Oven-grilled breaded chicken, Southern style
If you like fried chicken but hate the frying part and the watching over the stove as the chicken cooks, the most convenient solution is to grill the chicken in the oven. For those of you who like your fried chicken with the skin on, oven grilling can make the skin crisp too — just check out my savory oven-grilled chicken and see for yourself. But is that possible with breaded chicken? You know, like Southern style fried chicken? Isn’t it the cooking oil that turns the breading crisp? So, if cooked in the oven without all that oil, the breading will just dry up, won’t it?
Okay, first of all, the chicken skin contains fat. If the fat is absorbed by the breading, it is possible that it will turn out crisp. The problem, of course, is that no chicken part is a hundred per cent covered with fatty skin. A thigh, for instance, will have skin on one side but not on the underside. So, how can we make the breading evenly browned and crisp? Well, we use our imagination and get creative.
You marinate and coat your chicken as though you were preparing to fry them Southern style. But, instead of dropping them in hot oil, you lay them on a baking sheet lined with non-stick paper. Then, and here’s the important part, you brush them with softened butter. Not too much as you don’t want the bottoms soaked in oil, but just enough to moisten the breading on top and sides. Excess oil (including rendered fat) will drip to the bottom and take care of browning that part. See, if you rely on the skin fat alone, that will turn the breading on top crisp but not the breading on the bottom. By adding oil, you’re making sure that all parts get enough oil.
Now, you’re probably thinking… But that doesn’t make the chicken any healthier! Well, I never said it would. I’m just saving you the trouble of watching the chicken as they fry (and perspire in front of the stove). With oven grilling, you can just turn on the timer and come back when the chicken is done.
But, but… is there really no way of cutting down on bad fat? Okay, here’s a suggestion and this is what I did last night. Instead of brushing the chicken with butter, drizzle olive oil over them. For best results, use herb-infused olive oil. That gets rid of the transfat in the butter but you will end up with the same result — crisp coating. The bonus? Can you imagine how the cooked chicken smells with all that aromatic olive oil in the coating?