No-Fail Fried Chicken Tenders

I’ve unlocked the code to fried chicken, and I didn’t even know there was a code.  I’ve truly never had bad fried chicken, except for nuggets–I’m not a fan of nuggets.  Other than that, I’m sure I’ve had greasy fried chicken or fried chicken that was probably frozen at one time, but while I was clearing my plate, I wasn’t thinking this fried chicken just isn’t doing it for me.  I wish I ordered a salad.  

That said, this chicken is different.  Maybe I didn’t know what I was missing not frying my chicken at home.  Or maybe everyone in the world does this and I haven’t unlocked anything.  Either way, I’ve found a fool-proof way to fry chicken that is incredibly flavorful, super crunchy, and yields the juiciest chicken.  The key?  Buttermilk.

I made this chicken for the Super Bowl, and I am not exaggerating when I say that after K suck a bite of the first batch of chicken, it took the man to his knees.  It’s that good.  Don’t let the frying scare you.  If you can heat oil, you can fry chicken, and then you can rule the world because everyone will be struck dumb by how good your chicken is, will eat too much of it, and slip into a happy food coma.

This is my plan, anyway.

Let’s fry.

The key to this chicken’s power is a nice long soak in a buttermilk mixture.  You can do this in a bowl or in a zippered freezer bag, whichever is easiest.  I started with a freezer bag, poured the buttermilk in, then realized that I had a huge hole in said freezer bag.  Then I tried a different freezer bag and that one had a huge hole in it as well.  Clearly someone is sneaking into my apartment and cutting holes in my freezer bags, so I just decided to marinate my chicken in a large bowl.

I bought chicken tenderloins that were already cut, then I cut those in half for a smaller bite.  This method would work with any chicken though, on the bone or tenders.  Add about a cup of buttermilk to the chicken and a couple glugs of your favorite hot sauce.  Season with salt, pepper, and some cajun seasoning, then let it soak, covered, for at least an hour, but up to 24.  The soak is the key to juicy chicken.

When you’re ready to fry, add 2 cups of all-purpose flour to a bowl with 1/2 cup of coarse cornmeal.  Stir that together with a fork, then season with salt, pepper, and cajun seasoning.  Then, and here’s another trick, add about a tablespoon of buttermilk to the flour.  All this does is make some clumps, so when you bread the chicken, there are nice big chunks stuck to the outside, which translates into nice big post-fry crunch.

Just toss that around until the buttermilk is absorbed.  Then take the chicken out of the marinade and place it directly into the flour mixture.  Move it around a bit, turn it, flip it, cover it and pat it down–whatever you need to do to make sure the entire chicken is coated in breading.  Then transfer to a wire cooling rack that has been placed over a baking sheet.

Continue this until all your chicken pieces are breaded.  Meanwhile, your oil should be heating to 350 degrees.  You can do this in a deep-fryer, or if you’re a normal person and don’t own one of those, in a large pot with a candy or fry thermometer.  Don’t have one of those either?  No worries.  Just heat the oil long enough so that if you stick a wooden spoon in the oil, it bubbles.

Carefully lower your chicken into the oil, working in batches.  Let fry for about 6-8 minutes, until deep golden brown.  You might have to take a piece out and cut into it to make sure it’s fully cooked–you’re looking for white meat throughout.  Season with salt right when it comes out of the fryer.

Keep this up until all your chicken is fried.  If you are frying a lot, you can keep your chicken warm in an oven that is set to the lowest temperature.

When your chicken is done, rejoice.  You just fried chicken!  I think this is a big deal!

Then eat that chicken.

I made an assortment of sauces that were not all for the chicken, but were all delicious with the chicken.    We had other appetizers that required sauce too.  The sauce post is coming up next, per a reader request, but until then what you see there is buffalo, blue cheese, honey mustard, and my own special concoction of fry-sauce.

The chicken is incredibly juice and tender.  What’s amazing is that the meat is actually flavorful throughout.  This is not just about the breading, which is weird for me, because that’s usually my favorite part of fried things.  In this case, though, the breading is definitely crunchy but not overpowering.  It’s not too greasy, either.  I’m telling you the truth when I say that it’s fool-proof.

This chicken is it.  And if you make it, you can help me rule the world, too, if you want to.  I’m sure that’s an exhausting job for one person.

Here’s the recipe!

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No-Fail Fried Chicken Tenders

Ingredients

  • 1 pound of chicken tenderloins or chicken breasts, cut into strips.  You can cut these into smaller bites too, if you want.
  • 1 1/2 cup buttermilk, plus 1 tablespoon for the breading
  • 1/4 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
  • 2 teaspoons salt, divided, and more for seasoning the final product
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper, divided
  • 1 teaspoon cajun seasoning, divided
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup coarse cornmeal
  • Vegetable oil, for frying (this will depend on how big your pot is, but I will tell you that it should fill 1/2 the pot, so about 3 inches of oil.  My deep-fryer requires a gallon!  You can also do this in a skillet with about an inch of oil, but you’ll have to flip them–it won’t be as easy as just submerging them in oil).

Method

  1. In a ziplock bag or large bowl, add chicken.  Cover with buttermilk, hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon of cajun seasoning.  Make sure the chicken is submerged, then zip or cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, but up to 24.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil to 350 degrees, as measured by a candy or fry thermometer, or when the oil bubbles when you place a wooden spoon in it.
  3. As the oil comes up to temperature, bread your chicken.  In a large plate or bowl, add flour, cornmeal, the rest of the seasonings, and one tablespoon of buttermilk.  Toss to combine, making sure the buttermilk is absorbed and has formed nice little chunks of breading.  Working in batches, take the chicken from the buttermilk and toss it in the breading, making sure it is well coated.  Transfer to a wire rack that has been placed over a baking sheet.
  4. When the chicken is breaded, carefully place in the hot oil, working in batches.  Let fry for about 6-8 minutes, until the breading is a deep golden brown and the chicken is white throughout.  You may need to move it around a bit with a wooden spoon or strainer to ensure it’s not sticking.  Season with salt right out of the fryer.  Repeat until all the chicken is fried.  If you need to keep the chicken warm, you can place the plate into an oven preheated to the lowest temperature.
  5. Serve with your favorite dipping sauces (coming soon!) 

Enjoy!

 

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