Oven fried chicken, done right! A crispy, crunchy crust and moist, succulent, flavorful chicken – it’s about enough to make one throw away those awful freezer bags of additive laden frozen nuggets! (do it now!) One taste of this chicken and you’ll never go back.
Better yet, this full on Retro meal harkens back to my childhood of the 60’s when Shake N’ Bake Pork Chicken or Pork Chops were my favorite – and these are SO much better.
This is for Kevin and all of those others out there who are trying to nudge little people who’ve grown up on Chicken Nuggets towards eating a bit healthier. One of my prime sleight of hands move is to serve familiar food that is slightly more sophisticated and just a bit healthier.
This is one of my son’s favorite dinners – I had to call him to the table twice today. The second time, I added “It’s Oven Baked Chicken!” to which he replied in a voice somehow plaintive and excited at the same time, “Really, Mom?” Five seconds later, he was at the table. And, yes, I did ask him how it compared to his gluttonous binge of the Tyson’s Nuggets we tried over the weekend. His reply? “Mom, this is so good…so good.”
The idea and techniques were “stolen off” Bobby Flay and fabulously frugalized, eliminating some waste and expensive ingredients. As you can see, I went full on Retro with the meal, serving our favorite Glazed Carrots and an Iceberg Wedge Salad with a blender dressing. The chicken for four ran about $1.85 and the sides another 65 cents each: total around $3.15
- 3/4 cups low-fat buttermilk or substitution (see note)
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika – this is regular old paprika, not the smoked kind
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, 6 ounces each
- 1 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs (see note)
- 3 tablespoons oil (I use Olive Oil)
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cooking Spray
Whisk together the buttermilk (or substitute), mustard, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cayenne in a bowl. Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc, add the buttermilk mixture, and squish it around a bit to coat the chicken. Refrigerate for 1 hour and up to 4 hours. (The marinade does seem to make the chicken a bit juicier and slightly more flavorful, but if you don’t have time to marinade, it’s still very good if the chicken is just dipped in the mixture.)
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to the upper-middle position.
Mix the breadcrumbs with the canola oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on top. Liberally spray the rack with nonstick baking spray. (You could omit the rack and just place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. The bottom will not be as crispy and a bit oilier.)
Working with one breast at a time, remove chicken from the marinade and dredge in the crumb mixture. Gently press the crumbs on, especially on the top where it shows. If it doesn’t seem to want to “stick” in an area, wet the area with a little of the marinade and then cover it with the bread crumbs.
Place on rack. When all the breasts are on the rack, spritz the tops with a bit of cooking spray.
Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the breast registers 160 degrees, about 30 minutes. (I’ve never actually tested mine with a thermometer. If your breasts are around six ounces or so, they’re always perfect. If in doubt, just make a small nick in the thickest part of the breast and check one.)
If you have leftovers, let them cool to room temperature and then refrigerate, uncovered until they’re cold. After they are chilled, cover them. This helps to keep the crust from softening in the fridge.
- Buttermilk: This is an ingredient I often do not have on hand – I simply took about 3/4 cup of milk and added a tablespoon or so of mayonnaise and about a 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to slightly thicken the milk and give it the tang from the buttermilk. A little yogurt or sour cream in the milk would work as well.
- Bread Crumbs: I never buy the expensive store brought bread crumbs because they don’t taste that great and don’t have the beautiful, cragginess that gives such great crunch to the crust. Whiz up your own using my recipe for toasted bread crumbs (they keep in the freezer for several months before losing their fresh taste.) If you don’t have any pre-made, toast them while the oven preheats (watch them like a hawk, though, at the higher temperature!)
- Panko: Bobby Flay used Panko, but he divided it in half and broke down half of it into finer crumbs in the food processor. I tried the recipe with the Panko and really like the home-made bread crumbs better. I also tried it once and forgot to divide and break down half the Panko, and the crust had an odd texture.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
How does this price compare to the store-bought frozen Chicken Nuggets we tried last week? If I were to figure this per pound as I did those nuggets for pricing, this would be $1.20 per pound. The Tyson nuggets at regular price of $6.99 for 29 ounces were $3.68 per pound. On sale, with a doubled coupon, I could get the same 29 ounce package for $3.99, or $2.22 a pound. Regardless, these TASTE so much better, even if they only cost about half as much as the Tyson’s.
