I was just pounding some chicken breasts and thinking that for years, I didn’t know that this was a crucial step in getting evenly cooked breasts – as in, cooked all the way through, not overdone skinny end and underdone scary-pink fat end. (Another great help for perfect chicken breasts is brining, but that’s for a different day). Every time you cook chicken breasts, you should pound them to an even thickness. It just takes a few seconds, and you don’t even need a meat mallet – just use a small heavy pot, a rolling pin, a large heavy can of tomatoes or soup, a wine bottle…anything heavyish and with a flat side. I don’t even own a mallet, being of the Alton Brown, no-unitaskers mentality, so I use a pot. Anyway. Put the breasts in a plastic bag, or on a cutting board and cover them completely with plastic wrap, (but then you have to be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize the board, unless you also put plastic wrap under them, so really, just use a zip-top bag! Press all the air out so you don’t explode the bag though.)
Whack them gently a few times on the fat ends with the flat underside of the pot, until the whole breast is about the same thickness. It takes maybe 3 or 4 whacks a piece – that’s it! (Based on my experience, kids really like doing this part). If you have a recipe that calls for pounding them to a certain thickness, then it may take a bit longer to get them 1/2″ or what have you all the way through. Then continue on with however you’re going to cook them, knowing that they will be cooked evenly all throughout, so when you take their temperature with your instant-read thermometer – which you are always doing, RIGHT?? – to be sure they’re at 160 or above (shooting for 165 after a few minutes rest, as the temp will rise 5 degrees or so), they will be the same temperature throughout. Bon appetit!