicken in oil, you have a lot of different options. One major qualification of any frying oil you choose is that it needs to have a relatively a high smoke point. Optimal frying oil temperature is 350-375 degrees Fahrenheit, so you need an oil that will not start smoking in that range.
This is because if you heat an oil past its smoke point, it forms potentially dangerous compounds that are harmful to your health. Reference this Recipe Recon article about searing scallops to find more options for frying oils and their respective smoke points.
Out of all the oils that are safe for frying, avocado oil might be the best choice for the health-conscious consumer. The health benefits are similar to those of olive oil, but refined avocado oil has an extremely high smoke point—about 500 degrees Fahrenheit—making it the safest option even if your fry oil gets a little too hot.
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Avocado oil also contains antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene and is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which reduce the risk of heart attacks, lowers cholesterol, and even increase metabolism. No wonder it’s a frequent recommendation for those following keto or paleo diets!
For those who are more cost-conscious, I would recommend frying chicken cutlets in vegetable or peanut oil. Both vegetable and peanut oils have a safe smoke point for frying.
Avocado oil is about 41 cents per ounce and hard to find in large quantities, while vegetable oil is much less expensive at around 8 cents per ounce (peanut oil falls somewhere in between at around 18 cents per ounce). The latter two may not contain the same number of health benefits as avocado oil but still result in fried chicken cutlets that are just as delicious.
Although peanut oil is a bit more expensive than vegetable oil, peanut oil actually contains a fairly high amount of monounsaturated fat—about 50% of the fat breakdown—and like avocado oil, is also a good source of vitamin E.
Vegetable oil may also contain monounsaturated fats, but also may contain small amounts of trans fats depending on the blend and are ordinarily not a great source of antioxidants.
How Much Oil Do You Use to Fry Chicken Cutlets?
How much oil you need to fry chicken cutlets depends on the frying technique you are applying—deep frying or pan frying. When deep frying, the items being fried need to be completely submerged in oil, allowing them to float in the oil and be covered on all sides for even cooking.
On the other hand, to pan fry chicken, you only need enough oil to cover the chicken cutlets about halfway. Since chicken cutlets are a thin cut, you don’t need a lot of oil for pan frying. Pan frying requires that you flip the chicken halfway through cooking to ensure even cooking and browning.
The exact amount of oil needed also depends on the cooking vessel used. A small two-quart Dutch oven will require only about 3 cups oil for deep frying. A larger pot like a standard 7-quart Dutch oven will require about 8 cups of oil or more but will also cook a lot more chicken at once, while a smaller pot will require multiple batches.
Pan frying will always require much less oil than deep frying, from as little as a few tablespoons to about ½ cup in larger, wider pans.
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How Do You Prep Chicken Cutlets for Frying?
When prepping chicken cutlets for frying in oil, I always start by pounding to even thickness if necessary, and then seasoning with salt and pepper.
You also need to add some sort of starchy coating to create the desired crispy crust effect—at a minimum, this involves dredging the cutlets in seasoned flour, which creates a very light coating more suitable for pan-frying than deep frying.
If you are deep frying, or if you prefer a heavier breading, I’d recommend following this three-step standard breading procedure: 1) dredge in seasoned flour, 2) dip in egg, 3) coat with breadcrumbs.
Regular or panko breadcrumbs can be used, or a combination—panko breadcrumbs will give a crunchier coating, but smaller breadcrumbs adhere better. On the other hand, for the same reasons finely ground breadcrumbs adhere and compress so well, they are also more prone to trapping steam which can result in a less-crispy crust.
I suggest breading the chicken cutlets ahead of time—at least thirty minutes or up to an hour before frying. Pre-breading the chicken and allowing it to sit gives it time to dry and adhere to the chicken which results in a fuller, more even coating with less breakage.
How Do You Keep Fried Chicken Cutlets Crispy?
To keep chicken cutlets crispy rather than soggy, drain them briefly on a paper towel-lined tray after removing from the oil. Season them with salt immediately after removing from oil and serve immediately if possible.
If you are making multiple batches and need to keep the finished cutlets warm, you can place them in a single layer on a sheet tray in an oven set to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Single layer is key here—it is important not to overlap the cutlets or it will create steam and they will turn out soggy.
Similarly, topping the chicken with sauces will turn the coating soggy very quickly, so it is best to serve sauces either underneath the chicken or on the side.
To keep cutlets crispy rather than greasy, the secret is in the temperature of the frying oil. When the oil isn’t quite hot enough (around 300-325 degrees) the crust forms more slowly, which allows the food to absorb more oil during the frying process.
When the oil is at it’s ideal initial temperature, 350-375 degrees, the food is able to form the crust quicker, creating a barrier preventing excess oil from being absorbed.
On a related note, this is also the reasoning behind why deep frying creates a crispier crust than pan frying. Since there is more oil used in deep frying in relation to the food, the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much after adding the cold food. When pan-frying, however, the oil temperature drops significantly when adding the food to the oil, so the crust isn’t able to form quite as quickly.