Despite my best efforts, my kitchen (and sometimes the chicken) always looks like a war zone after pounding 8 or 10 breasts. Maybe this is just a messy job, but I think there must be something I'm missing.

I've tried using mallets, both metal and wooden The meat always gets stuck to the pounding surface and the mallet. I've tried putting the meat inside a plastic sandwich bag or freezer bag; the bag is always ripping and falling apart before the meat is flat. Wax paper is about the same.

I've also tried rolling pins. Even got a "non-stick" one. This way is even more hopeless for me, because the meat either slides around on the surface or sticks to the pin (doesn't matter if I use flour).

Surely there must be a combination of tools and techniques that would allow me to complete this task without requiring 20 minutes of constant cursing and an extra hour of cleanup.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

  • 1
    Indstead of beating the meat, soak it in milk for a few hours, best if overnight. The milk breaks down the muscle,leaving the meat very tender, without the mess of disfiguring the meat
    – user23053
    Feb 6, 2014 at 22:14
  • 3
    That might work for tenderizing, but sometimes you also want the flattened shape of pounded breasts. Flatter chicken can promote more even cooking, for example. I find that especially helpful when grilling outdoors or when deep frying.
    – Preston
    Feb 19, 2015 at 3:19
  • 1
    Yeah, I admit it was open to interpretation but tenderizing had nothing to do with my rationale for posting this. I only use a mallet when I want to prepare meat for stuffing (e.g. Chicken Kiev) or layering (e.g. wrapping something in chicken, then bacon).
    – Aaronut
    Feb 19, 2015 at 5:05
  • Sorry for the confusion, I was actually responding to @user23053 here. +1 for wrapping things in chicken and bacon. A man after my own heart.
    – Preston
    Feb 19, 2015 at 5:12

16 Answers 16


Clingwrap works fine for me -- but I don't use a meat tenderizer -- I just use a small but fairly heavy pan (but not my cast iron, as it's not smooth on the bottom).

When I was in college, I tried a few things. I can get pretty decent results just hitting it with my cutting board. (with it between saran wrap).

Part of it might be technique -- if I'm doing chicken breast I first slice is sort of following the taper of the breast, so it's neither with or across the grain, but kinda of diagonal. You also don't want to hit straight down -- you want to angle the blows, so you're actually pushing the meat out, and not just trying to force it through the counter.

And I should mention that I've only ever pounded out poultry and pork -- I assume beef would be the same, but I have no experience to confirm or deny it.

  • 2
    +1 for the points about angles and techniques - that's exactly the kind of answer I was looking for. Going to try this in the next couple of days!
    – Aaronut
    Jul 11, 2010 at 13:34
  • It also might help to run the chicken under some water and then pat dry with paper towels. Clean, dry chicken will not be as messy as dirty, wet chicken.
    – Ocaasi
    Jul 27, 2010 at 18:49
  • 2
    @Ocassi -- I'm not sure; a cleaned and dry chicken won't slide well. You want the chicken to slide against the plastic wrap, or it'll keep it from being able to spread out.
    – Joe
    Jul 27, 2010 at 19:12
  • Just the regular plastic grocery bags are more convenient than wrapping in plastic wrap, I find. Sep 8, 2016 at 14:45

I always stick the chicken in a zip lock bag and pound it that way.

And I use a flat meat tenderizer which doesn't rip the bag.

  • Yeah, that was one of the first things I listed... maybe I'm doing it wrong, but that gets pretty messy too and tends to waste a lot of bags as they get ruined.
    – Aaronut
    Jul 9, 2010 at 20:37
  • I don't usually have a problem with the bag getting ruined, but maybe it is the type of tenderizer that I'm using. Added a link to my answer.
    – Bryant
    Jul 9, 2010 at 20:54
  • A heavy cast-iron skillet can also work nicely...
    – Shog9
    Jul 9, 2010 at 20:55
  • I do this too with no problem - making sure to not fully zip the bag closed - leave a small gap for air to escape otherwise it will burst. Also I use a wooden rolling pin to pound it flat so it doesn't break the bag at all.
    – Bluebelle
    Dec 3, 2010 at 12:03

I use my cutting board and place a layer of plastic film ("saran wrap") over it. It can still result in somewhat of a mess, so a zip lock bag may work better albeit more expensively.

  • this is the method I use, also remember the larger the surface of the mallet the easier it is going to be and you will not have to hit the meat as many times to get it thin.
    – Zaphoid
    Jul 9, 2010 at 20:52

I use a very long piece of clingwrap, place the meat about 1 quarter of the way along and fold it over. Because of air isn't trapped it doesn't rip. In then bang away with a rolling pin. Doesn't seem to get too messy (maybe I don't hit it hard enough!)

  • This is something I haven't tried yet. Do you use a cutting board for this or do it straight on the counter?
    – Aaronut
    Jul 9, 2010 at 20:48
  • Tend to do it directly on the counter, not sure it would matter much though.
    – Ian G
    Jul 9, 2010 at 21:00
  • 3
    This is what I do also. Tip: move glasses away from the striking area. The other end of that rolling pin has more reach than you think sometimes! Let's just say, there was no chicken mess to clean up...
    – Dinah
    Jul 19, 2010 at 2:13

I've skimmed the other answers and I'm not seeing what I think is one of the most important tips for trying to pound out chicken breasts: temperature.

Cold chicken simply refuses to play nice.

Seriously. The difference between pounding out breasts fresh from the fridge and working with chicken that has been allowed to come up to temperature is night and day. Be sure to start with completely thawed chicken.

