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14 Ways To Take Your Breaded Chicken To The Next Level

Breaded chicken breasts
Breaded chicken breasts - From_my_point_of_view/Getty Images

Breaded chicken can be used in lots of different ways. Whether you're making chicken parmesan, spicy fried chicken sandwiches, or Asian-style stir fry, there are numerous options when it comes to coating chicken in some type of breading. Of course, you can always keep it simple and just use simple flour or plain breadcrumbs, but where's the fun in that? Once you've mastered the basics, you might be looking for ways to kick the chicken's breading up a notch. And that's where we come in.

The good news is that improving breaded chicken doesn't necessarily have to be difficult, time-consuming, or labor-intensive. It really just amounts to adding extra ingredients or trying out a new method. We've come up with a list of easy and approachable ways to give your breaded chicken a much-needed boost, no matter what type of cuisine you're looking to cook. Read on to check out 13 ingredients that will take your breaded chicken to the next level.

Read more: 15 Tricks For Making The Most Crispy Chicken Thighs Ever

Marinate With Vodka

Vodka and shot glasses
Vodka and shot glasses - Miguel Tamayo Fotografia/Shutterstock

This one might feel like a curveball, but hear us out. Keeping a bottle of vodka on hand for a White Russian or two is always a good call, but the truth is that there are a lot of other ways you can use this ever-popular translucent spirit. And it just so happens that using vodka in your marinade can create better fried chicken. Whether it's being used for a pasta dish, sandwiches, or even just good old-fashioned chicken nuggets, crispier chicken crust is always a good thing.

Here's how it works: because vodka has more volatility than water, it evaporates during the cooking process faster and more erratically. As it erupts off the chicken in bigger bubbles, it creates a crunchier crust. Vodka also happens to slow down gluten formation, which is another factor that creates more crispness. The next time you're making some breaded chicken from scratch, try swapping your normal marinade with vodka instead to achieve an amazingly crunchy coating.

Use Cornstarch

Cornstarch
Cornstarch - jayk67/Shutterstock

When it comes to breaded chicken, flour is almost always involved. The addition of flour gives other elements in the recipe, like egg wash and bread crumbs, a surface to cling to. Even just using plain flour all on its own can produce some nice texture. But there's another powdered grain that you can incorporate into your breaded chicken that can produce spectacular results: cornstarch.

Adding some cornstarch to your flour can create a crispier crust that's light and crunchy. If you run out of flour, you can even just totally swap it out for cornstarch and achieve some amazing crispness. Beyond breading, cornstarch has a lot of other uses too. It can be mixed with a little water and turned into a slurry to thicken sauces and added to marinades in a process called velveting that creates ultra-tender meat. Bottom line: using cornstarch isn't just a way to improve your breading; it's an easy way to improve several areas of your cooking.

Use Jalapeno Brine As A Marinade

Jalapeno brine
Jalapeno brine - Andrei Iakhniuk/Shutterstock

There's a good chance that you've heard about the benefits of using pickle brine to marinate chicken. The salt in the brine helps break down proteins, which results in extra tender chicken. In fact, some theorize that pickle brine is part of Chick-fil-A's secret fried chicken recipe (though the restaurant hasn't confirmed this). Despite the company's elusive cooking methods, one thing's for sure: brining chicken can absolutely make it more flavorful. But instead of opting for pickle brine made from cucumbers, why not use chili pepper brine instead?

Pickled jalapenos are easy to find in just about any grocery store. Not only are they cheap and flavorful, but they're also highly versatile. Once the peppers have been used up, don't throw all that brine away — save it for your next round of breaded chicken. The extra spice from the chili peppers in the brine will soak deep into the chicken, which will not only tenderize the meat but also give it some extra heat. Using jalapeno brine is a brilliant way to add a deeper flavor to any spicy fried chicken dish that you're cooking up.

Marinate In Buttermilk

Buttermilk
Buttermilk - NataliaPopova/Shutterstock

Marinating chicken in buttermilk is a great way to make breaded chicken. Similar to brine, buttermilk has a tenderizing effect on chicken — but with the added bonus of creaminess that helps breading stick to the meat. Buttermilk's flavor also naturally imparts its own level of tanginess to the chicken that brings some extra flavor. If you don't have any buttermilk on hand, you can always mix regular milk with a little lemon juice or white vinegar as a replacement.

The next time you're making breaded chicken, try letting it soak in some buttermilk before you coat it. For extra flavor, try mixing some seasonings into the buttermilk, such as onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, and black pepper. If you're making spicy chicken, you can add cayenne pepper or a few splashes of hot sauce to the buttermilk. Just be sure not to let the chicken marinate longer than a day or so, because if too much time passes, the acidity in buttermilk can seriously alter the texture and render the chicken mushy. For ideal results, try to marinate the chicken between three to 12 hours.

