Recipe Review

Are Crushed Saltines the Secret to Better, Crispier Chicken Tenders? I Tried It to Find Out.

published Aug 17, 2020
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Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn

When it came time to pick contenders for our chicken tender recipe showdown, I was most excited about testing out different types of breading. After all, I’d just finished developing these potato chip chicken strips, and I was curious to see what other ingredients make for deliciously crispy tenders.

When I stumbled across this recipe from Taste of Home, I knew I had to try it. Not only does it use crushed saltines in the breading, but it also packs them with flavor in the form of spices, such as dried basil, paprika, garlic salt, and black pepper. The recipe also had several glowing reviews and looked incredibly simple to make. Here’s what happened when I gave it a go.

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Taste of Home’s Fried Chicken Strips

The directions for this recipe are very minimal. First, you’ll need to slice chicken breasts into 1/2-inch strips. Then, you’ll combine crushed saltines with garlic salt, dried basil, paprika, and black pepper. In another bowl, whisk one egg with one cup of milk. Dip the chicken strips into the egg and milk mixture, then into the crumbs.

Now it’s time to fry. Heat oil to 375°F in an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer. Fry the chicken for two to three minutes per side, then drain on paper towels. That’s it!

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe | Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

My Honest Review of Taste of Home’s Fried Chicken Strips

Unfortunately, this recipe did not live up to my expectations. My first issue was with the saltines. The recipe simply calls for “crushed saltines,” leaving me to guess how large to make the crumbs. I decided to mimic the size of my potato chip crumbs, or about 1/4-inch, but I think I could have gone even smaller — more like coarse cornmeal. I also wish I would have crushed them in the food processor, which would have been much easier than crushing by hand.

My second issue was with the egg mixture. The recipe has you combine one egg with one cup milk, but it was so thin and watery that it didn’t aid the breadcrumbs in adhering to the chicken at all. It was practically useless! I might as well have just dipped plain chicken into the crumbs.

Lastly, I was frustrated by the instruction to use an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer. Those are two completely different styles of frying, and each require a different amount of oil. When frying in a skillet, you only need enough oil to reach halfway up the side. When you deep-fry, you need about four cups in a large saucepan. I tried frying both ways (although I used a regular large skillet, not an electric skillet), and the cooking times differed. If you’re deep-frying, know that your chicken will cook faster than the instructions say.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I appreciated that the recipe offered dimensional details in regards to how the chicken is sliced. I also liked the texture of the saltine breading better than most of the other recipes I tested. The dried seasonings were also nice, but this recipe lacked the salt to let those flavors really shine.

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe | Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe

If You’re Making Taste of Home’s Fried Chicken Strips, a Few Tips

  1. Crush the saltines in a food processor. Using a food processor is so much easier than crushing by hand. Just be sure not to over-process them into a powder. The texture of coarse cornmeal is as small as you should go.
  2. Try using less milk and more eggs for dredging. Using more eggs and less milk will help create a mixture that helps the crumbs stick to the chicken. Alternatively, try using buttermilk or yogurt instead of milk to give the mixture a thicker consistency.
  3. Lower the heat of the oil, if necessary. 375°F is also getting up there for frying temperatures, so keep an eye on your chicken. If it’s cooking too fast, lower the heat by 10 degrees.
  4. Season every step of the way. To bring out the flavors of the spices, you’ll want to season the chicken with salt, add salt to the saltines mixture, and sprinkle with salt after it’s been fried, too.

Rating: 6/10

Have you ever made Taste of Homes’ fried chicken strips? Tell us what you thought!

Credit: Photo: Jason Rampe; Food Stylist: Amelia Rampe; Design: The Kitchn