You obviously don't want to leave raw chicken sitting on your counter for an extended period of time, so consider food safety best practices but you have a little wiggle room during which you can let your chicken sit in the danger zone. Set a timer if you are worried you may forget about it.

For many applications I will halve chicken breasts into thinner cutlets. If you make a lengthwise cut down the middle mass of the breast you end up with two smaller, thinner breast pieces. These can be pounded out easily and thrown on the grill or in a pan.

For a quick and easy pan fried chicken I like to use tenderloins. When they've warmed up a little from the fridge you can actually smash them out with the palm of your hand. I usually do this while I am breading them. Great for an easy chicken parm. You don't even need to fuss with any sort of mallet.

  • 2
    I'd agree with this, although the disadvantage of room-temperature chicken is that it tends to shred and "peel" more easily. Can get very messy.
    – Aaronut
    Feb 19, 2015 at 5:06
  • That's very true. You must use a lighter touch for sure.
    – Preston
    Feb 19, 2015 at 5:10

Add a little water with the meat in the ziplock bag (1/2 tsp or so), and moisten the outside of the bag as well. The water on the outside allows the mallet to slide easier so the bad doesn't rip, and the water on the inside keeps the meat from adhering to the plastic.

Use a gallon size ziplock for a chicken breast, and don't seal the bag.


Put the chicken between 2 sheets of wax paper or cling wrap, then roll over it firmly with a rolling pin or an unopened can (like a can of soup or veggies). The lack of violent impact reduces the mess.


YMMV, but here's what I do:

  1. Find a flat, sturdy surface large enough to hold all the meat with room to spare. You can use a cutting board for this if you want, but you don't have to - you're pounding, not cutting. Plus, if you have a lot of meat you don't need to work in batches or find a huge cutting board.

  2. Lay down a layer or two of newspaper. It's cheap and you're just going to throw it away.

  3. Lay down a layer of waxed paper. Don't go all the way to the edge of the newspaper, just room enough to work. It'll slide nicely and help reduce sticking / tearing.

  4. Lay down your meat, arranged with room for flattening.

  5. Lay down another layer of waxed paper.

  6. Finish up with another layer of newspaper.

  7. Grab a rubber mallet and pound to desired thickness. I sometimes use a sledgehammer, but the mallet is gentler and more precise. Go by feel, not by appearance - the newspaper should help with this...

  8. Lift off the top paper and discard.

  9. Move your meat to a plate.

  10. Discard bottom papers and wipe up any blood that escaped.


For just tenderizing, I actually prefer the "fork" method for steaks. So, to convert this to a less laborious, use a product with many sharp prongs. No splatter, and an arguably more desirable net effect. Then, the actual flattening for fried steak or whatever will be a lot easier/quicker, thereby causing less mess.

Use this type of device on on a surface that's expendable, but porous.. it can leads to damage to stone, etc.. or to the tips of the prongs. An older plastic cutting board works well, and can be fairly small as long as it fits the cut of meat you're working with.

Goes without saying, that you do need to be careful not to hurt yourself.. the Quake automatic "NIN" nailgun comes to mind :)


A 4 inch thick glass ash tray works well, and makes it useful if you don't smoke. Use the zip lock, put it on a cutting board, and mash it with the edge of the ash tray.

  • 1
    Wouldn't it be dangerous using a glass utensil?
    – J.A.I.L.
    Nov 29, 2012 at 8:37

I use two inexpensive paper plates on on top of each other, works great


When I have to pound chicken I lay out plastic wrap, place the breast(s) on the wrap with space between each breast and the edges of the wrap. Then pound lightly on the chicken, do not hit them too hard-I'd rather hit them 3 or 4 times than overhit and splatter stuff everywhere. Then if you aren't using the chicken right away you can wrap the chicken up in the plastic wrap until needed. Use a wooden mallet, it works best and you can see and control what you are doing. I reread my answer, oops, please remember to cover the breasts with more plastic wrap before pounding.


Plastic bags from cereal boxes work well; they do not shred even with a mallet.

  • Hello and welcome to the site! This answer has little extra information compared what answers are already here. It seems it would be better as a comment at some other answer recommending sticking the chicken in a plastic bag. Stick with us for a bit, continue to participate and you'll soon have enough reputation to leave comments!
    – Stephie
    Feb 20, 2015 at 6:04
  • This one actually seems fine - it's suggesting that a particular kind of bag might help make it easier, something that I don't see in any other answers.
    – Cascabel
    Feb 20, 2015 at 7:26

I use 2 very thin plastic cutting sheets with the Chicken in between them , this works great ! No mess.


All you have to do is

Put Saran Rap on the cutting board

Put meat on Saran Rap

Add any seizings or whatever you need

Fold over Saran Rap and begging to pound the meat with a mallet

Open up Saran Rap and remove tenderized meat

Throw away Saran Rap when finish

Now you are done tenderizing the meat and your mallet or whatever you used to pound the meat is cleaned.

That Simple

  • 3
    Quite a few answers already mention clingwrap; I'm not sure what this one is adding, aside from spelling errors.
    – Aaronut
    May 12, 2015 at 3:03

Cover meat with Saran Wrap. Then hit with a Pyrex dish.

  • 1
    I'm guessing you've never broken a pyrex dish, or you wouldn't have suggested this. (when they go ... they shatter into tons of little tiny pieces)
    – Joe
    Oct 10, 2013 at 3:12

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.