I love my sister-in-law Dani. Especially when she blurts out stuff like this,“Everything Dana makes is good.” We were getting ready for our New Year’s Eve dinner and at that point all she had tasted were a some of the five sauces I made to go with our southern style chicken strips.
We’ve developed a fun New Year’s Eve tradition of making chicken strips. It’s one of the few times that we deep-fry but boy is it worth it! Usually my father-in-law will deep fry a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas and have the oil hanging around just begging to be used again. Three years ago instead of making yet another turkey, we decided to make chicken strips and fresh fries and haven’t looked back since.
The first year we made these, I had just been down in South Carolina to visit my friend Jenny and she took me to this restaurant where they made these awesome chicken strips. They were crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the outside. When we thinking of things to make for New Year’s I thought it would be a great idea to try to recreate those southern style chicken strips. Google came through with this recipe and they came out awesome. We’ve made them every year since and as Dani proclaimed last night, this is now a tradition for us.
Here’s what you need:
You need to plan ahead a little for this recipe since the chicken should marinate in the buttermilk for at least an hour but longer is better. Don’t go too long though or the buttermilk will turn the chicken to mush – at least make them the same day you start marinating them. We’ve found that 3-4 hours is our sweet spot for perfectly tender chicken strips.
Cut the chicken into strips – try to keep them all about the same thickness for even cooking time. I like to use a plastic gallon sized bag that I place into a bowl so it stays open and doesn’t fall over on you. Then you want to cover with buttermilk just until cover – it’s usually about a cup. (I forgot to take a picture until I got to the buttermilk step….look ahead to get a feel for the size of the chicken strips). Let the chicken hang out in the buttermilk for at least an hour but 3-4 if you can.
Mix together some flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and garlic powder.
Set up your breading station with 3 shallow dishes. Place about a quarter of the flour mixture in the first bowl. In the 2nd your egg wash of eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
And in the 3rd bowl the rest of the flour mixture. Then get a sheet tray ready with a wire rack on top to set the chicken when you finish breading.
Time to start breading the chicken. This is also about the time I like to start the oil heating up. It’s important to remember when breading to use keep one hand wet and one hand dry. This is one of those “duh, I should have thought of that myself” tips that I got when reading Anne Burrell’s first cookbook Cook Like a Rock Star. Anyway it really helps to keep not only your hands cleaner but your breading station neater too.
Start by dipping the chicken in the first bowl of flour and shaking off the excess.
Then dip in eggwash.
Coat again in the second bowl of the flour mixture. It’s normal to get some clumping of the flour mixture that’s going to fry up nice and crispy. I’ve seen some recipes that actually recommend mixing a little buttermilk into the flour to jump start this clumping but after a couple strips I find it happens naturally.
Place the chicken on a wire rack and allow it to sit for 10 minutes before frying.
Place the chicken into the hot oil and cook until golden brown. Usually about 5-7 minutes. If you have sliced your chicken larger than mine, it may not have cooked completely by the time the breading is perfectly golden. If this happens bake at about 375 until they’re cooked.
Drain chicken on paper towels.
If you need to fry it in batches, after it’s drained on the paper towels for a few minutes, place the chicken on baking sheet with a wire rack and place in a 200 degree oven until it’s all cooked. In our case we did this because we were also frying up 5 lbs of fresh French fries after the chicken was cooked.
Serve with the dipping sauce of your choice. We used a selection of 5 different sauces that I’ll post over the next few days, but you can also use something simple like honey, ranch, or barbeque sauce.
Fry Sauce (aka Zaxby’s sauce)
Pick your favorite sauce or try some of all of them. I kept alternating between all the sauces for each bite and struggled to pick a favorite (if you look closely you can see the other sauce cups on the table in front of my plate).
- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 c flour
- 3 t baking powder
- 1 t salt
- 1 t pepper
- ½ t ground cayenne pepper
- ½ t garlic powder
- Egg wash:
- 3 eggs
- 3 T buttermilk
- Marinate the chicken in buttermilk for at least 1 hour (3-4 hours is best).
- Combine flour and spices in 1 bowl. Move about a quarter to a 2nd bowl once mixed.
- Make the egg wash.
- Line two sheet pans with wire racks.
- Remove chicken from marinade.
- Place chicken in flour and shake off excess. Dip in egg wash. Coat again in flour. Place chicken on wire rack. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Fry in 350 degree oil until golden and cooked. Drain on paper towels and keep warm on a sheet pan with a wire rack in a 200 degree oven until all the batches are cooked.