Boneless chicken thighs? Yes, not breast meat. It’s the preferred cut for chicken katsu in Japan. It’s our preferred cut here at home. Unless there’s nothing in the freezer but breast fillets, we always cook our katsu with skin-on thigh fillets. More moist. More tasty.
So, you’re probably wondering how in the world chicken thigh fillets can be cooked evenly when the meat is not of uniform thickness after deboning. You have to pound them. And you’ll need a kitchen mallet to do that. Some brave cooks use the blunt side of a heavy kitchen knife but that’s beyond my skill.
To pound the chicken thigh fillets, take a large piece of cling wrap and lay it flat on your work area. Place the chicken fillets on one side, sprinkle with salt and pepper then fold over the other half. Seasoning the fillets at this point means forcing the salt and pepper into the meat during pounding. Makes sense? It does to me.
Using your kitchen mallet, pound the chicken fillets until the thickness is uniform. Do not skip this part because the that uniform thickness is essential for even frying. What should the thickness be? With chicken thigh fillets, the ideal is somewhere a bit less than half an inch.
Lift the fillets, place on a tray lined with paper towels, cover with more paper towels and press down lightly to remove excess surface moisture. Alternatively, lay the chicken fillets on a rack, stick the rack in the fridge and leave to air dry the fillets for an hour or two.
When the surface of your chicken fillets are dry, they are ready to be coated with what will become a crust during frying. To coat the chicken, you need potato starch, beaten egg and panko (never fine bread crumbs). Place them in separate shallow bowls.
Take a chicken fillet and dredge in potato starch. Make sure every inch of the surface of the chicken is coated with starch. Shake to allow any excess starch to fall back into the bowl.
Dip both sides of the the starch-coated fillet in egg. Lift and let excess egg drip back into the bowl.
Take the egg-drenched fillet and roll in panko. Pressing the crumbs into the wet surface of the chicken help them stick better.
Heat enough cooking oil to reach a depth of at least two inches. I find that the ideal frying temperature is slightly lower than the usual 350F. I go for medium to medium-high or about 310F to 325F to avoid burnt breading and raw meat.
Fry the chicken fillets, in batches if your frying pan is not large enough to hold them in a single layer. Check the underside after about three minutes. When the underside is golden brown, flip the chicken thighs over to brown the opposite side.
Especially if cooking in batches, it is important to place the cooked chicken on a rack so that air circulates around each piece. This will prevent them from turning soggy too fast as they cool. Do NOT place them in a bowl and do NOT stack them one on top of the other to prevent steam buildup which will ruin the crust.
When all your chicken katsu are done, serve them uncut or you may slice them for a more convenient dining experience. Whether the sauce should be drizzled over the chicken or served on the side is totally up to you.
Full recipe below
- 4 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 tablespoons oyster sauce
- 6 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- ½ tablespoon sugar
- Lay the chicken fillets flat on a sheet of cling film, sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover with another sheet of cling film and pound to a uniform thickness.
- Place the pounded fillets between stacks of paper towels and press lightly to remove surface moisture.
- Place the starch, beaten egg and panko in three shallow bowls.
- Dredge each chicken thigh in starch; shake off the excess.
- Dip each floured chicken thigh in the beaten egg, making sure that every inch of the surface is coated with egg.
- Roll each chicken fillet in panko. Make sure that the panko coating is even.
- Heat enough cooking oil so that it is at least two inches deep.
- Over medium-high heat, fry the chicken fillets, flipping them after two minutes, until the breading is golden and crisp.
- Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce.
- Serve your chicken katsu with the sauce.