It is January and we’re into football bowl season. What televised bowl game can proceed without fried chicken fingers at the watch party. Here in Louisiana, every mom & pop grocery store lunch counter claims bragging rights to the “Best Fried Chicken.” We love fried chicken here — Popeye’s Fried Chicken is from New Orleans as well as newcomer, Raising Cane’s. I have my own “favorite” fried chicken fingers recipe and bragging rights, too. My chicken fingers are incredibly tender and flavorful. My recipe is based on the one from Raising Cane’s fast food restaurant chain. Although I’m sure their recipe is a secret, my chicken fingers are a pretty close match. I am proud of this recipe; I worked long and hard to get it perfected. And my team-player husband had to sample all those chicken batches!
When my children were young, all they wanted for birthday parties and other events was Raising Cane’s Fried Chicken Fingers. As a loyal customer, I feel like I have contributed a great deal of money to the stock and success of this company. We’ve eaten so much chicken at this restaurant over the years; time to make my own chicken fingers.
About Raisin’ Cane’s Fast Food Restaurant
Popeye’s Fried Chicken, started in New Orleans, was the fried chicken standard in our part of the country for years. Now a newcomer has entered the market. Raising Cane’s has taken the nation by storm and boasts over 600 restaurant locations nationwide. Amazingly, the only entrée on the menu is fried chicken fingers. Based in Baton Rouge, no financial institution would take the founders’ plan seriously when they tried to finance their first restaurant in 1996. But the two young LSU graduate owners persevered and opened a restaurant close to the LSU campus. The chain has thrived and the only entrée item is still boneless, fried chicken tenders. The chain’s secret is customer service, speed and quality. The chicken is always tender, well-seasoned and fried perfectly. It is served with a great dipping sauce.
Can you tell if these are my chicken fingers or the real thing? I’ll let you guess. And, no, I didn’t cheat. I really made my own chicken fingers.
The chain uses only chicken tenders — the white meat — and claims that their chicken is never frozen. I have adapted their process to my kitchen. I use boneless, skinless chicken breasts for my recipe — nothing else. And my recipe includes a “secret ingredient.”
Secret Ingredients and Process – Begin a day ahead
These little fried nuggets are not too difficult to make; but it does take some time. You must begin the process the day before you plan to serve the chicken.
The “secret” to my recipe is to marinate raw chicken breast strips in cultured buttermilk and Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce overnight. Yes, that is overnight. Not two to four hours — but overnight. Buttermilk? The cultured buttermilk, which is slightly acidic, helps break down and tenderize the protein in the chicken pieces. My buttermilk marinated chicken fingers are very, very tender in contrast to unmarinated fried chicken breasts which can be quite tough. Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce just adds a little pizzazz (it doesn’t tenderize the chicken).
I use whole boneless, chicken breast pieces rather than chicken tenders. I don’t really care if the chicken was frozen at one time. For this recipe, the chicken breasts should be completely defrosted. To make the chicken strips, cut each boneless, skinless chicken breast piece into about eight crosswise pieces. You can use as many chicken breasts as you wish and cut the larger crosswise pieces into smaller ones, too. Each chicken breast weights about 8 ounces. Cut off any excess fat and tendons. Place in a bowl with the marinade and refrigerate overnight. Occasionally, toss and turn the chicken strips.
Frying the Chicken – Three Breadings/Batters – and Peanut Oil for Frying
The remaining step is to fry the chicken tender pieces. Although I use three breading mixtures, the process really isn’t too complicated. Find a system and get everything lined up in a row so that you are ready to go. Here are my three breadings/batters:
- The first one is flour seasoned with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and salt. This seasoned flour makes a nicely flavored chicken tender. Plus, it helps the other two breadings adhere to the chicken strips.
- The second is an egg wash made of an beaten egg mixed with water.
- The third breading is plain bread crumbs.
Do you need all three breading mixes? Yes, for this crispy chicken, you really can’t omit any of these breadings — I’ve tried.
To fry the chicken, remove each tender from the buttermilk marinade and let excess marinade drip off. Place the seasoned flour on a plate and then roll each chicken piece in the flour going down the line and next dipping in the egg wash. Last, roll in the unseasoned bread crumbs. Place the breaded chicken fingers on a tray lined with wax paper or parchment paper. I don’t use all the breading at first, but rather refill the plates as needed.
For frying, I use my heavy cast iron skillet because it has a large surface area and holds heat well. For oil, I add peanut oil to one inch depth. Yes, that is peanut oil. P-e-a-n-u-t oil to be precise. For this recipe, I don’t use any other type of oil. It makes a difference. The oil needs to be about 350 degrees, below smoking. I recommend using a kitchen thermometer. Fry the tenders for several minutes on each side until they are golden and cooked through. Adjust the temperature on the stove as needed to keep the heat at 350 degrees.
