If you’re like me who loves deep-fried foods, precisely panko coated crispy foods, you will love Japanese pork cutlet called Tonkatsu (豚カツ). And I’m here to help you make the best possible Tonkatsu (ever!) in your own kitchen!
What is Tonkatsu?
For those of you who are new to this dish, Tonkatsu is a Japanese food which consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet. Pork loin (ロース rōsu) or fillet (ヒレ hire) are typically used for this dish. The word Ton (豚) comes from “pork” and Katsu (カツ) is an abbreviation of Katsuretu (カツレツ) derived from the English word “cutlet”.
While researching for this post, I found out that Katsuretu was usually made with beef! What a surprise. The dish was originally considered a type of Yoshoku (Japanese western meal) back in early the 20th century. The pork version was introduced in 1899 at a restaurant called Rengatei (煉瓦亭) in Ginza, Tokyo.
What’s the difference between Japanese pork cutlets from other versions you might ask? The biggest difference is that Tonkatsu is breaded with panko (パン粉), a Japanese style breadcrumb made from white bread without crusts. The crisp and crunchy panko flakes are larger than breadcrumbs and gives it a light and airy texture. Since it absorbs less oil than breadcrumbs, it turns crispy after being fried.
Another difference is that Tonkatsu is always deep-fried (or you can use a little bit of oil and shallow fry) instead of “pan fried” with some oil.
If you’re worried about eating deep fried foods, I have two advices for you. Don’t eat it often, but when you eat it, enjoy it to the fullest! And eat lots of vegetables with the deep fried food. My mom often says we need to eat double amount of vegetables compared to meat for a meal. Tonkatsu and other Japanese panko-breaded deep fried foods are almost always served with a mountain of raw shredded cabbage.
3 Tips to Make Best Tonkatsu at Home
Tonkatsu is actually one of the quickest and simplest meals you can make at home. You just need to know a few tricks to make the perfect Tonkatsu, juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
Tip #1: Moisten Panko
This is a trick I learned a while ago. In Japan we can purchase a type of panko called Nama Panko (生パン粉). It’s basically panko that’s not crusty but more moist just like how we shred the white fluffy parts of bread. To re-create the same panko, we “spray” some water (not pour!) to moisten the panko first.
Tip #2: Pound pound pound
Getting really good ingredients for a recipe that only requires a few ingredients is very important. For this recipe, you can also improve the meat texture by pounding it first, making it extra tender. If you don’t own a meat pounder, just use a back of your knife to pound. That’s what I did in college days.
Tip #3: Double Fry
Finally, the key to great Tonkatsu is to double fry the pork. You deep fry once and let the pork sit for a bit to cook inside with remaining heat, and then deep fry again to get the ultimate crispiness.
How to Dispose the Cooking Oil
If one of the reasons you don’t like deep frying is dealing with used cooking oil, I have a few solutions.
First of all, NEVER pour it down the sink. It’s not environmentally friendly and it will solidify and cause blockage in the pipes.
The easy and quick solution is to buy the oil solidifying powder (waste oil hardener) at a Japanese grocery stores, Asian grocery stores, or Amazon. The powder allows you to dispose of the used oil easily in the trash.
If you can’t get those, then pour the cooled oil into an empty milk carton and toss it in the trash.
But be sure to check out and follow your local trash disposal and recycling procedures before disposing the cooking oil.
The Last Option: Baked Tonkatsu
For those of you who still prefer a lighter version of Tonkatsu and don’t want to deep fry in your kitchen, you can check out my Baked Tonkatsu recipe. It’s wildly popular and JOC fans simply love it!
I hope you enjoy making this Tonkatsu recipe! If you try it, don’t forget to share your picture on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter with #JustOneCookbook. Thank you so much for reading, and till next time!
Don’t want to miss a recipe? Sign up for the FREE Just One Cookbook newsletter delivered to your inbox! And stay in touch with me on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, and Instagram for all the latest updates.
- For Tonkatsu, I highly recommend to use fresh panko (we call it "Nama Panko"). It's fresh bread crumbs not dried one. You can use food processor to make fresh panko from white bread (use only soft part of bread). Or you can spray regular panko with water and leave for 15 minutes. Also, when you select panko, look for packages with bigger crumbs as they are suitable for Tonkatsu.
- Remove the extra fat and make a couple of slits on the connective tissue between the meat and fat. The reason why you do this is that red meat and fat have different elasticity, and when they are cooked they will shrink and expand at different rates. This will allow Tonkatus to stay nice and flat when deep frying and prevent Tonkatsu from curling up.
- Pound the meat with a meat pounder, or if you don’t have one then just use the back of knife to pound. When using knife, crisscross by first pounding top to bottom then left to right.
- Mold the extended meat back into original shape with your hands.
- Season the meat with salt and pepper.
- In a large bowl or plate, add ½ Tbsp. of oil for each egg you use and whisk them up. By adding oil, the meat and breaded coating won’t detach from each other while deep frying.
- Dredge in flour and remove excess flour.
- Dip in egg mixture.
- Dredge in panko. After removing excess panko, press gently. While deep frying panko will “pop up” so at this moment they don’t have to be fluffy.
- Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat and wait till oil gets 350F (180C). If you don’t have a thermometer, stick a chopstick in the oil and see if tiny bubbles start to appear around the tip of the chopstick. Alternatively, you can drop one piece of panko into the oil, and if it sinks down to the middle of oil and comes right up, then that’s around 350F (180C) as well. When the oil reaches to that temperature, gently lower Tonkatsu into the oil. Keep watching the oil’s temperature and make sure it doesn’t go over 350F (180C) or else it’ll look burnt.
- Deep fry for 1 minute on one side and flip to cook the other side for 1 minute. If your pork chop is thinner than ¾ inch, then reduce to 45 seconds for each side.
- Now take the Tonkatsu out and get rid of the oil by holding Tonkatsu vertically for a few seconds. Place on top of wire rack (if wire rack is not available, substitute with paper towel) and let it sit for 4 minutes. The hot oil on exterior is slowly cooking the meat as it sits. Please do not cut to check whether the inside is cooked or not. We need to keep it closed to retain the heat. While waiting, you can scoop up fried crumbs in the oil with mesh strainer.
- After resting for 4 minutes, bring the oil back to 350F (180C) of oil again and deep fry Tonkatsu for 1 minute (about 30 seconds each side).
- Poke the meat with a chopstick and if clear liquid comes out then it’s done. Drain the oil by holding the Tonkatsu vertically again for a few seconds. Then leave it on top of rack/paper towel for 2 minutes. If you have to use paper towel, try to keep Tonkatsu in a vertical position so it does not get soggy on one side.
- Cut Tonkatsu into 3 large pieces (see below) by pressing the knife directly down instead of moving back and forth. This way the breading will not come off. Then cut again in between. Transfer to a plate and serve immediately.