Chicken Parmesan is made of components I love, like juicy chicken, savory Parmesan cheese, tangy tomato sauce, and spaghetti. So, in theory, I should love Chicken Parm as well, but for all its promise, in most restaurants, it’s an utter abomination that ruins the ingredients that go into the dish. With soggy flaps of mystery meat saturated with old grease and insipid sauce, I’ve never been able to get behind the American interpretation of Pollo Alla Parmigiana.
I think the biggest issue for me is that most Chicken Parm recipes have you douse the crisp fried chicken with sauce before covering it with cheese and then baking it. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems a little silly to fry something to get it crisp, only to cover it with liquid and make it soggy. It's with that in mind that I set out to make the best Chicken Parmigiana ever!
My quest started with the chicken. Instead of pounding it flat, I used thigh meat (which is juicier than breast meat) and left the thickness as is. The thinking here is two-fold. The first is that pounding the chicken flat tends to make it dry out more easily. The second is that a flat cutlet gives the chicken more surface area, which changes the breading to meat ratio. This is fine for dishes like schnitzel where you want the whole thing to be crispy but does not work so well when you're dunking the cutlet in sauce, as the bread just gets soggy.
To bread the chicken, I used Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) rather than the European kind because the crumbs are larger, giving your chicken a nice thick, crispy coating. Along with some minced rosemary and thyme, I also added grated Parmigiano-Reggiano straight into the breadcrumbs to make sure you never wonder why the dish is called Chicken Parmesan.
Next, I wanted to see if I could avoid frying the chicken. Not because I was trying to make this healthy, but because deep-frying is a pain. A bit of olive oil drizzled on the cutlets before they go into the oven is all the oil that is needed to get the tops to crisp to beautiful golden brown. The bottom side admittedly didn't get as crisp, but this doesn't matter since the bottom of the chicken gets submerged in the sauce.
This brings me to the assembly and what makes my Chicken Parmigiana so good. Instead of pouring the sauce on top of the chicken, I put the sauce in the bottom of the pan, and then set the chicken ON TOP of the sauce. Simple right? Honestly, I don't get why everyone doesn't do it this way.
After the chicken then gets covered in cheese, it's baked in a hot oven, which melts and browns the cheese. The chicken stays crisp and cheesy on top, while the bottom half mingles with the hot bubbly sauce absorbing all of its great flavors.
As for the sauce, I find most places spend more time on the chicken than on the sauce (which isn’t saying much) and the sauce tends to be watery, bland and sour. If you have a good marinara sauce feel free to use that, otherwise I have an excellent basic tomato sauce recipe that makes just enough sauce for this dish.
Serve the Chicken Parmesan on a bed of your favorite pasta (I usually use spaghetti) for a simple, delicious meal that can easily be multiplied to feed a lot of people without much additional effort. Oh, and if you need a party appetizer for the holidays, check out my Chicken Parmesan Nuggets recipe!
I’m not an advocate of buying unnecessary gadgets, but there are a few items that are indispensable. A fast, accurate thermometer is one of them, and I travel with a Thermapen in my chef's roll. It's waterproof, easy to read and only takes 2-3 seconds to get a reading. With a temperature range from -58 to 572 degrees F, you can use one Thermapen for everything from roasts to candy-making to deep-frying. If you need a thermometer (or you’re looking for a better one), you can get a Thermapen Mk4 here, or it’s little brother, the ThermoPop here.
- 550 grams boneless skinless chicken thighs (breasts work too)
- 1 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
- 4 grams fresh rosemary (~2 sprigs, stem removed and minced)
- 3 fresh thyme (~3 sprigs, stems removed and minced)
- 40 grams Parmigiano-Reggiano (grated, Parmesan Cheese will work as well)
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups basic tomato sauce
- 80 grams Mozzarella cheese (grated)
- 320 grams spaghetti
- flat leaf parsley (minced for garnish)
- Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat to 350 degrees F (175 C). Place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.
- In a large bowl, combine the panko, rosemary, thyme and Parmigiano Reggiano.
- In a separate bowl, beat the egg until the yolk and white are well incorporated.
- Generously salt and pepper the chicken on both sides, then dust with flour to coat evenly.
- Dip the coated chicken in the egg, making sure to cover the whole surface of the chicken with egg, then transfer the chicken to the bowl with the breadcrumb mixture.
- Coat both sides with a thick layer panko, pressing down on the chicken a bit to ensure an even coat.
