In the past, I have tried a variety of ways to make chicken nuggets, and to achieve the coveted “crispy and crunchy” texture that surrounds the chicken. I knew that one easy way to do this was to just deep-fry the nuggets, but I wanted to find a healthier route to achieving the same end result. Tonight, I think I might have finally found it.
(Makes about 30 – 34 nuggets)
~ 3 chicken breasts
~ 1 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1/2 tsp salt
~ 1/4 tsp pepper
~ 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
~ 2 eggs
~ Olive oil
Cut up the chicken breasts into chunks that you feel would be appropriate to be considered “bite-sized nuggets.” I went with a 0.5″ by 1″ chunk size as a rule of thumb and got some pretty good-sized nuggets from the chicken. Beat two eggs in a separate bowl, and also mix the flour, salt, and pepper in another bowl. Now, to prepare for the breading, put the flour mixture into one Ziploc freezer bag and the panko bread crumbs into another Ziploc freezer bag. Dip the chicken pieces into the egg, toss in the flour bag, then dipped in the egg again and tossed in the panko. Repeat this process until all the nuggets are coated. This process ensures that the chicken will get that nice, crispy skin around the outside (thanks to the flour) and then the hearty crunch when you bite into it (thanks to the panko).
There were enough chicken nuggets that I had to use two skillets to cook them in. Put a nice layer of oil on the bottom on the pan (we’re going for a shallow pan-fry technique here) and heat it up until you can see it shimmer a little bit. A good way to test whether or not the oil is hot enough is to throw a bit of flour on there. If you see it bubble up, it’s good to go. Also ensure that the oil is not smoking, or otherwise it is too hot and the chicken will burn. This technique really is hard to get down pat, and requires a bit of practice to get a feel for how the cooking goes.
Once the oil is up to temp, start to lay the chicken nuggets right into the skillet. Continue to adjust the temperature of the flame to make sure the breading doesn’t burn, and also add more oil for the pan-fry if it looks like most of it had burned off. I didn’t really pay attention to the clock while cooking the chicken, but rather did it by eye and saw that it was time to turn the piece after inspecting the side with some kitchen tongs. I would say though that depending on the thickness of the chicken piece, the total cook time should not be more than 5 or 6 minutes per piece.
We served the chicken nuggets tonight with some peppered corn, macaroni & cheese, and some barbecue dipping sauce. The texture came out beautifully, the chicken was nice and moist, and the taste of the chicken was amazing.