Chicken tenderloin is such a versatile and tender cut of chicken. They are perfect as appetizers, any time snacks, sandwiches and served as part of lunch or dinner! I love to create workday meals with them because I can get dinner ready in no time. Last night I pulled dinner together in under an hour and even made The Best Southern Mac and Cheese to go with the tenders. While there’s a million and one ways to season tenders, these are simply seasoned with salt, pepper and mustard. I’ll show you below how to get that crispy, crunchy crust that make tenders so irresistible.
WHAT IS CHICKEN TENDERLOIN?
Chicken tenderloin is not the chicken breast cut into strips. Tenderloin is a specific strip of white meat located under the breast close to the breastbone. Technically it is the pectoralis minor muscle of the chicken and it is more tender than the actual chicken breast.
LET’S MAKE SOME CHICKEN TENDERS
The first thing I do is clean the tenderloins. Tenderloins have a white thin connective tissue over it and a tough tendon through it. While you can eat both, I find it more enjoyable when removed. You can peel off the thin connective tissue from the top of the tenderloin and use a knife to remove the tendon. Simply press the blade of the knife against the tendon and pull on the tendon to separate the white meat. You may need to wiggle it a bit and removing the tendon may spilt the tenderloin in two, but that’s okay. I would rather have it split than bite into a tendon.
Once all the tenderloins have been cleaned, season both sides with a little kosher salt and black pepper. In a shallow dish, beat an egg with a Tablespoon of water to make an egg-wash. Set both aside.
Note: You can change up the seasonings according to personal taste. Feel free to add Italian seasoning, Tex-Mex seasonings, or any other flavor combination.
Combine all-purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow bowl and set aside. Add Panko bread crumbs in another shallow bowl and set aside. Create a dredging station by placing the all-purpose flour, egg-wash and Panko bread crumbs side by side. Use one hand to dredge the chicken tenderloins in the seasoned flour (shaking off any excess flour); then dredge in the egg wash (allowing the excess egg to run off).
Place tenderloin in the panko bread crumbs and coat one side with a little country mustard (optional) before completely coating in Panko bread crumbs. I love the mustard flavors here, if you don’t like it, just omit it. Place the tenderloin on the clean dish. Repeat this step with the other tenders until all the tenders have been dredged and coated.
Note: Why season the tenderloin and the flour? It adds layers of flavor. Emeril Lagasse used to season each layer of any dish as he cooked and it makes perfect sense to build layers of flavor for a well seasoned dish – be it a chicken tenderloin or a lasagna.
Add enough canola oil to a skillet as to cover 1/4 inch of the pan’s surface in oil. You want enough oil to come up half way up the tender. Bring to temperature over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot place a few tenderloins at a time using tongs. You always want to begin placing close to you and releasing the tenderloin away from you in case it splatters.
Note: You only place a few at a time as not to drop the temperature of the oil. If the oil cools down too much, the bread crumbs will just absorb the oil and become soggy.
Pan fry the tenderloins in batches for 4 minutes on each side until the internal temperature is 165°F. If the internal temperature is greater than 165°F, your chicken can be tough. Use tongs to flip the tenderloins and remove them from the skillet. Place on a paper bag to drain any excess oil. Paper bag works great because you can throw it out when done and you don’t worry about extra clean up or removing pieces of stuck paper towels. You can drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet if you don’t have paper bags.
Once you’ve fried all the batches, transfer to a serving dish and garnish as desired.
Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders
Crispy chicken tenderloins are quick and easy any time meal that's kid friendly and approved by all. This crispy chicken is double dredged in flour and Panko bread crumbs for that extra crispy crust.
- 1 packet chicken breast tenderloins about 8 tenderloins
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 Tablespoon water
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup Panko bread crumbs
- optional: country mustard
- Canola oil for frying
Clean the tenderloins by peeling away the thin connective tissue over the tenderloin and removing the tough tendon that runs through the center. Use a knife to separate the white meat from the tendon.
Season tenderloins with kosher salt and black pepper.
Add about ½ cup of all-purpose flour to a shallow bowl and season with ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.
In a shallow bowl, whisk together an egg plus 1 Tablespoon of water to make an egg-wash. Set aside.
Add 1 cup of Panko bread crumbs in another shallow bowl and set aside.
Create a dredging station by placing side by side the seasoned flour, egg wash, Panko bread crumbs plus an extra plate at the end for the dredged tenderloins.
Use one hand to dredge the chicken tenderloin in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess flour; then dredge in the egg wash, allowing any excess egg-wash to run off.
Place tenderloin in the bowl with the panko bread crumbs and coat one side with a little country mustard (optional) before completely coating in Panko bread crumbs. Transfer tenderloin to the clean dish. Repeat this step with the other tenderloins until they have all been dredged in the three coatings.
Add enough canola oil to a skillet as to cover 1/4 inch of the pan's surface in oil. You want enough oil to come up half way up the tender. Bring to temperature over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot place a few tenderloins at a time using tongs. Always release the tenderloin away from you in case it splatters.
Note: Place a few at a time as not to drop the temperature of the oil. If the oil cools down too much, the bread crumbs will just absorb the oil and become soggy.
Pan fry the tenderloins in batches for 4 minutes on each side until crispy and golden and the internal temperature reaches 165°F. Remember to use tongs to flip and remove them from the skillet.
Note: If the internal temperature is greater than 165°F, your chicken may be tough.
When done, place on a paper bag to drain any excess oil. You can drain on a wire rack over a baking sheet if you don't have paper bags.
Transfer to serving dish and garnish as you wish.