Hand-pounded lemon chicken

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I learned this recipe from an Irish rock and roller. No, not that Irish rock and roller, but a musician who loves to cook. Tired of being on the road and hungry for an opportunity to get his hands into some great grub, he offered to cook for a gathering of friends. I turned over my kitchen to him and have been making his pounded lemon chicken ever since, but with one crucial difference. Somewhere along the line I misplaced my kitchen mallet – maybe it was the rock star who nicked it. Desperate for a quick solution and feeling a little stressed, I tried everything from a traditional hammer to a frying pan, before resorting out of sheer frustration to flattening the chicken with my fists. Man does it feel good. It also turns out that this is the simplest and most efficient means for flattening meat. Even if my mallet magically reappeared, I wouldn’t bother with it. I love working my aggressions out on the flightless foul. Oh, and this recipe tastes pretty darn good too.


  • 4 boneless chicken breasts with the skin on – I recommend air-chilled chicken
  • 3 lemons, juiced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • ¼ cup of olive oil
  • 3 pinches fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Salt
  • Pepper


  • Large plastic bag
  • Grill or non-reactive grill pan
  • a fist full of fury


  1. Place the boneless chicken on a flat hard surface and remove any fragile rings from your punching hand. Take a breath, visualize someone who pisses you off and proceed to beat the giblets out of the poor fowl. The idea is to flatten the chicken as much as possible without actually destroying it. You will be surprised at how much of a beating those breasts can take.
  2. Once the chicken is nice and flat place it in a large bag.
  3. In a measuring cup pour approximately ¼ cup of a good cheap olive oil. Add the juice of the 3 lemons, crushed garlic, and rosemary. Sprinkle in a few healthy pinches of salt and a few solid turns of the pepper mill. Whisk well with a fork
  4. Add the mixture to the chicken in the bag. Seal the bag and give it a few good shakes to ensure that equal distribution.
  5. Place the bag in the refrigerator for anywhere between 2 and 9 hours. The longer you let the chicken steep in the juices, the tastier the final product will be.
  6. Starting with the skin side down, grill the chicken over high heat. This can be done on a charcoal grill, a gas grill or even in a grill pan inside the house. Cook until done. I recommend that you use a meat thermometer, as chicken should be cooked to at least 165 F for both safety and taste.

What you should know

It’s my belief that any kitchen should be stocked with a healthy variety of oils. Personally I always have 4 or 5 on the counter for ready access. I recommend a good cheap olive oil for a dish like this because it’s going onto the grill at a high heat and it will be difficult to taste the difference. Save your tastier expensive oils for salad dressings and recipes where you can savor the flavor.

Although I for one am morally opposed to the idea, you can use a kitchen mallet as well. It will take a little longer, but if your disposition is a little too delicate to beat the stuffing out of innocent slabs of raw poultry, feel free to use the less satisfying option. Be sure to use a flat-headed mallet, as one with ridges will tear the meat up.

Why can’t I leave the chicken in the marinade over night? Because the acid of the lemon juice will break down the chicken meat. If you absolutely positively need to leave the chicken marinating for a longer period of time, reduce the amount of lemon juice.

Re: Hand-pounded lemon chicken

My girlfriend was frightened when I started beating the chicken breasts. “You’re supposed to use a roller,” she said, at which point I kicked her out and began crafting a culinary masterpiece. It was great…I’d even say adventuresome, as it’s a world I’ve never really explored. Now, after one tiny success, I have the ego of Magellan. Of course, Magellan was killed by indigenous forces in the Battle Of Mactan.

For more about my first foray into the kitchen read my story Heart-Pounded Chicken .

Re: Hand-pounded lemon chicken