Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust

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Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust

It’s Friday the 13th and the day before Valentine’s Day. There’s a dizzying array of mouthwatering, chocolate-y recipes out there this week. So…let’s make something fun and crunchy.

Mouse discovers Cheez-It breading. Film at 11.

It didn’t happen exactly like this, but this is close enough.

“Hey, Mouse!”

“Yes?”

“I love Cheez-Its—and I love chicken fingers. How about combining them?”

I do believe I was speechless.

Now, I totally know breading fried food with Cheez-It crumbs won’t be a new idea for some folks.

But for me, I imagine that this is sort of what the Big Bang was like. You know, if the Big Bang happened in our kitchen, me with a family-sized box of baked snack crackers in hand. (Now that’s science, Mouse-House style.)

Ah, Cheez-Its

Shortly after that conversation, the questions started to arise. What if we used fishy crackers? Or those rosemary crackers I so dearly love? Oh, oh, or rice crackers! What about that?

(Tell me, tell me: What’s your favorite breading?)

But…one thing at a time. Cheez-Its first.

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: The basic technique

To get a good crust on your chicken fingers, follow this classic deep-frying method:

+Marinate chicken in buttermilk
+Dip chicken in flour, then in egg
+Coat with breading (in this case, Cheez-It crumbs)
+Drop into 350 degree F oil for a few minutes
+If your chicken fingers are really thick, finish in a 400 degree oven for 5-7 minutes

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: A quick note on ingredients

The measurements below are approximate. You may need a little more or less, depending the size of your chicken fingers and how much coating actually sticks to your chicken.

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust

2 1/4 lbs. chicken tenders
1 cup buttermilk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
6-7 cups Cheez-It crackers, or other cheddar cheese cracker
4 eggs
canola oil

Serves 2-4 for dinner, or more as an appetizer

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: Marinate the chicken

Rinse your chicken and pat it dry.

Chicken tenders

Put it in a gallon-size zip-top bag. Pour in the buttermilk.

Pour in the buttermilk

Seal the bag well and smoosh it around with your hands to coat the chicken. Refrigerate like this for at least a few hours or overnight.

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: Set up your breading station

Before you heat up your oil, get your ingredients all set up. You’ll wind up with three shallow bowls (one with flour, one with beaten egg, and one with cracker crumbs) that you’ll use to bread your chicken fingers.

Measure out the flour in a shallow bowl or pan. Add the garlic powder and kosher salt to it. (If you want to add any other spices to the crust, this is the place to do it.)

Seasoned flour

Mix together with a fork or whisk to combine well.

Seasoned flour

Set the flour aside.

Next, crack your eggs into a shallow bowl.

Beat the eggs

With a fork or whisk, beat them until light and fluffy.

Beat the eggs

Set the beaten egg aside.

Put the crackers in a zip-top bag and smash them to bits with a rolling pin.

Smash up your Cheez-Its

Break them into fairly small crumbs, like this:

Cheez-It crumbs

Pour them out into a shallow dish. I used an 8×8 glass baking pan.

Cheez-It Crumbs

Set the cracker crumbs aside. By now, you should have 3 bowls on your counter:

Breading station

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: Bread the chicken

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or foil and set it aside.

Line your bowls up. Here’s the plan: You’re going to dip first in flour, then in egg, then in cracker crumbs, then put the breaded chicken on your prepared pan.

When you’re ready to start, grab your chicken out of the fridge.

Take a piece of buttermilk-coated chicken out of the bag. Don’t wipe the buttermilk off. Drop it right into the seasoned flour.

First into the flour

Turn it over in the flour until it’s completely coated.

Chicken coated in flour

Pick the chicken up, and shake it gently over the flour bowl to knock off any excess.

Now drop the floured chicken into the beaten egg.

Into the egg

Turn it over a few times to coat completely in the beaten egg.

Dip in egg

Next, drop the chicken into the cracker crumbs. Turn it over a few times to coat completely.

Into the crackers!

When your chicken is coated in cracker crumbs, set it on your prepared pan.

Repeat with the rest of the chicken until each piece is breaded and on your pan.

Ready for the oil!

When all the chicken is breaded, leave it on the pan so the coating has a chance to set up a little. In the meantime, heat up the oil.

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: Deep-fry the chicken

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Your chicken might cook completely in the oil. But if your chicken fingers are really large, chances are you’ll need to finish them in the oven for a few minutes.

Line another sheet pan with parchment paper or foil.