Yum, here are my fried chicken tenders.
Raisin’ Cane’s Dipping Sauce
This chicken tender party tray won’t be complete without a dipping sauce. Raising Cane’s tangy dipping sauce is absolutely delicious. You can purchase it in large containers at the restaurant or make it at home. Although their sauce is a secret recipe, it isn’t too difficult to figure out most of the ingredients. The sauce might be defined as a very mild, gentle cocktail sauce. Although it is hard to define any one flavor, the sauce is a mayonnaise-based sauce with ketchup, garlic powder, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce. Just blend the ingredients together for the sauce.
These little chicken fingers are best when served hot. You can make the dipping sauce ahead of time. It will last for several days. Plus, get the breading mixes ready. Then fry the chicken at half-time. Don’t miss the game!
Your family and friends will be so impressed that you made these yourself. These chicken pieces are tender and well seasoned — they will quickly disappear. Go for it!
And I hope your team wins their football bowl game. Here at LSU, the football team exceeded anyone’s expectations of winning anything this year and went to the Southeastern conference championship game. A miracle! Go tigers!
Pluck, Pluck Fried Chicken Fingers
Ingredients for Chicken:
- 1 lb (two large halves) boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
- 1 cup cultured buttermilk
- 2 Tbsp Texas Pete’s Hot Sauce or similar brand such as Frank’s Hot Sauce
- Peanut oil for frying
Ingredients for Breading
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1 egg, beaten, plus 2 Tbsp water
- 1 cup plain bread crumbs, more as needed
Method and Steps:
- Rinse, pat dry the chicken breasts. Remove any excess fat and tendons. Slice each chicken breast into 8 crosswise pieces. If desired, cut larger pieces in half. You should have about 16 chicken “fingers”.
- Combine cultured buttermilk and hot sauce in bowl large enough to fit in chicken. Add chicken fingers and mix to combine well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Occasionally toss chicken pieces.
- When ready to fry, prepare breading mixes: For first breading, add flour, salt, paprika, garlic powder and onion powder to a bowl and stir to combine. Transfer part of the seasoned flour to a plate. For the second breading, beat the egg and water together in small bowl. For third breading, add about 1/2 cup plain bread crumbs to place. Place up the breading plates/bowl in a line. Cover a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Remove chicken fingers, one at a time, from buttermilk marinade and let excess drip off. Roll in seasoned flour to coat. Next dip in egg wash. Lastly, roll in plain bread crumbs. Place on parchment covered baking sheet. Replenish breadings on plate as needed.
- Add peanut oil to a large cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet to the depth of one inch. (Alternately, use a deep fat fryer, such as a Fry Daddy, and follow directions for adding and heating oil.) Heat oil to 350 degrees and adjust heat on stove to main temperature. Using a kitchen thermometer to gauge the temperature is recommended.
- Fry three or four fingers at a time for several minutes on each side until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer to plate lined with paper towel to drain. Repeat with additional chicken fingers until all are cooked. Continue to adjust heat on stove and add more oil if needed.
- Best when served hot and with “Cocktail Dipping Sauce for Pluck, Pluck Fried Chicken Fingers.”
*NOTE: May increase or decrease chicken breasts in recipe as needed. For additional chicken, you made need additional breading ingredients, especially plain bread crumbs.
And for the Cocktail Dipping Sauce:
Cocktail Dipping Sauce for Pluck, Pluck Fried Chicken Fingers
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup ketchup
- 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
Method and Steps:
- Mix all ingredients in small bowl. Stir to combine.
- Refrigerate until ready to use. Can be prepared a day or two ahead of time.
Here’s the Raising Cane’s 4-piece “Box-Combo Meal” Still can’t tell which is mine and which is Cane’s? Well then, I’ve succeeded!
And at least LSU football player likes Cane’s chicken! Is that why these guys are so incredibly athletic and strong?
Happy New Year, Maylee! You know that children’s book, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie?” You could author a book called, “If You Give a Southern Woman a Cast Iron Skillet!” Your chicken fingers look great, and no, I cannot distinguish between yours and Raising Canes. Good job! By the way, Texas Pete is made in my city of Winston-Salem. I’m always happy to see it enjoyed in other places. 🙂
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Yes, you could certainly do alot of things with a cast iron skillet! This year’s challenge. Love Texas Pete — it’s my new favorite hot sauce for using in dishes and sauces. Here’s a toast to lots of creative and inventive blog recipes for 2023!
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