I’m an adult, I swear. I have a real job, live in a real apartment, pay real taxes, make real car payments- ya know, the whole shebang. I’ve gotten rid of ALL my Barbies, my pink backpacks, and have way outgrown those (admittedly awesome) sneakers that light up on the bottom when you walk. And now that I’m a bonafide adult, I learned to truly appreciate things like sushi, wine, spinach, black coffee, and even the occasional caviar.
But some things, I’ll probably never give up- no matter close I inch toward AARP membership.
Specifically speaking, I will always love crispy, crunchy and CLASSIC chicken fingers.
Since I’ve been a little girl, my go-to casual restaurant meal has been chicken fingers. Whether at Popeye’s (sue me, it’s a guilty pleasure), the Ground Round near the mall where I grew up (are those still around?), or even now at the local dive bar across the street from our place, I am just a huge fan of all things fried strips of tender, juicy chicken.
What’s not to love? The crisp, crunchy exterior, combined with the succulent tender white meat is just unbeatable. I know, I know, frying isn’t exactly ideal health-wise- but I do not eat a lot of fried food in general, so I don’t feel bad about indulging once in a while.
The secret to getting these bad boys super crunchy comes in two parts: consistently HOT oil and a solid breading technique. I’m a big fan of the assembly-line approach to breading- step by step application of flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs to the chicken tenders. To keep the oil hot, use a kitchen thermometer to measure the temperature throughout cooking, and adjust to maintain the heat accordingly. I also recommend using a spatter guard to keep yourself clean and pain-free during frying.
- 2-3 cups canola oil (this will vary depending on the size of your pan- you want about an inch of oil in the pan)
- 1 lb chicken tenders
- pinches of salt, pepper, and cayenne (the last one is optional)
- ½ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- ½-1 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- Mustard for serving
- Heat the oil in a large, deep sided pan to 325° F (you can check this using a kitchen thermometer). You want to make sure the oil keeps a consistent heat to really get the chicken nice and crispy.
- Mix together the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne (if using) in a shallow bowl. Crack the eggs into another bowl, and lightly scramble using a fork. In a final bowl, add the Italian breadcrumbs. You now have your breading stations/assembly line prepped!
- Using a paper towel, thoroughly dry the chicken tenders. Dredge each tender in the flour mixture until coated, then dunk into the eggs, once again to coat. Finally, dip the chicken in the bread crumbs until covered completely, and remove to a plate until ready to fry.
- Once the oil has reached 325°, carefully place the chicken tenders into the pan using tongs. Do not overcrowd the chicken, and make sure to maintain that 325 temperature as closely as you can. You may need to cook these in batches in order to keep the oil from decreasing in temperature too fast.
- Let fry for about 4-5 minutes, then using tongs again, carefully flip each tender to the other side. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, or until a thermometer says the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 160°F. Once chicken is cooked, remove to a plate lined with paper towels, and fry the next batch if you have additional chicken to cook.
- Serve alongside mustard and your favorite sides, and enjoy!
What’s your ultimate childhood favorite food that you still love today?