Give a hand for homemade chicken fingers

Story highlights

  • The cooks at America's Test Kitchen love chicken fingers
  • They found that packaged versions were full of preservatives
  • This homemade recipe is kid-friendly and delicious
  • Make batches ahead and freeze them for up to a month
This recipe for Chicken Fingers comes from our new book, The Make-Ahead Cook, which presents eight different strategies that provide solutions for the time-pressed cook who appreciates the ease of make-ahead meals, but demands great taste. Each chapter focuses on a different path in make-ahead cooking, taking into account a variety of needs, budgets, and lifestyles, adding up to what is essentially eight cookbooks in one.
We developed this recipe because when we looked at the ingredient list on pre-packaged chicken fingers, we found way too many preservatives we couldn't pronounce. And while we like the idea of having something as simple and adaptable as chicken fingers on hand, we wondered if we could stock our freezer with kid-friendly, great-tasting chicken fingers with minimal effort. Here's how we did it.
Brine your bird:
Brining makes the chicken very juicy so it doesn't dry out as it cooks.
We had a hunch that all those preservatives were helping to keep the chicken moist during the reheat, so we started by thinking about how to keep the chicken as moist as possible. Brining turned out to be the best solution: It makes the chicken very juicy so it doesn't dry out as it cooks. To give our chicken fingers great flavor, we added a dash of Worcestershire sauce to the brine and onion and garlic powder to the breading.
The crispier, the better:
To get a crisp coating on our chicken even after reheating, we swapped traditional bread crumbs for ultracrisp panko bread crumbs and tried a few different cooking techniques. Deep-frying the chicken fingers was a lot of work for little payoff. Next, we tried to mimic frying by tossing the breading with oil and baking the chicken, but on the reheat the chicken was dry and the coating was sandy. Sautéing turned out to be the winning technique: By the time the breading fried up supercrisp and golden, the chicken was cooked through but still tender and moist, and we avoided all the mess and waste of deep frying.
Storing and cooking:
To store the chicken fingers, simply transfer the cooled chicken to zipper-lock freezer bags, press out air, and seal. They're good for for up to 1 month. To cook, just heat the oven to 350 degrees, place chicken fingers on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the chicken is heated through and crisp, about 30 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through baking.
Chicken Fingers Recipe
(Don't brine the chicken for longer than 30 minutes or it will be too salty.)