Ask any parent what their kids love to eat and it will be Chicken Nuggets 9 out of 10 times. I don’t eat fast food…ever. Nor do I eat at chain restaurants. If you have ever owned, managed or worked in a restaurant you know why and I won’t share the horror of it all and create hysteria. If you eat it, that’s fine, if it makes you happy, great, but I urge you try this quick simple way to make real chicken nuggets that your family will love and that you can feel marginally good about making for them. The sodium, fat, processing and cost are so far reduced that it makes it worth it to spend a few minutes in a prep. I don’t deep fry often, it is saved for those times when children will be here visiting or the need for something down home and "bad" is desired.
What you need:
- once again…this is army-sized portions so feel free to adjust the given amounts.
- About 8 large chicken breast halves rinsed and cut into 1-1/2 chunks or strips. Be consistent with your sizes so the chicken cooks evenly.
- Two cups of whole milk or 1 cup whole and 1 cup buttermilk
- one teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
- splash of hot sauce
Mix the Old Bay, salt, and hot sauce into the milk, add the chicken and cover. Stash it in the fridge overnight or for at least an hour or two if you need this quick.
When you are ready to cook the chicken, grab a big heavy aluminum or stainless pot or if you have a deep fryer go ahead and use that. I don’t have a deep fryer (I have an aversion to "gadgets") so I use a 20 quart stainless stock pot filled to a depth of about 4 inches with peanut oil or canola oil. Speaking of peanut oil here is a little something you may or may not know. Commercial peanut oil is generally safe to use even for those with allergies to peanuts. However, this isn’t always a 100% sure bet so if you eat fried food out in restaurants be sure to ask the server what they use in their fryers if you are concerned or need to be extra careful due to allergies. It is one of the most commonly used oils in commercial fryers. Some recent research has also speculated that children are becoming more prone to peanut allergies due to their exposure to foods containing peanut oil. Just another reason to stay away from the fast food!
You’ll want your oil heated to about 325 degrees so put your oil on to heat now and grab a big brown paper bag and a plastic grocery bag….open the paper bag and place it inside the plastic one. Into the paper bag place:
- 4 cups self rising flour
- 4 tablespoons Old Bay
- 1 tablespoon Hungarian Hot Paprika
- 1-1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
Close the paper bag and shake to mix the dry ingredients. Now strain your chicken chunks out of the milk and add to the paper bag…just pile them all in there. Now close the paper bag leaving a good deal of "shaking space" and gather the plastic bag handles up over the paper bag and shake it like a Polaroid picture 😉 Check to be sure that all your pieces are coated. If not…shake it again until they are.
By now your oil is probably ready to go. I highly recommend checking the temp with a proper thermometer to be sure.
Place your chicken chunks a few at a time carefully into the hot oil…be careful to watch your arms if you are using a deep pot. These will cook VERY quickly…in fact, they will not be the stereotypical golden brown of commercial nuggets, they will however deepen a bit in color upon resting. They will look like the nuggets in the picture. I would take out a piece and temp it at 2-3 minutes. It should be at 170 degrees….I know, I know salmonella..omg…blah, blah, blah. If you wait until that chicken reads 180 when you take it out be prepared to eat it with sandpaper…yuck! The truth is, the nuggets will continue to cook after you remove them from the oil and will far surpass the 180 degrees by the time they stop the cooking process. It’s ok…I promise.
When they come out of the oil sprinkle them with a tiny bit of salt to taste and a bit more of Old Bay or a grind of fresh black pepper. Continue to cook the remaining pieces.
If you want to really go all out, make the grown up mac and cheese
I have in the recipes as a side and serve up some fresh from the garden peas or beans. I love sauteed rappi with this….the bitterness of the greens goes so good with the macaroni and the chicken…yummmmy!
The cost for the nuggets in my upstate NY location was approximately:
$8.00 for the chicken
$3.00 for the oil
$3.00 in flour and spices
for a total of $14.00 or about a $1.00 per 6 piece serving.
In time, this whole process takes maybe 30 minutes, not counting the time the chicken spends in the milk.
So in the end it is faster than running out for fast food (especially with gas prices!!!), better for you and much cheaper and you end up with piles of chicken you can chop up to put in wraps, on salads even throw into a dish and top with sauce and cheese for a chicken parm casserole. Think of the time savings and versatility and the joy it will bring your kids! Enjoy!
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