Pour about 3 inches of oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed pot. How much oil you need will depend on the size of your pot.

Heat the oil

Set your pot on the stove.

If you want to, clip a candy or deep-frying thermometer onto the inside of the pot. (Be sure it doesn’t touch the bottom.) Turn the heat on high. Wait for the oil to reach 350 degrees F. When you fry food at the proper temperature, it actually doesn’t absorb a lot of oil.

I’ve done this a bunch, so I usually don’t use a thermometer. I go more by eye. When I think it’s hot enough, I dip a piece of chicken into the oil. If vigorous bubbles immediately start to form around the chicken, it’s hot enough to fry:

Testing the oil

When the oil is hot enough, carefully drop a few pieces of chicken into the oil. Fry in batches like this, so you don’t crowd the pan (and cause the temperature of the oil to drop dramatically, resulting in massive grease absorbtion).

Fry the chicken

Fry the chicken for a few minutes, give or take, until it develops a handsome brown crust, like this:

Hot out of the oil

When the crust is nice and brown, remove the chicken from the oil and transfer to your prepared pan.

Hot out of the oil

Repeat this process until you’ve fried all your chicken. Turn the stove off and leave your oil there until its cool enough to dispose of (or strain and save).

Cut into one of your chicken fingers and see if it’s cooked through. If your chicken was really thin, it will likely be done. If your pieces were plumper, like mine, they’ll likely still be a little raw in the middle.

If that’s the case, pop the pan into your preheated oven for 5-7 minutes to finish cooking.

When they’re hot out of the oven, sprinkle with kosher salt to taste.

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust: Serve and enjoy!

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust

Deep-Fried Chicken Fingers with Crispy Cheez-It Crust

Cheers!



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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

28 COMMENTS

  1. mmm. i made something like this with a combo of goldfish and pretzels last year. i’m gonna guess it tasted pretty similar. it was delicious! love the step by step pics, as always!

  2. Oh wow, I bet that is amazing! I never deep fry, I’m a bit of a wimp like that. Plus my stove is tiny and kind of a piece of crap. Yeah, we’ll go with that excuse. 🙂

  3. Cheez-It crust: oh my! As a card-carrying Southerner, I have an honorary doctorate in breading and frying. But Cheez-It crust? How have I missed this? And this is an excellent excuse to buy an extra big box of Cheez-Its….never a bad thing. This is getting made this week!

  4. Dang, those sure do look good.
    Sadly, there’s no such thing as buttermilk at stores here. Just like double cream, it is a rarity and mostly can’t even be found at one of those overpriced stores that specializes in imported products. (Yeah, it sounds like I am living in a jungle but I assure you, I’m living in a modern city of sorts…)
    Sigh, I resorted to making my own (buttermilk, that is, I don’t think I can make my own double cream) by adding lemon to fresh milk but I’m not even sure if the portion of lemon:milk is right or not…
    Anyway, I love the idea of using those cheese crackers as breadcrumbs. Again, not sure if we have Cheez-it here or not…heheheh…
    ~Foong~

  5. Yum! I make Cheezit chicken fingers for my boys, but i’ve only baked them in the past (someone has to be the responsible person!) Next time I make them, i’ll have to fry them. Yours look so much better than mine. Thanks Jessie!

  6. Wow. I’m kind of wishing I had never come across this. I love Cheez-Its and am not sure I’ll be able to refrain from making this for very long. Thanks so, so, so much for the recipe!!

  7. OMG why have I never thought of that??? You are correct this is an idea of big banged proportions. And I don’t even like Cheez-its. But these look amazing! Will definitely be on my list of things to try!

  8. I made these tonight and they were wonderful. I added a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a good amount of cracked black pepper to the flour. I also split the tenderloins and removed the tendon. This made the fingers cook more evenly and allowed me to control the size of each finger.

  9. A few years ago we went to dinner at a friend’s house and she made baked chicken breast that was similar to this, only she used mashed up potato chips. Mine was the Kettle Cooked Jalapeno flavor and it was delicious.

    I imagine you could use chips for this too.

  10. This recipe was my first attempt at chicken fingers. It turned out relatively well. I omitted the buttermilk, tried the recipe with egg and cheez-it then again with egg, flour/salt/pepper, back to the egg, and lastly cheez-it. The second concotion turned out a bit better, still somewhat flavorless however. Next time I believe I will rub the chicken strips down with salt, pepper, and herbs first before breading.

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