How to Cut an Airline Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is a versatile and healthy protein that can be prepared in endless ways. Learning how to properly cut an airline chicken breast (a chicken breast with the rib bone still attached) will help you get beautifully sliced chicken for all your favorite recipes. Follow this simple guide to master cutting an airline chicken breast like a pro.

Gather Your Tools

To start, you’ll need:

  • A sharp chef’s knife or boning knife. A quality knife is key for clean, even cuts.
  • A cutting board. Wood or plastic work well. Make sure it’s secured to your countertop.
  • Kitchen shears (optional). Shears make cutting through bones easy.
  • Paper towels for wiping up any mess.

Pick the Right Chicken

Not all chicken breasts are created equal. Here are some tips for picking the best airline breasts:

  • Go bone-in. An airline breast has part of the rib cage still attached. This extra bone adds flavor.
  • Select similar sizes. Cutting will be easier if your two breasts are around the same size.
  • Look for flexibility. More flexible breasts are more tender. Pass on breasts that feel very rigid.
  • Avoid blemishes. Skip chicken with bruises or discolored spots. Opt for a pristine package.

Remove the Chicken from Packaging

Before you can start cutting, remove the chicken breasts from their packaging. Discard any juices or absorbent pads from the package. Rinse the chicken under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.

Trim Off Excess Fat and Skin

Airline breasts often have thick layers of skin and fat. Trimming this off makes the chicken easier to cut and cook evenly:

  • Lay a breast skin-side down.
  • Slide your knife under the fat and skin, angling the blade upward.
  • Carefully slice the skin and fat away from the meat.
  • Cut away as much excess as possible without cutting into the meat.
  • Repeat with the second breast.
  • Discard the scraps or save them for making stock.

Remove the Rib Bone

The next step is removing the long rib bone:

  • Position a breast skin-side down with the thicker side closest to you.
  • Run your fingers over the meat to locate the rib bone.
  • Use your knife to slice down one side of the bone, cutting through the meat.
  • Stop cutting when you reach the cartilage.
  • Repeat on the other side of the bone.
  • Use the knife tip to pop the rib bone away from the remaining cartilage.
  • Cut or snap through the cartilage to completely free the bone.
  • Repeat with the second breast.
  • Discard bones or reserve for stock.

Butterfly Each Breast

Now it’s time to butterfly the breasts for even cooking. This means slicing them horizontally without fully cutting through:

  • Place a breast on the cutting board so the thicker side is facing you.
  • Hold your knife parallel to the cutting board. Make a horizontal slice into the thickest part of the breast, stopping before you cut all the way through.
  • Open the breast like a book to create two halves still connected by a thin layer of meat.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to gently pound and even out the thickness.
  • Repeat with the remaining breast.

Cut the Breasts Crosswise

For beautifully sliced chicken, make straight, crosswise cuts in the butterflied breasts:

  • Position a butterflied breast on the board so the cut side faces left.
  • Hold your knife perpendicular to the breast. Starting at the top, slice crosswise to get strips.
  • Try for roughly 1/2-inch thick slices. Cut all the way through the breast.
  • Repeat crosswise cuts until you have sliced the entire breast.
  • Repeat with the second breast.

Slice the Tenderloins

Don’t forget the two tenderloins tucked under the main breast meat. You can slice these up too:

  • Pull each tenderloin away from the breast halves. They are connected by a thick membrane.
  • Cut under and through the membrane to free the tenderloins.
  • Slice each tenderloin crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces.

Chop Into Cubes (Optional)

For stir-fries, kabobs, or chicken salad, you may want cubed chicken:

  • Gather the sliced breast strips and tenderloin pieces.
  • Stack 2-3 slices on top of each other.
  • Cut crosswise through the strips to cube the chicken.
  • Repeat until all the chicken is cubed into bite-sized pieces.

Clean Up

Give your cutting board a good scrub with hot, soapy water after working with raw chicken. Be sure to wash the knife and any other utensils that touched the raw meat. Use paper towels to wipe down counters and surfaces.

Now you can cook that beautifully cut chicken however you like! Bread and pan-fry the slices, sauté and toss the cubes in pasta, or grill up some kabobs. Learn this simple cutting technique and you’ll get picture-perfect chicken every time.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cutting an Airline Chicken Breast

Cutting chicken breasts can seem tricky, but just follow these steps and tips and you’ll be slicing like a pro. Here are answers to some common airline breast cutting questions:

Why are they called airline breasts?

The name comes from the fact that they are often served on airplanes. The mini boneless breasts are easy for flight attendants to cook and serve.

Can I use a regular boneless breast instead?

You can! These steps work great on any size boneless, skinless breast too. The only difference is you won’t have to remove the rib bone.

What if I don’t have kitchen shears?

You can use your sharp chef’s knife to cut through the rib bone. Angle the blade on top of the bone and apply pressure with a rocking motion to slice through. Be careful not to cut yourself on the bones.

Is pounding the breasts really necessary?

Pounding helps tenderize the meat and creates an even thickness for cooking. If you want to skip it, the breasts may just cook a little unevenly.

What else can I do with sliced chicken breasts?

  • Toss them in salad, pasta, or grain bowls.
  • Make chicken rolls ups with cheese and veggies.
  • Bread or batter the slices for chicken parm or cutlets.
  • Make homemade chicken fingers or nuggets.
  • Fill sandwiches, wraps, and pitas.


Learning how to cut an airline chicken breast opens up so many easy dinner possibilities. With a sharp knife, a few simple cuts, and proper technique, you can get beautiful slices or cubes of chicken for all your favorite meals. Just remember to remove excess skin and fat, free the rib bone, butterfly the meat, and make straight crosswise slices. In no time, you’ll be a chicken-cutting pro!

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