Cooking Chicken Tenders

Hurray for Chicken Tenders

One of the best things about cooking with chicken tenders is how quick they are to prepare. For a quick and easy weeknight dinner for the family, there is nothing easier. Chicken tenders are a great choice for family meals: kids love them and given the right treatment, we adults can be back on board too in a healthier way. Yet, cooking chicken tenders is not as easy as it looks. Oh, and we’re not talking about frozen breaded chicken tenders — We’re talking about the raw individual pieces of meat.

Personally, I have fallen in love with chicken tenders all over again. Because I finally have the cooking technique right for those perfectly moist delicious chicken tenders.

Nutritional Information

Let’s start with the basics. A standard serving of unbreaded chicken tenders (about 2-3 pieces) typically contains around 120-180 calories, making them an excellent choice for lean protein. However, the exact nutritional content can vary based on the cooking method and any added ingredients. To keep things on the healthier side, we opted for baking or grilling with this recipe.

Chicken Cooking Technique

One of the most important things when cooking any lean meat is to ensure it is done, yet not overdone. With chicken tenders, I use the “floppy test”.  I know you are wondering what I mean, so let me explain.

When the chicken is raw and you hold it with tongs, it flops over each side, simply hanging down. As it cooks, the protein tightens and it firms up. When it’s overdone, it’s rigid and, you guessed it, dry as a board.

Since meat continues to cook after it is removed from the grill (commonly called “carryover cooking”), the key is to find that floppy point where it is not rigid and barely flops over the side of the tongs.

Flavoring Chicken

Start with high-quality chicken tenders to ensure a tender and flavorful result. Because this recipe is only the chicken and the spice, you need to make sure it’s fresh chicken (or was frozen when it was fresh). Organic does actually taste better.

Because chicken tenders are so lean and so tiny, you don’t have a WOW (Wide Operating Window). It’s important to flavor them with something that will cling and something that allows flavors to penetrate the meat itself.  Sauce Goddess has blended seasonings that will do the right thing.

Dry marinade

You might be asking, what is a dry marinade? Well, it’s when you season the meat and let it hang around in the seasoning for 30 minutes (as with fish, chicken tenders, pork tenderloin) to maybe 24 hours (like with brisket, pollo asado) before cooking it. With tenders, it’s quick.

Sauce them

Because tenders cook so fast, you’re going to want to use a sauce that doesn’t need to cook itself. There is no time to wait for the sauce to get thick. It has to start out already thick or be the way you want to taste it before you apply it on the chicken.

Bread them and Bake or Fry

This is a health situation and also an equipment situation. If you have an air fryer, you can have both. Seasoning your coating is a great way to get flavor into chicken. Using eggs and yogurt to keep the crunchy coating on is also a great way to increase your protein while you’re eating crunchy goodness. All the components of the coating can be seasoned and sometimes sauced.

To Dip or Not to Dip

Yes, well, it is a question. Are you going to be dipping these tenders or serving them as part of another dish? A lot of times, I cook tenders, then dice them into a salad or top my pasta with chunks of the lean goodness.

Dips can be yogurt or sour cream based. They can include mayo. They can be straight up sauces, like our Sweet & Spicy Cayenne sauce. It’s truly great for dipping.

Season, Grill, then Serve!

Simply season those tenders and wait while the grill or oven warms up. Cook them in under 20 minutes and you’ve got a delicious chicken dinner that’s good for you.



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