Chicken fingers – fried vs. baked comparison
A couple of days ago I got an overwhelming desire for chicken fingers. I mean, this desire was so strong, the idea of going to a fast food drive-through actually entered my mind for a fraction of a second. But then I realized that I probably had everything I needed to make them already under my roof. Frozen, boneless, skinless chicken breasts are a staple around here. I had panko bread crumbs in the pantry and every seasoning known to man (that might be a stretch) was in my cabinet. I began searching for recipes.
One of the main reasons I settled on this particular recipe was because it called for one third cup of buttermilk. Contrary to the above boasting about having everything I needed, buttermilk is not something I usually have on hand. As it turned out, I had exactly one third cup left in the frig.
The recipe calls for pan-frying the chicken strips in hot oil, which creates a super crispy, crunchy coating. As I was beginning to dredge the chicken breasts through the panko mixture I wondered, how good they would be if I baked them instead? I had the perfect opportunity to find out. I wiped my hands and turned the oven on to 400 degrees F. I pulled out a small sheet pan, lined it with parchment paper and poured on about one tablespoon of canola oil, which I spread around with a brush. Once preheated, I popped half of the coated chicken fingers in the oven. I then preheated the oil in my sauté pan and began pan-frying the second half.
When it was all said and done they were both excellent! They were super tender and the seasoned coating was delicious. They were everything and more that I could want in a chicken finger!
However, (drum roll) If I had to pick, I preferred the crunchier texture of the fried ones over their oven-baked counterparts, but not by much. After a minute or two resting on a paper towel, the fried ones didn’t taste or feel greasy at all. I wish I had done a before and after measure, because I bet the amount of oil still left in my pan had only diminished by a teaspoon or two. The baked chicken fingers had soaked up most of the (scant) oil I had smeared on the pan, so I would bet from a health perspective they both came out the same.
I’m downplaying the supporting player, the amazing honey mustard dipping sauce but it deserves a sentence or two. It was so delicious that when I made these again for dinner last night we ate almost all of it! It was great with the chicken but just as good with raw, crunchy veggies.
Leftovers were consumed today and were soooo good, I could see making these and chilling all of them for a picnic. Because the coating lost its crispy texture sitting in the frig overnight, the pan-fried and the baked were on even ground the second day.
Panko chicken fingers. A recipe I highly recommend, modified from the Food Network website.
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 2 large, boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips (I cut them against the grain)
- 1 1/4 cups panko bread crumbs
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
In a medium size bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. Soak chicken pieces in egg mixture for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another shallow bowl combine the panko crumbs, paprika, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper.
Using tongs, remove chicken from buttermilk-egg mixture, letting excess liquid drain back into the bowl, then dip into panko and turn to coat on all sides.
Whether you decide to fry your chicken or bake it, the thickness of your chicken needs to determine your cooking time. I cut my chicken strips fairly thick, so the time it took for mine to test done are listed in the below instructions. If yours are thinner, test for doneness earlier than below times.
To pan-fry chicken fingers: Heat oil in sauté pan or skillet over medium high heat. Carefully place chicken in hot oil and cook until they are golden and crispy and cooked through, about 5-6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Serve.
To oven-fry chicken fingers: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Smear 1 tablespoon oil over surface and place chicken on baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake chicken for 8 minutes and then turn and bake an additional 5 minutes. To brown coating, I turned my oven to broil and put the chicken on top rack and broiled an additional 2 minutes.
Serve with raw carrots and other crisp vegetables along with ranch, honey mustard or barbecue sauce for dipping.
Honey mustard dipping sauce:
- 1/2 cup mayo
- 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Whisk all ingredients together. Dipping sauce tastes better the second day!