Yes, you can absolutely cut chicken breasts into smaller pieces. This can be useful for a variety of recipes that call for chopped or diced chicken rather than whole chicken breasts. Some good reasons to cut chicken breasts into pieces include:
- To make the chicken cook more quickly and evenly
- To use the chicken in stir-fries, fajitas, kebabs, etc.
- To portion the chicken out for meal prep
- To have pieces that are easier for kids or others to eat
When cutting chicken breasts, it’s best to use a sharp knife and cut against the grain of the meat for the most tender pieces. Chicken can be cut into bite-size pieces, strips, cubes, or any shape desired for the recipe. Properly stored, cut chicken breasts will typically last for 3-4 days in the refrigerator before needing to be used.
How to Cut Up Chicken Breasts
Cutting chicken breasts into smaller pieces is easy to do with the right technique. Here are step-by-step instructions:
Step 1: Prepare the Chicken
Start with raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Rinse the chicken under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Make sure all clumps are removed and the surface is dry before cutting.
Step 2: Place Chicken on Cutting Board
Lay the chicken flat on a clean cutting board. Make sure to use a sturdy board that won’t slide around. The board should also be large enough to hold the entire chicken breast.
Step 3: Hold Breast Firmly
Use your non-dominant hand to hold the chicken breast steady and firmly press it against the cutting board. Keep your fingers curled under to keep them safely out of the way.
Step 4: Cut with Sharp Knife
With your dominant hand, use a sharp chef’s knife to slice through the chicken. Make clean cuts, holding the knife at a 20 degree angle to the cutting board.
Cut the chicken against the grain into pieces of the desired size and shape. Uniform 1/2 inch cubes or 1 inch strips work well for many uses.
Step 5: Transfer to Storage Container
Once the chicken is cut up, transfer it right away to an airtight storage container. Glass or plastic containers with lids work well.
Storage Tips for Cut Chicken
Proper storage is important for cut chicken breasts to maximize freshness and shelf life:
- Make sure the chicken is cooled before storing. Do not store warm cut chicken.
- Store in an airtight container, not loosely wrapped or in a permeable bag.
- Keep chicken pieces in a single layer, not heaped.
- Refrigerate at 40°F or below.
- Use within 3-4 days for best quality.
- Do not freeze previously refrigerated cut chicken; only freeze fresh.
Following these guidelines keeps pre-cut chicken safe and optimal for use in recipes. Monitor for any off smells or textures and discard if they develop.
Tips for Cooking Cut Chicken
Smaller pieces of chicken cook faster than whole breasts. Keep these tips in mind when cooking diced, cubed, or sliced chicken breast:
- Reduce cooking time by 2-3 minutes compared to whole breasts.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure chicken reaches 165°F internally.
- Stir frequently when sautéing to prevent sticking and ensure even cooking.
- Adjust sauce or liquid amounts in recipes to account for increased surface area.
- Take care not to overcook or dry out the smaller pieces.
The cut chicken can be cooked using any method including baking, sautéing, stir-frying, grilling, simmering in sauce, etc. Just reduce cooking times slightly and test for doneness.
5 Recipe Ideas for Cut Chicken Breast Pieces
Pre-cut chicken breast is convenient to have on hand for all kinds of delicious recipes. Here are just a few recipe ideas:
Sauté sliced chicken with onions, bell peppers, and Mexican seasonings. Wrap in tortillas with desired toppings.
Chicken Stir Fry
Stir fry cubed chicken with broccoli, carrots, peppers, and teriyaki or stir fry sauce over rice.
Chicken Caesar Salad
Toss chopped grilled chicken breast with romaine lettuce, parmesan, croutons, and Caesar dressing.
Bread cubed chicken pieces, sauté, and top with tomato sauce and melted mozzarella cheese.
Simmer diced chicken in chicken broth with vegetables and noodles or rice for homemade soup.
Any recipe requiring cooked chicken can be easily adapted to use pre-cut chicken breast pieces instead of whole breasts. Dozens of family favorite meals can be made using this handy ingredient.
Nutrition of Cut Chicken Breasts
Cutting chicken breast into smaller pieces does not significantly alter its nutritional value. The protein, fat, carbs, vitamins, and minerals stay the same.
Here is a nutritional comparison of a 6 ounce raw, skinless chicken breast cut into pieces vs a whole breast:
|6 oz Chicken Breast, Chopped
|6 oz Whole Chicken Breast
As you can see, the macronutrient amounts are identical for cut chicken compared to whole chicken breast per weight. This makes it easy to swap cut chicken into any recipe or meal plan.
Chicken breast is prized for its high protein content and low fat and calories. It provides a range of vitamins and minerals such as:
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Vitamin B6
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5)
No matter how it is cut, chicken breast delivers excellent nutritional value and health benefits. Pre-cut chicken provides convenience without sacrificing its great nutrition.
Cost Comparison of Cut vs Whole Chicken Breast
Pre-cut chicken breast does come at a somewhat higher cost compared to purchasing whole breasts:
|Whole chicken breasts
|Pre-cut chicken pieces
The pre-cut chicken costs $1-2 more per pound on average. This price difference reflects the convenience of having the chicken already chopped and ready to cook.
Despite the slightly higher price, pre-cut chicken can save time and effort in meal prep. It may be worthwhile for busy home cooks or those cooking for large families. Buying whole breasts is more economical for those with time to cut their own chicken.
Either way, chicken breast remains one of the most budget-friendly sources of lean protein for a healthy diet.
Here are answers to some common questions about cutting up chicken breasts:
How small can I cut chicken breasts?
Chicken can be diced into pieces as small as 1/4-inch or 1/2-inch cubes for recipes like chicken skewers or stir fries. Slightly larger 3/4 to 1-inch cubes work well for soups, casseroles, and salads.
Can I slice or pound cut chicken to make it thinner?
Yes, sliced or pounded chicken breast pieces cook very quickly. Try pounding to an even 1/4 or 1/2 inch thickness. Be careful not to tear the chicken.
Can I freeze cut raw chicken pieces?
It’s best to freeze chicken right after cutting it, before refrigerating. Freeze pieces on a parchment lined tray then transfer to a freezer bag.
How long does cut chicken last in the fridge?
For food safety, use refrigerated cut chicken within 3-4 days. Always check for spoilage and discard ifChicken begins to smell, look, or feel slimy.
Is cut chicken safe for my family?
Properly handled and cooked, cut chicken is completely safe for families. Be sure to store it correctly, cook to 165°F, and practice good kitchen hygiene when preparing chicken.
Cutting up chicken breasts makes this healthy protein easier to include in a variety of everyday meals. With the proper techniques, storage, and cooking, pre-cut chicken pieces can be safely used for quick meals, meal prep, kid-friendly dishes, and more. While slightly more expensive per pound than whole breasts, the time savings may be worth it for many busy home cooks. With its stellar nutrition, versatility, and convenience, diced chicken breast is a smart staple ingredient for any kitchen.