My chicken tenders are made from chicken tenderloins, coated in panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan cheese, then baked until golden and crispy – a firm favorite in our house.
Chicken tenders, chicken nuggets, chicken fingers, chicken sticks, chicken goujons, or whatever you choose to call them, these chicken tenderloins feature on our dinner menu at least once a week.
In fact my boys would eat them every night of the week if I let them. They beg me for fast food chicken nuggets, but I’m afraid their Irish mom believes in home cooked meals, free from ingredients I cannot pronounce. To meet the demands of my fussy eaters I created my own, homemade, baked chicken nuggets.
I tried many different coatings over the years, from crushed corn flakes to toasted whole wheat breadcrumbs, but I find panko mixed with parmesan cheese gets two thumbs up from my kids (or should I say eight thumbs up).
TIME FOR A LITTLE RANT:
Before I share my recipe it’s time for a little Irish American Mom “chicken goujon” rant.
For all Americans visiting Ireland, whose kids, like mine, cannot survive without their weekly chicken nugget feast, be warned. Nuggets cannot be found on Irish menus, except in McDonald’s. The preferred term is “chicken goujon”.
Why Ireland couldn’t stick with one of the simple terms like nuggets or tenders or fingers, beats me.
I always crack up when I hear my fellow Irish men ordering their “goujons”. Correct French pronunciation does not flow from most Irish tongues, so I’m afraid the term usually sounds more like a “goooooo….jjohn”, especially in Dublin.
I think during the Celtic Tiger boom years, we got carried away and tried to get all fancy by serving “goujons” in restaurants.
RANT OVER & OUT 🙂
What are chicken nuggets made of? I think that’s a six million dollar question, and the answer depends upon where you buy them. I once watched a TV documentary about how commercial chicken nuggets are made, and when I saw discarded pieces of chicken meat being compressed into beautifully uniform patties, I just knew I had to start making my own. As you can see from my ingredient photo there aren’t any complicated or unpronounceable ingredients required.
My homemade chicken nuggets recipe can be baked in the oven or fried, but I prefer oven cooking. Baked chicken nuggets have less fat than the fried variety.
If you like crispy chicken tenders or crunchy chicken nuggets I find panko bread crumbs, mixed with finely grated parmesan cheese, are the perfect solution to this tender coating dilemma.
What is panko? I can hear my Irish mother saying – “‘Tis far from panko you were reared.”
But I’ve come a long way from Ireland to find these dry, crunchy Japanese bread crumbs, just perfect for my chicken coating needs.
- 2 lbs chicken tenderloins
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- pinch salt and pepper (to season flour)
- 3 large eggs
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- olive oil cooking spray
Before getting started, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F. To ensure crispy tenders a very hot oven is required.
Next you need 3 bowls to prepare the dunking ingredients for coating the chicken.
In the first bowl, add the flour and season it with salt and pepper.
Break the eggs into a separate bowl, and whisk them together well.
The last bowl is for the panko bread crumbs mixed with the grated parmesan.
And now you’re ready to start coating the chicken pieces.
First layer is a coating of flour. Toss each individual chicken tenderloin in the flour, then shake off the excess.
Dip the floured tenderloin in the beaten egg, letting any extra egg drip off.
Next, roll the chicken tenderloin in the breadcrumb mixture. Gently shake off any excess crumbs.
Discard any left over coating ingredients once the chicken pieces are ready for the oven.
Place a wire baking rack in a baking tray. Spray the rack with oil. Place each chicken tender on the wire rack, allowing a one inch space between each piece. If the tenders are placed too closely together, they won’t get crispy. As each one cooks steam is released, so if they’re touching they just go soggy.
Many cooks bake their nuggets directly on the baking pan. I like to use a wire rack. I find hot oven air beneath the nuggets keeps them crispy as they bake.
Prepare and coat each tender individually. I find if I try to throw them all into the coating mixtures together the panko ends up being clumpy and less crispy when baked.
To ensure a perfect texture when cooked, spray the prepared nuggets with a little olive oil.
Place the tray in the pre-heated oven.
After about 12 minutes remove the tray and turn the nuggets. You can spray a little more olive oil on this new upper surface of the nuggets.
How long to bake chicken tenders? Until they’re cooked is the cheeky answer.
I usually bake mine for 20 to 25 minutes. The exact time required depends on the thickness of each tenderloin. When both sides are golden brown and crispy, I usually slice the thickest one, to make sure the chicken meat is no longer pink, and is a succulent white shade.
Now in case you think our meals are always ultra-healthy, please know I have been known to toss these tenders into my frying pan when I am in a rush to get dinner on the table.
They cook beautifully when shallow fried in about 3 tablespoons of oil with a knob of butter melted into the oil. It takes about 7 minutes per side to fry them, but once again, how long to fry chicken nuggets depends on the thickness of the chicken tenderloin. My motto is always to test to make sure.
While my kids are busy dipping their nuggets in honey mustard sauce, my husband and I usually dice them up and toss them over a quick and easy salad.
So there you have it – my panko crusted chicken nuggets or tenders or fingers or goujons.
Whatever you call them, I hope you enjoy them as much as my kids do. With honey mustard sauce, they’re finger licking good.
Here is the printable recipe: