How to Butterfly a Chicken Breast

Butterflying a chicken breast is a skill every cook should have in their toolkit. Here are the 3 easy steps that will have you butterflying in seconds.

a butterflied chicken breast sitting next to a chicken breast on a white cutting board with a knife
Photo: Ali Redmond

There are two main reasons to butterfly a chicken breast. One is to make sure the chicken breast has a consistent thickness throughout the fillet, transforming the popular cut from lopsided to flat and even. This will help the chicken to cook evenly and more quickly. The other reason to butterfly is to prepare the chicken breast to be stuffed or rolled into a roulade with a filling. Butterflying creates more surface area in which to wrap around your stuffing. If you simply plan on searing and sautéing the butterflied chicken breast, the additional surface area also helps create extra flavor. The browning (or the Maillard reaction, if you're fancy) that occurs on the surface of the meat when searing equals flavor—that's why those brown bits taste so good and you're often encouraged to scrape the bottom of a pan when cooking certain recipes.

So, now that you know why you're butterflying, here's how. First, you'll need a sharp knife, preferably a boning knife (that's the slightly flexible, skinny-bladed one), but a chef's knife or even a paring knife (depending on the size of the chicken breast) will do. Then, you'll need that cutting board you use only for raw meat (it should be plastic; wood is for veggies and non-meat ingredients). Finally, slide on a pair of gloves, if you're not a raw-chicken-toucher, and follow these simple steps.

Recipes to Try: Healthy Stuffed Chicken Breast Recipes

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Step 1. Position

A hand placed on a chicken breast on a cutting board
Ali Redmond

Place the chicken breast tenderloin-side down on the cutting board so that the narrow end is pointing toward you. Firmly place the palm of your hand (the one that's not holding the knife) flat on top of the breast with your fingers curled upwards so they're out of the blade's way.

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Step 2. Cut

Close up of cutting a chicken breast
Ali Redmond

Hold the knife so the blade is at a 45-degree angle to the chicken at the top-right, thicker end of the breast. Slowly slice into the chicken as if you were cutting it in half, being careful to not actually slice through the chicken breast completely. Move the knife slowly down the length of the breast, keeping the tip toward the "spine." You're done when the knife tip comes out the tip of the chicken.

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Step 3. Open

Close up of hands opening a butterflied chicken breast
Ali Redmond

Open your chicken like a book. If the breast doesn't lay completely flat, carefully make the cut you just made a little deeper. You have successfully butterflied a chicken breast! Stuff or roll with your preferred filling. Or try some of our healthy chicken recipes like Ham-&-Cheese-Stuffed Chicken Breasts or Mediterranean Stuffed Chicken Breasts.

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