For our next Japanese Recipe Adventure, we’re trying chicken katsu (anything breaded and deep-fried). Chicken katsu is possibly the tastiest way to eat chicken breast in my opinion. But people often have issues with chicken breast drying out or cooking unevenly.
But have no fear, I’m going to share with you my secrets to delicious, mouth-watering chicken katsu.
Even it out
To avoid the dreaded “burnt on the outside, raw in the middle” issue, you need to make sure your chicken is an even thickness throughout. Some people achieve this by cutting the chicken breast into slices at an angle, getting the most surface area. But I find that this way needlessly extends the deep-frying time, as you have to do more batches.
So what I do is cut the chicken breast in half, length-wise, then take a look at it from the side to find the thickest parts. Then, using a meat mallet (or, in my case, the bottom of a heavy pot), pound the thick slices with medium force until the whole thing is of even thickness. Don’t go crazy here, or you’ll lose the texture. You can skip this bashing part if cutting the breast in half results in two pieces of uniform thickness.
This step is critical if you don’t want bone-dry chicken katsu—salt brine—the secret to cooking juicy chicken. Salt brine sounds complicated, but it’s actually very easy and allows you some time to get the other parts of your meal ready.
Make a salt solution of 10 grams salt to 100 milliliters of water. Generally, I have four chicken pieces, so I need 500 milliliters of water and 50 grams of salt. Stir the water and then submerge the chicken, leaving the pieces to brine for 15 minutes. Pat them dry, and voila, your chicken will be juicy and tender, not dry and gross.
Notes on deep-frying
If this is your first-time deep-frying, it might seem a little daunting. But if you keep the following in mind, you’ll do just fine:
- Use a high smoke-point oil like canola or peanut.
- To avoid spills and splatters, use a wok, dutch oven, or pot with high walls.
- Use a thermometer like this one to keep an eye on the temperature.
- Buy a spider ladle, or if you’re very confident, a good pair of cooking chopsticks to easily remove the food from the oil without getting too close.
- Always place food into the oil away from you to avoid painful oil splatter.
- Don’t overcrowd the pot, or the oil temperature will drop too low.
Now let’s get cooking!
Here is everything I use to make a simple chicken katsu.
For the chicken katsu:
- 2 chicken breasts (500 grams total)
- ½ cup plain flour (AP or cake flour)
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup panko (breadcrumbs)
- Brine as needed (see above)
For the katsu sauce:
- 2 tablespoons of ketchup
- 2 tablespoons of Japanese Worcester sauce
- 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce
- Make the katsu sauce by mixing the sauce ingredients.
- Follow the above directions for evening and brining two chicken breasts.
- Prepare the oil for deep-frying, heating to a range of 160–180℃.
- Set out three trays or bowls separately with flour, thoroughly beaten egg and panko.
- Cover the chicken slices with the batter in this order: flour, egg, then panko. Press the panko into the chicken to make sure it is covered.
- Place each battered piece into the oil, laying it away from you and not crowding the pot.
- Cook each side for three to four minutes, then carefully turn it over.
- After three to four minutes on each side, remove the piece of chicken katsu and place it on a wire rack. If you have another thermometer, the internal temperature should be around 68℃.
- Remove any excess crumbs and batter from the oil before moving on to the next batch.
Putting it together
Once you’ve made all of your batches of chicken katsu, it’s time to make it look pretty! As this is typically eaten with chopsticks, cut each piece of katsu into strips. Serve it with white rice, thinly-sliced cabbage and a drizzling of your homemade katsu sauce. If you want to save time, you could just buy tonkatsu sauce, but I prefer to make my own.
And there you have it, an insta-worthy chicken katsu meal that will fill you up nicely! It’s great on its own, or you could try making chicken katsu curry at home.
Have you ever tried making any of Japan’s deep-fried foods at home, or is this your first time? Let us know in the comments below!