A cutlet is a small, boneless cut of meat which can be used in a variety of dishes. Cutlets are usually cooked whole, and since they are very small, they cook quickly and tend to be tender as well. Most butchers stock cutlets in a range of meats including as chicken, pork, lamb, and veal. It is also possible to find vegetarian versions, usually fabricated from soy or seitan.
Typically, a cutlet is taken from the leg or ribs of an animal. In some regions of the world, a boned rib cut is referred to as a cutlet, but otherwise it is a boneless meat cut. Some cooks also refer to mixtures of ground meat formed into a cutlet like shape as cutlets, which can lead to some confusion. As is the case with other boneless cuts, cutlets can dry out quickly if they are not handled well, and they may not have as rich and complex a flavor as a bone-in cut.
One of the classic preparations for cutlets involves dredging them in flour, following with beaten eggs and bread crumbs. The breaded cutlets are fried and served hot with lemon or other sauces, along with side dishes such as vegetables or mashed potatoes. Cutlets may also be simmered in curries, broiled, roasted, baked, or simply sauteed plain. Generally, the shorter the cooking process, the better the cutlet will be.
Sauces for cutlets also vary widely, depending on the preparation. They may be served with coulis, gravy, sliced lemons, or compound butter. The type of sauce used is usually influenced by the type of meat and what marinade may or may not have been used. Lamb cutlets, for example, are often simply cooked and served with a mint relish, while pork cutlets may be sauced with tarragon butter or another compound butter. Chicken cutlets, on the other hand, often taste excellent with a heavy gravy.
Generally, one cutlet is enough to serve one person. Since the cuts are so versatile, they can be used in a wide range of meals. They are especially convenient for single people or small families, when the idea of making a whole roast is daunting. Like other meats, cutlets can also be frozen for future use, and some people like to cook a large batch of cutlets and freeze them for convenient later meals. In these instances, make sure to label the cutlets clearly with the date, and use within six months for optimum flavor.