Fry With Avocado Oil

Avocado oil
Avocado oil - Fcafotodigital/Getty Images

One of the most important aspects of cooking breaded chicken is deciding what kind of oil to use. Different oils have different smoke points; a smoke point is the point at which an oil starts to smoke. The higher the smoke point, the higher the oil's temperature can reach before the oil starts to smoke. Because frying breaded chicken requires a high temperature (usually anywhere between 350 to 375 Fahrenheit), it's important to choose an oil with a high smoke point, like refined avocado oil.

Refined avocado oil has a smoke point up to 520 F, which means that you can easily fry chicken at high temperatures without having to worry about your kitchen filling up with smoke. Avocado oil also contains Omega fatty acids and is considered one of the healthiest oils to cook with. Cooking your breaded chicken in avocado oil will help make it extra crispy, and because avocado oil has a neutral taste, it won't impart any oily flavors.

Use Flavored Finishing Salts

Salt
Salt - Detry26/Getty Images

After the chicken's been seasoned, marinated, breaded, and cooked, there are still more ways to amp up the flavor. Without a doubt, one of the easiest ways is by lightly seasoning your breaded chicken with some finishing salt. You want to do this while the breading on the chicken is still hot, so that the salt can adhere to the breading.

The beauty of this is that there are a lot of different flavors of finishing salts, so this could potentially enhance any type of cuisine. Making some fried chicken tacos? Try sprinkling some habanero sea salt over them when they're still piping hot. Cooking up some fried chicken for a plate of southern BBQ? Try finishing it with some smoked salt to give it a woodsy flavor that's reminiscent of an old-fashioned barbecue pit. There are countless flavored salts on the market to work with, so the sky's the limit.

Use A Meat Mallet

Meat mallet being used on chicken
Meat mallet being used on chicken - guys_who_shoot/Shutterstock

One of the biggest problems people can run into when making breaded chicken is struggling with cooking the chicken evenly — especially chicken breasts. Because chicken breasts are often much thicker at one end and then taper off to a much thinner point at the other end, the thinner side ends up getting cooked much faster. But because the thicker side still isn't completely cooked through, the chicken breast continues cooking, which ends up overcooking the thinner side of the chicken breast, leaving it tough and chewy. The good news here is that there's an easy solution to this problem and it only requires a simple tool and a few extra minutes.

Before you start breading your chicken breast, slice it evenly in half into two thinner filets. Once the breast is divided into two filets, cover them with a sheet of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet to tenderize them. Using a meat mallet will allow you to pound the breast into a thinner filet that will not only tenderize the meat but also allow the breast to cook more evenly after it's breaded.

Incorporate Dried Herbs

Dried parsley
Dried parsley - Alejandrophotography/Getty Images

Dried herbs are another effective way to upgrade your breaded chicken. Fresh herbs have more water content, and although they have an undeniably fresher flavor profile, fresh herbs are also less robust than dried herbs. In other words, dried herbs have a more concentrated flavor; a little goes a long way when it comes to seasoning with dried herbs. For this reason, dried herbs are also often more economical, since a jar can be used over a long period of time.

Dried herbs complement a wide range of breaded chicken, enhancing everything from southern-style to Italian dishes. Dried herbs such as oregano, thyme, parsley, and rosemary are just a few of the common dried herbs that add an herbaceous punch to your breaded chicken. It's best to add dried herbs directly to your flour or breading to give them a chance to infuse into the chicken. Of course, you can also flavor your chicken with fresh herbs, but fresh herbs are probably best used towards the end of cooking (sprinkled on a garnish) in order to fully showcase the vibrant freshness of the herbs.

Use Seasoned Bread Crumbs

Seasoned bread crumbs
Seasoned bread crumbs - Basilios1/Getty Images

Premade bread crumbs typically come plain or seasoned. If you want to be in total control of the seasoning, then it's best to get plain bread crumbs so that you can adjust the seasoning to your exact specifications. But if you're looking for shortcuts and convenience to save some time, then buying seasoned bread crumbs is a fantastic option.

Seasoned bread crumbs tend to come pre-seasoned with salt and dried herbs like oregano or parsley. Pre-seasoned bread crumbs are often made Italian-style and include cheeses like parmesan and romano. This makes Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs perfect for making chicken parmesan. If you don't have any dried herbs or parmesan on hand and you're in the mood for chicken parmesan, then score yourself some seasoned bread crumbs and you're good to go. Seasoned bread crumbs can also be lightly toasted and used as a topping for pasta to add some extra flavor and texture to the dish.

