Today, we’re talking chicken. Oven-crisp chicken, at that.
I love good fried chicken, but good fried chicken is a lot of work and planning. And, quite frankly, I’m not interested in either when it comes to my meal prep.
Sometimes, I’m just trying to get my meal prep done while I’m in the kitchen doing something else. If I’m already at the stove stirring up a sauce, I’ll go ahead and spice up some sweet potato fries and toss them in the oven. And, while I’ve got the oven on for the sweet potato fries… I’ll prep some oven-fried chicken.
For me, I prefer chicken thighs. I know, I know. They’re so fatty, they’re so greasy. I know. Sometimes, it makes me a little ill, too. I can’t eat too much of it when it’s not cooked like this. The method I use for this recipe actually drains out much of – but not all! – the fat from the inside, leaving you with a moist but not so juicy that it’s practically raw piece of chicken thigh with an amazing crisp on the outside.
There’s also the fact that many people who “oven-fry” their chicken also put some kind of carb-based batter or coating on theirs. I’m skipping that, here. Chicken thighs already come with a skin that’s just fine for crisp and crunch, and most of the fat attached will be melted right off so that there’s nothing to worry about. I mean, we want some fat, here, but not a ton of it. Using the natural parts of the chicken – and draining off some of the unnecessary high-calorie fat – will yield a delicious piece of easily-reheatable chicken every time.
But why not drain out all of the fat, Erika? When it comes to reheating chicken, having a little fat left behind is what helps keep your chicken from turning into cardboard when you reheat it. Coming out of the toaster oven or microwave, your chicken will still be moist , and still have a bit of a crunch to it.
Can you do this with other cuts of chicken? I can’t say for sure. This might work on drumsticks, but it’s a definite “no” on anything skinless, because the skin is a huge part of the success of the recipe. I can’t recommend any cut other than the thigh.
Start with pre-heating your oven to 400 degreez, word to Juvenile.
I guess you don’t like my Juvenile references, ha? Okay, okay, I’ll stop.
Take your chicken, and lay it out on your cutting board like so, and sprinkle just a pinch of salt, cracked red pepper and black pepper across the top. (And, by a pinch, I mean a pinch and not a pile.)
We’ll start by browning the chicken in the skillet, skin-heavy side down. In any other circumstance, you wouldn’t crowd your pan because it impedes your chicken’s ability to heat and cook through thoroughly and properly. Alas, we aren’t cooking our chicken here, merely browning the outsides, so it’s okay to crowd your pan a little bit. Besides, the individual pieces will shrink in the skillet, so while it may be crowded now, it won’t stay that way for long.
You should be using medium-high heat on this, which is something like a 6 on a 10-point scale for your stove. Should you use oil for this? It wholly depends on your skillet. Because I’m using a non-stick skillet, I can skip the oil. If you’re using something more along the lines of stainless steel, you might want a bit of oil. Don’t worry too much about added calories, here – the rest of the cooking process will actually drain quite a bit of any excess oil off.
For the record, to “brown” something essentially means to partially cook – or “par-cook” – something to the point where you give the outsides a separate and unique flavor from the insides. You’re giving the outside a golden “brown” color, but you’re also giving it mucho flavor. And, for the sake of this recipe, you’re cooking the outside to a degree that will result in it crisping in the oven, while the inside remains juicy. Win-win.
You’ll cook it on this side for about ten minutes, and then – with your tongs – individually flip each piece over one at a time, so that the golden cooked-side is facing you. You’ll cook these for another ten minutes this way. If you’re using a steel skillet, you should have more than enough oil in the pan now for you to flip without needing any more. And no, there’s not really much need to replace the oil with fresh, here. It won’t be cooking for long enough for any of that to matter.
For the next part, you’ll need a baking pan and a baking rack. I literally took one of my round baking racks and laid it flat across the top of one of my baking pans, and that worked just fine. The goal here is to let the fat drip off of the chicken in the heating process.
Slide your chicken in the pre-heated oven, and let it cook for about 20 minutes total. Sprinkle a few dried herbs on it while you’re at it! I’m using rosemary, here.
Check on it. You should see more oil dropped down into the pan, and the outside of the chicken is a rich, golden brown.
If it’s not crispy enough to your liking, slide it right back into the oven and let it go for 5 minute intervals. Eventually, you’ll get a nice, deep golden brown like I did on my second batch!
And you didn’t even have to bother with breading or batter to get it done!
Bulk chicken, meal prepped, ready to go, reheats well, great crunch? You won.