Forget the processed freezer-burned bags of chicken tenders. This recipe takes only 30-45 minutes from start to finish, can be scaled up or down as needed, and is far healthier and tastier thanks to panko bread crumbs and some lard for frying.
Easy Chicken Tenders (Makes about 2 lb. tenders)
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 3 eggs
- 2-3 cups panko bread crumbs. (To avoid waste, start with 2 cups and get more if needed.)
- 24 oz. chicken breasts, sliced diagonally into 3/4″ wide strips
- salt and pepper to taste (See note.)
- 3/4 c. lard or tallow for frying
- 12″ cast iron pan
- 3 shallow dishes
- baking sheet
- Put the flour, eggs, and panko bread crumbs into three separate shallow dishes. you’re setting up the breading stations.
- Beat the eggs well with a splash of water.
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towels.
- Place your lard in the cast iron pan and heat over medium heat. You want the lard to start melting and heating at a reasonable pace while you bread the chicken, but not too fast.
- Meanwhile, bread the chicken strips. Take one strip, dredge in the bowl with flour, then move it to the bowl with beaten egg. Coat with beaten egg, then transfer the strip to the third bowl with the panko crumbs and coat. You may need to press the crumbs to the chicken strip to help them adhere. Transfer the breaded strip to the baking sheet.
- Repeat with the remaining chicken strips. When the lard is just starting to smoke, add some of the breaded chicken strips to the pan and cook about 4-6 minutes until light golden brown, flipping halfway through. See note at the bottom for my assembly line process to speed things up.
- Move the finished chicken strips to a plate and repeat the frying with the remaining chicken. It typically takes me about 3-4 batches to finish them all.
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauces, rice, and a veggie of choice. I like green beans, broccoli, sauerkraut, and salad.
- If you want seasoned chicken tenders, add your salt/pepper to the flour bowl. You can also add 1 tbsp. of garlic powder, paprika to taste, cayenne pepper, or any other spices you like. I’ve done all three with success.
- To avoid breading all the chicken tenders and then waiting for lard to heat, here’s my assembly line:
- I begin melting/heating the lard after I’ve gotten my bowls set up but before I bread any strips.
- I bread about 1/3 of the strips (about 1 pan’s worth). By this time, the lard should have heated up to frying temperature.
- I then place the breaded strips into the pan, and begin breading the 2nd third of the strips while the first third cooks. Keep an eye on the strips in the pan, reducing heat if they’re cooking too fast and flipping them with tongs halfway through.
- When I’m close to finished with the 2nd third, I’ll check the temperature of a randomly selected strip in the pan. You’re looking for a finished temperature of 155-160F. If the temperature is around 140-150, finish breading the 2nd third of uncooked chicken, then wash your hands and remove the cooked tenders to the pan and put the uncooked breaded ones in the pan. Otherwise if the strips in the pan are finished, pull them, then reduce the heat. Finish breading the 2nd third of strips, place in the pan, and increase the heat back to frying temperature.
- Repeat this idea for the final third of strips. Bread the final third of strips while the 2nd third cooks.