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A thin, boneless cut of meat which is very tender and generally considered to be small in size. Cutlets typically refer to cuts of meat from poultry, lamb, veal, or pork, however, the term may also refer to a thin and flat crouquette consisting of chopped meat or fish and formed into the shape of a cutlet. An old term for cutlets is paillards, which is still used today.

Meat that is to be made into cutlets is removed by slicing the meat as evenly as possible into the desired thicknesses (1/2 inch thick is common), cutting against the grain of the meat. The meat is cut in this manner to shorten the length of the muscle fibers in order to make the cutlet more tender. The cutlet can also be tenderized with the use of a pounding mallet. The mallet is used to not only tenderize but to flattened and form the cutlet into narrower thicknesses by gently pounding the meat into a 1/4 inch thick piece or somewhat close and forming it into the shape of a traditional cutlet. Prior to pounding, it is advisable to cover the meat with a thick plastic wrap, such as freezer wrap to help with the forming and making it a cleaner process for pounding. Pounding can also help to evenly shape slices that are may be thicker on one side. If a smoother meat appearance is desirable, use only the flat surface of the pounding mallet rather than the pointed surface.

If the cutlet is poultry, it is taken from a chicken or turkey breast, but it may be difficult with this type of meat to keep the thicknesses consistent. Cut in a diagonal direction against the grain. For chicken, it is best to remove the tenderloin and use only the breast, cutting it in half and pounding the cutlet into the desired shape. If the meat selected is lamb or mutton, the cut is either from the leg or the ribs. Veal cutlets are traditionally cut from the neck end of the loin. And pork cutlets may be taken from the loin or from the sirloin meat in the leg portion, known as the ham. When taken from the leg they are commonly referred to as pork scallops or scallopini. For scallopini, select cuts that have no connective tissue showing.

To prepare a cutlet, the meat can be sautéed, grilled, or broiled, cooking the pieces quickly for the best flavor, resulting in a golden brown outer appearance that will remain moist within. Meats consisting of chopped fish or poultry that are mixed with a sauce or eggs to keep the mixture together, are often formed into the shape of a cutlet and commonly referred to as cutlets. This type of cutlet may be dipped into a beaten egg mixture, breaded with panko or bread crumbs, and then fried.

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