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Fried Chicken Tenders – EXTRA CRISPY

These EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders are easy to make at home and every bit as delicious as your favorite restaurant. Learn the secrets that the chefs use for making golden, perfectly seasoned, crunchy batter!

Be sure to serve these with my easy honey mustard sauce and homemade french fries!

A white plate with fried chicken tenders with sweet and sour sauce.

Fried Chicken Tenders

If there’s one thing I know how to do,  it’s how to fry up a batch of golden brown CRISPY chicken!

No need to run out and stock up on buttermilk, you can make these with exactly what you have on hand at home right now. Let’s get into everything you need to know!

How to Make EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders

Use a Dry Brine Method – NO Buttermilk!

To dry brine chicken means to salt it and let it sit uncovered in the fridge for several hours. This accomplishes 4 things:

  1. It allows the salt to penetrate through the chicken which gives it plenty of flavor.
  2. It also makes it extra juicy on the inside as the salt extracts the moisture which is then reabsorbed by the chicken.
  3. The salt also breaks down the tough muscle proteins, which makes the meat more tender.
  4. It keeps the outside of the chicken dry which allows it to grip all of the breading and make it extra crispy.

I choose to dry brine the chicken instead of soaking it in buttermilk, (which is a common alternative method for fried chicken), simply because I sometimes just find it to be easier.

Note: You can still have delicious chicken tenders if you have to skip the dry bringing step due to lack of time.

Remove It From the Fridge for 20 Minutes Before Frying.

This allows the chicken to cook evenly, but it prevents the oil from getting too cool when the chicken is added.

Thoroughly Dry The Chicken Before Breading.

  • If you don’t have time to dry brine the chicken, (or even if you do), it’s important to ensure that every piece of chicken is nice and dry before you begin to bread it.

Dip it in Egg Whites Only.

  • For these chicken tenders, we want super crunchy, textured fried chicken. The protein in the egg whites helps to grip and hold on to the breading. It’s also lighter and not too wet, which makes sure that it doesn’t soak through the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Keeping the egg yolks is fine for Chicken Parmesan, but using only egg whites is the secret weapon in this recipe. Make sure you beat it until it becomes airy and frothy.
  • If you would prefer to use the entire egg instead of just the whites, use your hands to slide off excess eggs from the chicken so that they’re not overly coated.

Bread Generously. Textured Breading is Good.

  • As you bread the chicken, you’ll see it start to become more textured from transferring chicken to and from the plate. Texture in this breading is exactly what we want. (Just try to keep it dry.)
  • It’s important to generously coat every nook and cranny of the chicken.

Showing how to dip chicken tenders in egg whites and then breading to make fried chicken tenders.

Breaded chicken tenders before and after deep frying.

Temperature For Frying Chicken

  • Perfect fried chicken is cooked in canola or vegetable oil that’s gradually heated to 350°-375°.  Using an oil thermometer is key here. OR, use you can use a deep fryer.
  • Throughout the cooking process, you may find that you need to decrease the temperature and increase it back up again later. As the chicken keeps cooking, the oil gets hotter. When new chicken is added, it gets cooler. Maintain a temperature that feels right for that nice golden brown color.
  • If your oil gets dirty, add some additional oil to the pan to clarify it a little bit. Note that this will temporarily cool the temperature of the oil.

Reusing the Oil

  • I’m going to go with Cook’s Illustrated on this one, who advises that the oil used for frying chicken can usually be used 3-4 additional times prior to discarding. They also advise as to how you can clean the oil first if needed.
  • Note that some of the flavor from the fried chicken will transfer to the next batch of whatever you fry up. This can be a good thing as it gives that food even more flavor.
  • I like to fry up a batch of my homemade french fries with my leftover oil. I leave the oil in my dutch oven with the cover for a few days until I’m ready to use it again. (Just don’t do this with cast iron as it will rust.)

Air Fryer Method

Disclosure: Nothing beats the flavor and texture of deep frying this chicken, but here are the instructions for air frying, if you must. 😉

  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°. If yours runs hot, heat to 350°.
  • Place the breaded chicken on the air frying basket, do not overlap them and fry in batches if needed.
  • Use Canola Oil Cooking Spray to generously coat the outside prior to air frying.
  • Air fry for 10-15 minutes. Flip and spray with more Canola oil.
  • Cook for 10 more minutes.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Dipping Sauces For Serving


Storage

Refrigerator

  • Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for 3-4 days.
  • Reheat in a 375° oven for 15 minutes.

Freezer

  • You can also flash freeze on a baking sheet for 1-2 hours and store in a freezer bag for 1-2 months.
  • Reheat in a 375° oven for 20-25 minutes.

Leftover chicken tenders are great in my mashed potato casserole with crispy chicken!

A hand holding a fried chicken tender and dipping it in sweet and sour sauce.

What to Serve With Chicken Tenders

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Fried Chicken Tenders

5 from 12 ratings
These EXTRA CRISPY Fried Chicken Tenders are easy to make at home and just as your favorite restaurant. Learn the secrets that the chefs use for making that perfectly seasoned, crunchy batter!

