My favorite comfort food
Chicken tenders are my weak spot when it comes to food. I simply can’t resist them. As a child, they were my favorite and even now as an adult, I still crave that long chunk of chicken heavily coated in crispy batter and dunked in a creamy ranch sauce.
The only issue I ever had with chicken tenders was that I never actually made them myself. Sure I ordered them at restaurants and bars. I mean, who can resist a tasty little basket of fried chicken fingers during happy hour? But make them myself? How does one recreate such magic?
Recreating the magic
As I consider myself a ‘chicken whisperer’ in the kitchen, I took on the challenge of creating a chicken tender recipe with glee.
As always, the key to delicious chicken is to treat it beforehand with brining, marinating or curing with a dry rub. For this recipe, I used a simple lemon and thyme poultry brine which is easy to throw together and seasons the chicken perfectly.
However, the coating to the chicken was an entirely new challenge altogether. I wanted something with an extra crispy outside that was just as tasty as the meat inside. Since the standard flour coating just couldn’t get the same results, I did some research and experimented with how I could get the perfect crunchy outside.
In the end, I settled on a mixture of seasoned flour and tempura batter combination. The tenders are first dipped in flour, then drenched in thick batter then dredged in flour again. I could go on about how this is the best way to create that crispy outer shell but I think the pictures and end result speak for themselves.
Appetizer, Main or Kid Food
When I make this recipe, I typically end up with a lot of chicken. After everyone has had their fill, I package up the remaining tenders and place them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for later. Just pop them on an oven tray and warm up in the oven for your own little basket of crispy chicken fingers, an easy main to a weeknight dinner or something for the kids to nibble on when they refuse to eat anything else.
Chicken tenders soaked overnight in a lemon thyme brine then dipped in a seasoned batter for a crispy coating. These are the tastiest chicken tenders around. #chicken #food #recipe #main #appetizer #kidfood
- 100g (about 1/2 cup) salt
- 100g (about 1/2 cup) sugar
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 lemon thinly sliced (this allows you to add both the juice of the lemon and the zest of the lemon peel)
- 1 head of garlic (garlic cloves crushed)
- 3–4 bay leaves
- 2.5 L (8 1/2 cups) water
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 lb / 450 g chicken tenders or chicken breasts cut into long strips
- 3 cups flour
- 3 cups cornstarch
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika or cayenne pepper (for those who like it hot)
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp black pepper powder
- 1 egg
- 16 oz / 475 ml of COLD soda water
- oil for frying
In a medium to a large pot, combine salt, sugar, black peppercorns, lemon slices, crushed garlic cloves, bay leaves, dried thyme and 1 liter (34 oz) of water. Stir together and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for 5-10 minutes to make sure all the flavors marry together then turn off the heat and let cool.
Add the remaining 1.5 liters (51 oz) of water and stir together. The mixture should taste like a salty soup. If you find it to be too salty, add a mug or two of water but not much more as you don’t want to dilute the brine too much.
Add chicken tenders to the brine, cover pot and place in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
When ready to cook, remove the chicken tenders from brine, pat dry and remove any herbs that might remain on the meat.
Discard brine once used, do not reuse.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, breadcrumbs, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika or cayenne, sea salt and black pepper. Mix together with a whisk until everything is evenly dispersed.
Remove 3 cups of seasoned flour mixture and place in another large mixing bowl. Add 1 egg and soda water. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. The batter should be thick but fluid enough so that it can coat the chicken tenders without too much of a sticky mess. If it is too thick, the coating won’t stick the meat and instead will slip off when bitten into. So add a splash more of cold soda water if you find it is too thick.
Take chicken tenders and dredge them in the seasoned flour mixture.
Dip floured chicken tenders into the batter and make sure it is completely coated in batter.
Remove chicken tenders from the batter and dredge back in seasoned flour mixture.
Repeat this process until all chicken is battered and dredged. Let sit in flour until ready to fry.
Heat oil in a fryer or large skillet, pot or pan over medium-high to high heat. You will want enough oil to deep fry them so be generous and use your best judgement as to how much you will need.
When the oil is hot (you’ll know if you drop a little bit of batter into it and the oil actively bubbles around it), shake excess flour off chicken tenders and fry in oil.
Fry for about 3-5 minutes on each side. Keep oil hot but not so hot that the outside burns before the center is cooked. Keep the oil at a steady medium-high heat with a fairly moderate bubble. Nothing too hot or with a furious sizzle.
When chicken is crispy and lightly golden brown, remove from oil and drain excess oil on paper towels.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and enjoy.
If you are like me and have lots of chicken tenders leftover, save them for later by putting them in a ziplock bag in the freezer for later use. Simple heat in the oven at 200 C / 400 F on a tray lined with parchment paper until hot and crispy.
- Category: Main, Appetizer, Kid food, Chicken
- Method: deep frying
- Cuisine: Western
Keywords: chicken, chicken tenders, crispy, brine, fried, main, appetizer, kid food, lemon, thyme