Use Some Liquid Smoke

Smoke
Smoke - Erika Parfenova/Getty Images

Liquid smoke has a variety of uses that make it a highly useful ingredient. Liquid smoke is basically just a concentrated form of smoke in liquid form that's made from burning wood. Because it's so concentrated, it's bold in flavor so it's best to season food with it slowly and carefully. Adding a few drops to your chicken marinade will infuse your chicken with a delicious smokiness that permeates the meat, recreating the flavors of a smoke pit at a barbecue restaurant.

This flavor is ideal if you're making Southern-style breaded fried chicken. Instead of having to tend to an actual smoker, you can simply add a few drops of liquid smoke to your chicken marinade. The most important thing here is not to overdo it; adding too much of this stuff can overpower the chicken. Instead of adding the liquid smoke directly from the bottle to the chicken, try diluting some liquid smoke with some seasoned buttermilk. Then pour the smoky buttermilk over the chicken and let it marinate. Once the chicken is breaded and fried, the end result should be tangy, smoky, and crispy.

Use Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise
Mayonnaise - New Africa/Shutterstock

In most cases, a breading station typically has three areas. There's flour, egg wash, and then the breading itself. And while it's true that eggs are something we almost always have on hand, there are still times that we run out. If you find yourself in this dilemma while you're in the middle of preparing some breaded chicken, don't fret. There's another ingredient that can swoop in to save the day: mayonnaise.

In the same way that spreading mayonnaise on bread for grilled cheese can achieve spectacularly golden brown results, mayonnaise can also provide a thin layer of fat for the breading to stick to and also help produce some crispness. It's also much easier to measure out the exact amount of mayonnaise that you need, as opposed to cracking open fresh eggs and scrambling them into an egg wash, which might end up leaving you with some leftovers. Mayo also has a very smooth and homogeneous consistency that makes it easy to smoothly spread onto the surface of chicken, which can help the breading cook more evenly.

Use Panko

Panko
Panko - Bhofack2/Getty Images

Panko is a style of Japanese bread crumbs. Bread crumbs are dried into shreds, resulting in bread crumbs that are less granular and more flake-like. This results in breading that often has a bit more texture than powdered bread crumbs. The layered flakes of panko breading add a multidimensional level of crunch that's harder to achieve with bread crumbs that are more powder-like.

Because panko breading is drier and flakier, it tends to absorb less oil during the cooking process, which results in lighter and crispier chicken. Even though panko breading is traditionally associated with Japanese-style cuisine, it can be used for Western-style dishes too, such as fried chicken tenders, fried chicken sandwiches, and paired with pasta. Powdered bread crumbs can be seamlessly swapped with panko for virtually any dish. In many ways, panko may actually be preferable, since it often creates a more desirable texture. The next time you're breading some homemade chicken, opt for panko to behold some impressive results.

Use Crushed Nuts

Crushed nuts
Crushed nuts - Ermak Oksana/Shutterstock

To add an extra layer of crunch to your breaded chicken, try bringing some nuts into the mix. The trick here is to make sure that the nuts are the right texture. You don't want the nuts to be pulverized into powder, and it's more likely to burn during the cooking process than traditional bread crumbs. Use a food processor to grind them into bits, then mix the nut crumbles with some flour to prevent them from burning during frying or baking.

Almonds, pecans, and macadamia nuts are all excellent choices. Not only will crushed nuts add some luxurious texture, they also come with an inherent nutritional boost, since nuts are often loaded with antioxidants, protein, and healthy fats. Above and beyond their nutritional value, ground nuts can also contribute some distinctive flavors to your breaded chicken. If you go this route, you can reserve a bit of the ground-up nuts to sprinkle on and garnish your breaded chicken after it's cooked for another layer of fresh flavor and crunchy texture. This could work well for chicken tenders paired with a Thai-style salad with peanut sauce dressing.

Make Some Chipotle Ranch Dressing

Chipotle peppers
Chipotle peppers - Alexander Prokopenko/Shutterstock

Once your breaded chicken is finished cooking, there's a good chance that you plan on dipping it into some kind of sauce. And while it's tempting to just use a classic ranch or bleu cheese dressing, taking the time to add a little extra flavor to your dipping sauce can nudge the overall taste of your chicken into the realm of excellence.

One of the easiest ways to add some serious flavor? Chipotle peppers. Chipotle peppers are sold in cans bathed in a smoky tomato sauce. They are usually sold as whole peppers or pureed into a salsa. Try blending a few spoons of chipotles into your ranch dressing. The chipotles add a complex blend of peppery smokiness that perfectly compliments breaded chicken for dipping, as a sauce for sandwiches, or even as a dressing for an amazingly flavorful salad. If you like your spicy on the mild side, you don't have to add much — just a small drizzle can add tons of flavor without being overly spicy. Why settle for plain ranch dressing when you can easily dress it up with just one extra ingredient?

Read the original article on Daily Meal.