Ingredients

  • 2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Kosher Salt + Pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 48 oz. canola oil, for frying

Breading

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs,, plain or Italian
  • 1 ½ teaspoons seasoned salt
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  • Cut the chicken breast into strips that are about ¾ inch thick and 5 inches long. Pat completely dry. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper on each side. (Use about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt per pound of chicken)
  • Optional Step #1: Dry brine the seasoned chicken breast by letting it sit uncovered in the fridge for 4 hours on the bottom shelf. This keeps it dry on the outside which allows the breading to stick to it well. It also allows the salt to penetrate through the chicken which allows the inside to become juicy, tender, and flavorful.
  • Optional Step #2: If possible, remove the chicken from the fridge 20 minutes before frying for even cooking throughout.
  • Combine the breading ingredients and set aside.
  • Crack egg whites into a small bowl, save the egg yolks for another dish if desired.
  • Beat the egg whites until fluffy and frothy.
  • Place saran wrap over the chicken and use the rough side of a meat mallet to pound the meat and create texture on the outside, this allows the breading to work it's way into the crevices and creates grip to hold on to the breading.
  • Dip each piece of chicken into the egg whites, then coat it generously in the breading mix, allow every cook and cranny to get thoroughly coated.
  • Add oil to a dutch oven, fill it no more than halfway. Heat to 350-375 degrees. (You can also use a deep fryer.)
  • Fry the chicken tenders in batches of 3 so that the oil doesn’t get too cool by adding too much chicken, and so that the chicken doesn’t crowd each other.
  • Each side will take about 4 minutes to sufficiently brown. Remove and place on paper towel lined plates to allow any excess oil to absorb. This will keep it extra crispy.
  • PRO TIP: Transfer chicken from paper towels to a wire rack in a 200° oven to keep them warm while you fry the remaining batches.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Notes

Try serving these with my easy honey mustard sauce!
Air Fryer Method:
Disclosure: Nothing beats the flavor and texture of deep frying this chicken, but here are the instructions for air frying, if you must. 😉
  • Preheat the air fryer to 375°. If yours runs hot, heat to 350°.
  • Place the breaded chicken on the air frying basket, do not overlap them and fry in batches if needed.
  • Use Canola Oil Cooking Spray to generously coat the outside prior to air frying.
  • Air fry for 10-15 minutes. Flip and spray with more Canola oil.
  • Cook for 10 more minutes.
  • Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 126kcal, Carbohydrates: 2g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 7mg, Sodium: 201mg, Potassium: 51mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 38IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 3mg, Iron: 1mg

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53 comments on “Fried Chicken Tenders – EXTRA CRISPY”

  1. Can you fry them then freeze after cooled? Then bake frozen tenders like you would store bought. I’m a food preper and looking for some new ideas. 

  2. This is an amazing recipe! I tried it a couple of weeks ago and my kids were happy to hear I am making them again tonight. So good. Thank you. 🤗

  3. Best fried chicken recipe ever!! My boyfriend and I are obsessed! 

  4. The most crispy chicken tender I’ve ever made at home!

  5. Could I cook these in a regular oven?

  6. Ummmm these are so delicious. It’s blowing my mind that I’m able to fry up a restaurant-quality batch of chicken fingers in my own kitchen. 

  7. Got so caught up in making breadcrumbs and dry brine and lord too much info that I missed putting flour in breadcrumb mixture! You need to word this better and say to mix crumbs and flour for us boobs that are trying to make it in a tiny kitchen and finding places for our iPads and pans and bowls can make us miss the obvious…but on a good note, chicken still came out decent and kids loved it.

    • Hey Janice!! I appreciate the humor here and am so happy that you enjoyed it! The ingredients have a section called “Breadcrumb Mixture” – with the breadcrumbs, flour, etc. listed, and then the instructions say to “combine breadcrumb mixture”- would it be easier if I repeated the ingredients again? Maybe? I definitely want it to be easy! I’ll review it again tomorrow!

  8. Retired male here who loves cooking, my wife who still works loved it, Im the cook in the house she was very impressed, BTW i took the credit lol.. Question though with this salt brine how do i do that, i had 2 big bones chicken beasts that i cut in fingers, added 2 tbls spon of salt in cup water for about 30 , is that the proper brine? MIne tasted great but just guessed on the brine mix.

    I will be will be cooking with again

    Thanks Ray

    • Hi Ray! I’m so glad to hear that you and your wife enjoyed these! You deserve full credit! hahaha! For the salt, you’ll use about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt per pound of chicken. I have added this to the recipe card! 🙂

      • I am going to try this today! How much water for the brine? You indicated it was updated on the recipe, but I only see optional step 1 but no idea on the quantity of water. You addressed the salt above, so I have that. Just don’t want to mess up the brine by using too much and diluting or too little either.

        Thanks a bunch!

      • Hi Nancy! This is a dry brine, so there is no water needed! 🙂

  9. I have never had any success in frying chicken but I gave this recipe a try and it was amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I was using the eggs; yolk and all and buttermilk and never knew to salt it in the fridge. Again, wonderful recipe that I will be incorporating into our meal rotations!! 

    • I am soo happy to hear that you were successful with these Fried Chicken Tenders! It’s so fun when you can finally nail something like this at home! 🙂 Thank you so much for taking the time to leave this review, I really appreciate it! -Stephanie

  10. Could an air fryer be used to cook these? Thanks! 

    • Hey Hannah! Yes they can, here is the info from the post, enjoy!!
      Air Fryer Method
      Preheat the air fryer to 375°. If yours runs hot, heat to 350°.
      Place the breaded chicken on the air frying basket, do not overlap them and fry in batches if needed.
      Use Canola Oil Cooking Spray to generously coat the outside prior to air frying.
      Air fry for 10-15 minutes. Flip and spray with more Canola oil.
      Cook for 10 more minutes.
      Ensure the internal temperature has reached 165° prior to serving.

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