Cooktop Cove: Make your own chicken nuggets at home by following these 6 easy cooking tips
Anyone who has kids (and many that don't) has a box of frozen chicken nuggets in their freezer. Boxed nuggets are fast, and they'll definitely do in a pinch. But you can keep those golden nuggets in your freezer and make them taste so much better just by making them yourself. It's not as difficult as some may think, and your family will definitely thank you for taking the time.
Other than the time needed to brine, which is really just letting the nuggets sit in your fridge while you go and do what you need to do, these nuggets come together in no time at all. To freeze them after cooking, just let them cool completely and then toss them into a resealable bag. They'll warm through in about 15 minutes in a hot oven and will save you from many lunch struggles in the future.
1. Cut the chicken
When preparing many different types of chicken breasts, you need to pound them first in order to get a uniform thickness. But there's no need to take this extra step when making chicken nuggets. With nuggets, you want that chunkier chicken shape so they'll be perfect as they are. Just cut them up into 1-inch cubes and, if you're serving small kids, even going a bit smaller will do just fine.
2. Brine the chicken
Brining is such a crucial part of cooking many different types of meat, especially chicken breasts which can quickly dry out and be a bit bland at times. A typical brine is made up of 4 cups of water, 1/4 cup of salt, and 1/4 cup of sugar. That traditional brine would work here too, but to make your chicken nuggets extra flavorful, consider using pickle brine instead of water, or substituting 1/2 of the water for pickle brine.
Combine the brine and then place your chicken pieces in, giving them a quick stir with your fingers to make sure all the pieces are separated and that they're all fully submerged in the brine. Cover and let the mixture sit in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours and then drain, rinse the chicken, and pat it dry.
3. Make the breading
Of course you need breading for chicken nuggets! Anyone that's ever eaten one (or even looked at one) will tell you that. But what might be surprising is that for nuggets, bread crumbs are rarely used. That's because using flour will allow for all those nooks and crannies that make the nuggets so crispy. To make the breading combine: 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tablespoons black pepper, 2 teaspoons paprika, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 2 tablespoons powdered milk.
Confused about this last ingredient? Many people are, and that's why many people can't get their chicken nuggets to taste as good as they're favorite fast food or takeout place. Powdered milk helps makes the chicken nuggets crispier and browner, and will make your chicken nuggets so much better.
4. Make an egg mixture
You'll need something for that breading to stick to, and it won't stick to raw chicken alone. It needs a little help, and a mixture of eggs and milk are just the thing to do it.
Whisk together two eggs with one cup of milk. Place the chicken in and let it stand for 10 to 15 minutes. This will give the egg plenty of time to adhere to the chicken and helps ensure that when you take the chicken out of that mixture, the egg will stay.
5. Dredge the chicken
Once your breading line is all set up, it's time to take the chicken out of the egg mixture and dredge it in the flour mixture. You can do this one piece at a time or a few pieces at a time, depending on the size of bowl you're using. It is important though that once you take the chicken out of the flour, you place it on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. And once all of your chicken has been coated with flour, let it all sit there for another 15 minutes or so. Just like when you're making fried chicken, this will give the chicken just enough time to start to slightly absorb the flour. And that too, will result in many more nooks and crannies that makes that chicken so crunchy.
6. Fry them up!
Of course if you want to go a healthier route, you can bake the chicken nuggets once they're coated. But if you want the most delicious chicken nuggets, you've got to fry them. Bring a large pot of vegetable or peanut oil to about 400 degrees Fahrenheit and gently place your nuggets in, making sure you don't crowd the pan. Fry for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is entirely cooked through and the breading is brown and crunchy. Remove the chicken to a plate lined with a paper towel to drain slightly and season with salt.
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