In this “how to” post, I share the secrets of butterflying and halving a boneless chicken breast like a pro. Through both a video and a series of detailed step-by-step instructions with photos, you’ll see how easy it is to perfect this basic culinary technique.
I love to cook chicken because it’s so versatile, and always have a few breasts in the freezer. Now, is it just me, or are chicken breasts getting larger and larger these days? I find that, most of the time, one breast half is plenty to serve two people. The problem is how to cut the breast half in half and still have the resulting pieces look (1) like a chicken breast, and (2) appetizing – not just a square lump of chicken meat. It’s actually very easy if you start off butterflying the breast.
What’s a Chicken Breast vs a Chicken Breast Halve?
A whole chicken breast, also known as a double lobe chicken breast, refers to the underside portion of a chicken when it is standing upright. When a recipe mentions a chicken breast, it’s actually referring to a half-breast. These instructions explain how to butterfly or halve a half-breast.
How to Butterfly Chicken Breast
Here are directions on how I butterfly and halve a chicken breast – first, a nifty video that shows you how in 15 seconds, which is followed by written instructions.
Time needed: 3 minutes
Here are step-by step instructions for how to butterfly and halve a boneless, skinless chicken breast:
- Position chicken breast.
Place one chicken breast half on a cutting board with the flat/smooth side down.
- Position your non-cutting hand.
Put the palm of your non-cutting hand on the top of the breast, with the thick part of the breast toward end ends of your fingers and the pointy end toward your wrist.
- Carefully slice the breast.
Using a very sharp knife (see below for knife recommendations), slowly cut horizontally through the breast, starting with cutting into the long, thick side. Cut from one side to the other, leaving the side of the breast opposite of where you started intact.
- Open breast up.
Open it up and lay flat, and you now have a butterflied chicken breast.
- Halve butterflied breast.
Cut the butterflied breast in half down the middle – and voila, you have 2 chicken breasts that are the right size.
How to Store Split Chicken Breasts
Once butterflied and split, place in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will last 1 to 2 days. Can also be frozen.
Butterflied Chicken Breast FAQs
Most often, a recipe will direct you to butterfly or split the breasts. If the recipes says to pound the breasts until thin, you can split them instead. In general, it’s a good idea to butterfly chicken breasts when they are very large and much thicker on one end than the other.
First, whatever knife you use, it needs to be very sharp! My two favorite knives for splitting boneless chicken breasts are a boning knife and a chef’s knife. A boning knife has a long, skinny blade; a chef’s knife is anywhere from 6 to 14 inches long, and is around 1 1/2 inches wide close to the handle, and tapers to a point.
Frankly, you can just leave the tendons if you want, but sometimes they can be a bit chewy. If you want to remove them, follow the quick and easy kitchen trick from Tik Tok star Raising Krasies.
Again, it depends on the recipe. They are now fairly thin, so they will cook quickly – typically in less than 20 minutes.
Recipe Ideas for Split Chicken Breasts
- Sautéed Chicken Breasts with Tomato-Olive Sauce
- Air Fryer Fried Chicken
- Rosemary-Dijon Chicken Breasts
- Grilled Tarragon Chicken with Pasta, Pecans and Mixed Greens
- Sheet Pan Chicken and Mushrooms
- Mexican Baked Chicken
- Easy Chicken Parmesan
- Grilled Chicken with Caramelized Red Onions
(Note: this is an update to an older post from 2015, adding in more detail to the directions as well as more content.)