- Place the chicken on the wire rack, then drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil evenly over the chicken.
- Put the baking sheet in the oven. Bake chicken for 20-25 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 160 degrees F (71 C).
- While the chicken is baking in the oven, make, or reheat the basic tomato sauce.
- Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil.
- After removing the chicken from the oven, increase the temperature to 500 degrees F (260 C).
- Pour the sauce into a casserole dish, then top with the baked chicken.
- Sprinkle with the Mozzarella, and additional Parmesan if you'd like.
- Bake the Chicken Parmesan until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese has formed a golden brown crust on top.
- Boil the pasta according to the package directions, drain, then toss with olive oil.
- Serve the Chicken Parmesan over a bed of spaghetti with a sprinkle of parsley to garnish.
Kelly Ducharme says
Made this the other night, I didnt have fresh herbs (used dried), but this had to be THE BEST Chicken Parmesan I've ever had ! ! !
Ethan Matthews says
Hi Marc, what is the serving size for this recipe?
Marc Matsumoto says
It depends on how big everyone's appetite is, but this should feed about 4 people.
Going to make this for a nice dinner for my boyfriend tonight, thank you for the recipe, I will report back with the results! Best to you and yours
Michelle Park says
Thanks for this fantastic recipe that I'm going to try. Can you clarify if it's okay to buy stewed tomatoes in a can, or should I really make my own stewed tomatoes?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Michelle, the canned ones are fine and often better than fresh ones most of the year. It is best to get whole ones though as the chopped ones tend to be picked greener so they retain their shape.
I used this recipe as my first attempt at making Chicken Parmesan and WOW, did it NOT disappoint!! I made it for some friends along with my family and everyone loved it, including the pickiest eater of us all (my 6yr old). This was so tasty...dare I say the best Chicken Parm I've ever had. Marc, you KILLED IT with this recipe!!
K Su says
Made this over the weekend. Thanks so much for sharing, best chicken parm ever! This recipe is a keeper, and I appreciate the detailed pics showing how it's done.
Susan Valdez says
Omg. I've never had this before and decided to try it, and it was sooo good. My picky kids even loved it. Thanks for sharing.
Elaine Foultz says
My family and I absolutely loved this entree. The recipe was very easy to follow, I recommend this recipe to anyone who loves italian food.
Gwenhwyfar Finer says
This is a great recipe. I really liked your use of thighs over breasts. Panko is also I great change. The one deviation I did from this recipe: after I cooked the thighs (this took 40 minutes at 350) and removed them from the oven, I left them on the rack, heated up the oven to 500, added the mozzarella/parm. to the thighs and put them back in, no sauce. Once the cheese got bubbly and browned, removed them and topped the spaghetti/marinara with them. It worked well, didn't dry out the thighs at all. I really look forward to trying more of your recipes. Thank you so much!
I can't find whole stewed tomatoes, can I use the sliced ones? Also the only stewed ones I can find have peppers and onions in them. Are those the ones I use?
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Brandi, I'm not sure where you're located but they may be called something else where you live. They're basically whole canned tomatoes with nothing added except salt. You can used chopped tomatoes but they're not ideal because they're typically picked before the tomatoes are ripe so that they retain their shape. Which makes them more sour and less sweet.
Sandra Jensen says
Made this gluten-free and it was amazing
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Sandra, glad to hear it works GF and that you enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing!
Hi Marc, made this about a month ago and the family loved it! I cooked the chicken and sauce tonight, ready to assemble tomorrow. How would you recommend I do so? I was thinking of reheating the chicken and the sauce together first and then turning it up to 500 with the cheese. Is this the best approach or should I heat up the chicken alone first? What temperature would be best to avoid drying out the chicken? Thanks for your help and for the amazing recipe!!
Marc Matsumoto says
Hi Kiran, did you use thigh meat or breast meat? If you used thigh meat, I think you can heat the sauce, and then assemble it and heat the chicken while you're browning the cheese. If it's breast meat, this is still probably the best way to do it, but there's a high likelihood it's going to be a little dried out.
Thank you, Marc! It turned out perfectly! Just as good as the first time we made it. I used thighs, btw. I rarely use chicken breast anymore.
Marc Matsumoto says
I'm glad to hear it!
Very tasty! This is the first well plated recipe that I have tried and I’m glad I did. Will be trying more recipes in the near future.
Excellent taste, loved the ease of making this recipe and family loved it! Definitely a keeper!