- Chicken: I never buy full price chicken – it goes on sale too often. Some sales are better than others, but usually every few weeks it will drop to 99 cents a pound, and I stock up then. I prefer bone in breasts over boneless (see Bone-In Chicken Breasts, How to Deal with in a Frugal Manner) but I’ll buy either bone in or boneless at this price. I portion the chicken in Ziploc bags, a breast per person for meals and freeze. If breasts are super large, I’ll trim them down to about six ounces and make tenders for the kids or use the bits for stir fry. Cost for 24 ounces is about $1.49. (By the way, I just use the same Ziploc I took the chicken out of to marinade the chicken in. Cost for this recipe: $1.49.
- Buttermilk: I rarely have buttermilk on hand unless I’m planning to bake – but if I were to buy it for a recipe like this, I’d plan on making other items requiring buttermilk. Buttermilk will store better in a jar than in the opened container, and does last for several weeks without going bad. While buttermilk may need to be shaken together again if it sits in the fridge, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with it. Look for any discoloration or odd odor – trust your nose. For a recipe like this I often, as mentioned above, just use milk with a little mayo, sour cream or yogurt to add a little thickness and maybe a teaspoon of vinegar for a little tang. I just used milk here, so the cost is about 6 cents.
- Panko Bread Crumbs: I generally just use homemade (which I keep in my freezer) but Panko is a larger, very crisp bread crumb and is quite a bit crisper than, say, Progresso. I do find coupons every now and then for Panko, and it does go on sale, quite often when other Asian items do – stock up on things like Soy, etc. after the US New Years when the Chinese New Year is coming up. My cost I always count as free, since I’d be throwing away old bread at my house if I didn’t come up with a use for it. If you’re going to “splurge” on a convenience item, bread crumbs are a cheap one to splurge on.
- Spices: These are basic spices that should be in everyone’s cupboard. I never count the cost of my spices – I just don’t have the mental acuity to figure it out, and the amounts are so small. You can’t go wrong with keeping any of the spices in this recipe on hand – all of these I buy in large quantities because I use them for things like rubs for ribs, steaks, pulled pork, chops and also for my own blends like Taco Seasoning. Buy your spices on sale or in the “bulk” aisle or even in the produce aisle in the bags. The common ones can often be bought very cheaply at the big box store in large plastic containers. Put what you’re going to use in little jars and store the rest in a cool, dark cupboard.
- Dijon: I always pick up a lot of Dijon (and all my other condiments) during the summer holidays when condiments will reach their all time lows and coupons abound. A second chance always comes around during Super Bowl week. We go through tons of Dijon because it’s called for in so many recipes and I’ll use it for vinaigrettes, marinades and things like cole slaw. If I can’t find a deal with a coupon, the store brands on sale are often a good value. (When I can’t get any more out of my container, I add a little red or white wine vinegar and a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and shake it for a quick salad dressing in the jar.) Cost for a tablespoon – a guess- about 3 cents.
- Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 24 cents.
- Cooking Spray: Yeah, it does have calories and some brands do have trans fat – they just make the “serving” size so small (one spritz) that it doesn’t have to be counted according to Federal regulations. Most people use more than one “spritz.” Buy during the Winter Holidays with coupons and sale prices, or look for sales during the summer – it’s sometimes on sale because it’s a great grilling item. I generally buy it for no cost with a coupon. Cost for a few spritz? I’d have to say two cents? I was very excited a few years back to buy the little containers that allowed you to spritz olive oil (or any oil) but I found the oil quickly turned rancid and the device clogged up – a complete waste of $14.00…
- Ice-berg lettuce Salad: The lows in my area runs 69 cents now and then with a store coupon up to 99 cents a head on sale. I pick it up now and then on the sale price; so often considered passé, there still is nothing like it for a crisp, fresh salad in the summer or as a topping for so many Mexican dishes. I used half a head, and will make sure to use the rest later in the week. Cost for four, 50 cents. For the dressing, I just mixed a few herbs from my pot, a good amount of pepper and a dash of vinegar with a little mayo/sour cream. The whole salad was around 65 cents.
- Carrots: I used Cook’s Illustrated Recipe for Carrots with Parsley Butter, a cost of about 65 cents.
(six ounce serving of chicken) 310 cal, 9g carbs, 38 g protein, 110 mg cholesterol, 13 g fat, 400 mg sodium
If you’re curious to how this stacks up to, say a Tyson’s chicken nugget, like the one I reviewed, if this chicken were divided up into the same weight, 2.75 ounces: calories would be 142; carbs 4; prot 17.41; chol 50mg; fat 5.95g; sod 183mg. No trans fat other than the miniscule amount of naturally occurring trans fat in the chicken.
Put Your own Spin on It:
I haven’t tried this yet, but I’m going to try this with a few finely chopped pecans or almonds next time I make it, and maybe even a few herbs mixed in the bread crumbs.
Recipe made June 2012; Repriced in February 2014 for less than the original price.