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Culinary Arts

Chef Thomas Keller’s Chicken Paillard Recipe

Written by MasterClass

Nov 23, 2018 • 3 min read

Chicken paillard is a versatile dish, great in a range of preparations as lunch or as a light supper.


What Is Paillard?

Paillard is a French term for a boneless piece of meat that has been pounded thin or butterflied. Pounding the meat has the dual benefit of tenderizing the meat and creating a thinner cut that cooks faster with less moisture loss.

Traditionally, a paillard is made with chicken or veal.



Paillard Alternatives

Paillard is a technique that can be applied to other proteins, such as monkfish, beef, and pork. The technique for pounding and cooking doesn’t change.

Choose other proteins with tender cuts like beef tenderloin and pork loin—a tough brisket or short rib will never break down through pounding. Try sautéing with different fats like clarified butter instead of oil for monkfish.

How to Achieve a Perfect Paillard

Michelin-starred Chef Thomas Keller of Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and The French Laundry shares seven tips for getting a perfect paillard.

  1. Pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts to uniform thinness. It’s not necessary to pound forcefully— a gentle, repeated tapping motion will do.
  2. To properly season the meat, shower it from high up with kosher salt.
  3. Chef Keller now advocates adding black pepper only when the flavor of pepper is actually desired. He also recommends adding it only at the finishing stage, so as not to diminish the flavor of pepper with high heat.
  4. Lay the chicken in the pan working away from you—this will protect you from getting splattered with hot oil.
  5. For sautéing, use high-quality cookware that conducts heat evenly and recovers its heat quickly.
  6. If your pan is large enough, you may be able to cook more than one paillard at a time.
  7. Chef Keller recommends sautéing with vegetable oil, not olive oil, because vegetable oil has a higher smoke point. In this recipe, he cooks with canola oil and uses olive oil as finishing condiment.


Chef Thomas Keller's Chicken Paillard Recipe

Ingredient Checklist

Mise en place


  • 1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, about 5 ounces (for a single serving)
  • Canola oil
  • Kosher salt


  • Cutting board lined with plastic wrap
  • Mallet (smooth side)
  • 12-inch sauté pan

Lay the chicken breast on a large sheet of plastic wrap and fold the plastic wrap over the meat. Pound it out to an even thickness using the smooth side of a meat mallet. Season both sides with salt. Pour canola oil into a sauté pan, using enough so that the layer of oil is about ⅛-inch deep.

Heat the pan over high heat. When the oil is shimmering and gives off the first faint wisp of smoke, lay the chicken into the pan, working away from you to reduce splattering. Give it a good shake so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Turn down to medium-high heat—enough heat to maintain the cooking action but to prevent burning. Cook until the underside is browned, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the chicken is cooked through and the second side is browned, about 5 or 6 minutes total.

To accelerate the cooking process, you can spoon hot oil over the chicken as it sautés. When the chicken has just a slight resistance to the touch, it is done.

Note: If preparing larger quantities, prepare in subsequent batches or use multiple pans to avoid overcrowding. If you’re working in batches, keep the oven on 150°F to keep the chicken warm as you work.

Paillard Accompaniments

Ingredient Checklist

For the arugula salad

Mise en place


  • Arugula
  • Olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Pickled red onions (recipe above)
  • Marcona almonds
  • Balsamic vinegar


  • Mixing bowl
  • Salad tongs

For the sauce vierge:

Mise en place


  • Tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • Olive oil
  • Maldon salt
  • Balsamic vinegar (or a vinegar of your preference)
  • Lemon


  • Mixing bowl
  • Spoon

Lightly dress the arugula with oil olive, using just enough that the leaves take on a light sheen, and toss. Sprinkle with salt. The oil will help the salt cling to the arugula. Garnish with almonds and pickled red onions and toss with balsamic vinegar.

Place tomatoes and shallots in mixing bowl and coat with olive oil, using enough to soak the tomatoes. Sprinkle with Maldon salt. Add a drop of balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice. Mix gently.