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Recipe: Homemade oven-fried chicken fingers are super crunchy and good

Oven-Baked Chicken Fingers.Sheryl Julian

Serves 4

Make these oven-fried chicken fingers when you see skinless, boneless breasts on sale. Typically, fried foods are coated in flour, then egg, then crumbs (we use crispy panko crumbs here, but any unseasoned dry white crumbs work). This method skips the flour step because the egg is enough to stick the crumbs and give you a crunchy coating. Before they go into the oven, spray them with olive oil spray, and partway through baking, turn and spray them again. To make the fingers in advance, egg and crumb the strips, set them in a parchment-lined baking dish, and freeze until solid. Transfer to a zipper bag and store in the freezer; pull out as many as you need. It's not necessary to defrost them before sending them into a hot oven. Just add a few minutes to the cooking time. The recipe doubles or triples easily. You can also make these in an air-fryer (use the manufacturer's instructions) or in an oven with a convection setting (in which case they probably won't need a final minute under the broiler). They don't turn the dark golden color of deep-fried foods, but they're super crunchy and good. And you made them yourself.

pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a shallow bowl
Salt and pepper, to taste
cups panko or other plain, dry white breadcrumbs, on a large plate, or more if needed
Olive oil spray
1 lemon, cut into wedges (for serving)
1cup ketchup (for serving)

1. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. If the breasts are thick, butterfly them all the way through to make 2 thinner lobes. Cut the breasts into fingers, about 3-inches long and 1/2-inch wide. It's OK if they're not all identical in size. Remove any pieces of gristle or pockets of fat. Set them on a large plate.

3. Set up an assembly line: You'll move from left to right. Put the chicken on the far left. Set the egg in its bowl to the right of the chicken. Stir a generous pinch each of salt and pepper into the egg. Next on the right goes the bowl of panko or breadcrumbs. On the far right goes the baking sheet.

4. With clean hands, dip a piece of chicken in the egg, let the excess drip off, then roll it in the panko. Set the chicken on the baking sheet. Once you get a rhythm, you'll dip 4 or 5 pieces at a time. Continue in this way until all the chicken is coated and on the baking sheet.

5. Spray the chicken with olive oil.

6. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake the fingers for 15 minutes. Turn the pieces and spray again with olive oil. Continue baking for 5 minutes, or until the crumbs start to color and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees. (Total baking time is 20 minutes.) If the fingers are not brown enough, turn on the broiler and let them cook about 10-inches from the element (not closer) for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they start to color. Watch them carefully as they can burn at this point.

7. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and serve with lemon and ketchup.

Sheryl Julian

Serves 4

Make these oven-fried chicken fingers when you see skinless, boneless breasts on sale. Typically, fried foods are coated in flour, then egg, then crumbs (we use crispy panko crumbs here, but any unseasoned dry white crumbs work). This method skips the flour step because the egg is enough to stick the crumbs and give you a crunchy coating. Before they go into the oven, spray them with olive oil spray, and partway through baking, turn and spray them again. To make the fingers in advance, egg and crumb the strips, set them in a parchment-lined baking dish, and freeze until solid. Transfer to a zipper bag and store in the freezer; pull out as many as you need. It's not necessary to defrost them before sending them into a hot oven. Just add a few minutes to the cooking time. The recipe doubles or triples easily. You can also make these in an air-fryer (use the manufacturer's instructions) or in an oven with a convection setting (in which case they probably won't need a final minute under the broiler). They don't turn the dark golden color of deep-fried foods, but they're super crunchy and good. And you made them yourself.

pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a shallow bowl
Salt and pepper, to taste
cups panko or other plain, dry white breadcrumbs, on a large plate, or more if needed
Olive oil spray
1 lemon, cut into wedges (for serving)
1cup ketchup (for serving)

1. Set the oven at 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. If the breasts are thick, butterfly them all the way through to make 2 thinner lobes. Cut the breasts into fingers, about 3-inches long and 1/2-inch wide. It's OK if they're not all identical in size. Remove any pieces of gristle or pockets of fat. Set them on a large plate.

3. Set up an assembly line: You'll move from left to right. Put the chicken on the far left. Set the egg in its bowl to the right of the chicken. Stir a generous pinch each of salt and pepper into the egg. Next on the right goes the bowl of panko or breadcrumbs. On the far right goes the baking sheet.

4. With clean hands, dip a piece of chicken in the egg, let the excess drip off, then roll it in the panko. Set the chicken on the baking sheet. Once you get a rhythm, you'll dip 4 or 5 pieces at a time. Continue in this way until all the chicken is coated and on the baking sheet.

5. Spray the chicken with olive oil.

6. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven. Bake the fingers for 15 minutes. Turn the pieces and spray again with olive oil. Continue baking for 5 minutes, or until the crumbs start to color and a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165 degrees. (Total baking time is 20 minutes.) If the fingers are not brown enough, turn on the broiler and let them cook about 10-inches from the element (not closer) for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they start to color. Watch them carefully as they can burn at this point.

7. Sprinkle the chicken with a little salt and serve with lemon and ketchup.Sheryl Julian


Sheryl Julian can be reached at sheryl.julian@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @sheryljulian.