I want to make my own chicken fingers. I’ve made potato chip chicken before, but I thought something more like a classic finger would be a good idea. So to that end, I looked up some recipes and found this one from Betty Crocker making use of Bisquick. Last night I put that recipe together.
Off the bat I had some questions. I thought it might be good to brine the chicken first to retain flavor and juiciness, but I was afraid it would interfere with the breading. The method used in the recipe does not include flour, so I figured it was better to limit the variables on my first attempt.
For the breading I made only a couple of changes. I used salt, not garlic salt, because I didn’t want garlic to color my initial assessment of the flavor. I did not use paprika; I don’t really care for it enough, and used a small amount of black pepper instead. (In hindsight it was too small. It was probably 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. and it had no impact whatsoever on the flavor. But using too much would have been a problem, so better to go light.) And although I didn’t mean to change this part, I used slightly less butter than it called for for drizzling, but I also don’t think that impacted the result in any way.
Now comes the post mortem.
I was disappointed with these chicken fingers.
After cooking for 14 minutes at 450°, even flipping them halfway as directed, the chicken was done but the breading never browned up very well or crisped properly. It tasted all right and was flavorful, but I think it would have tasted better and been more flavorful had I moved up the rack from the center and hit it with the broiler for part of the cooking time. This is the biggest problem I have with the recipe, because I followed the cooking time and temperature exactly (and my oven keeps temperature pretty well I believe) and it came out nowhere near what the recipe or all the people who’ve commented about it have said it would. I even watched a YouTube video beforehand that followed the very same recipe, and their results were nothing like mine. I don’t get it!
Now that I’ve tasted the basic breading, I think it definitely would benefit not only from a little garlic but also some Italian herbs and a little more black pepper. The breading stuck to the chicken fairly well during cooking for the most part, but using flour before the egg like a regular breading probably wouldn’t have gone amiss at all. I don’t regret leaving out the paprika, even though something was missing.
The chicken itself also came out all wrong. It was tougher than I wanted, and had a sort of basic unseasoned chicken flavor inside, which means my first instinct to brine it was totally on the ball. And again this goes back to my being disappointed about the temperature and time in the instructions, because I knew I couldn’t just throw the chicken back into the oven to cook up the breading a little more; the chicken would have been way overdone if I had.
So the next time I make homemade chicken fingers, it’s gonna go differently.
First, my chicken is getting brined. My brine of choice is 1 qt. water, 1/4 cup kosher salt, about 1 tbsp. of Italian herbs, 1 tsp. dried minced garlic, and 10-20 black peppercorns, brought up to a near boil (to steep the herbs) and then allowed to cool before brining the chicken in it. I may leave out the herbs if I don’t want to go the Italian route, which means I won’t really have to do the whole heat-and-cool thing either.
Second, the breading mixture will include half a teaspoon of garlic powder in addition to the half teaspoon of salt, and I’ll add half a teaspoon of black pepper. If I want to try Italian seasoning I’ll add some herbs to the breading as well.
Third, I’m flouring the chicken after patting it dry, before it goes in the egg.
Fourth, I’m moving up the oven rack and broiling at least one minute per side, if not two, near the end of cooking.
For now I have a couple baggies of leftover chicken fingers to use up. I’ll eat them, but as I said I am disappointed. They’re a little tough to share with the cats, too, because the chicken didn’t come out as moist as it should have inside. I did say it was an experiment, though, and next time I’ll know more going in.