April 25th, 2009

Chicken Nuggets


NOTE: for an oven-baked version, see here.

There is a secret to making great chicken nuggets. This secret has nothing to do with the ingredients, and everything to do with the cooking process. This is great news, because it means that you can still make scrumptious chicken nuggets like the one above, using subpar ingredients — excuse me, ah, I mean GFCF ingredients. I have such a love-hate relationship with my cooking these days. Let’s get started before I offend anything else in my pantry.



Secret number one: marinate your meat! There are millions of recipes out there that advocate the “wash and dredge” method of breading meat, and it’s a complete travesty. If you soak those little buggers for even 45 minutes, they will come out so much more moist and delicious. (And they don’t have to be little, you could make these large chicken tenders or even whole breasts if you’d like. But I’m cooking for kids here, and they like their food bite-sized.) My bag above contains 10 cut up chicken tenders, 1 beaten egg, and 1/2 cup of rice milk, and it’s been sitting in the fridge for a little over an hour. Not because that’s the perfect amount of time, mind you, but because I live in a madhouse and sometimes I get distracted. We don’t do a lot of “perfect” around here.



Secret number two: the oil has to be just right. If it’s not hot enough, the insides of the nuggets will be dry and stringy before the outside manages to get golden-brown. Too hot, and it will splatter violently and you’ll spend the rest of the day covered in bandages. You’ll know it’s right when it’s “swimming” — not smoking, and definitely not boiling. The oil will just be kind of swirling around on its own, and you’ll see the movement across the surface if you get down real close like this and check it out at eye-level. So put about 1/2 cup of canola oil in the pan, just enough to cover the bottom, and let it start heating up over medium-low heat.



Meanwhile, it’s time to mix up the breading. I use 1/2 cup Rice Chex, 1/2 cup instant potato flakes, 1/4 cup white rice flour, 1/4 cup tortilla crumbs, and 1/2 tsp. salt. These tortilla crumbs are basically just corn meal with a teensy bit of lime and garlic flavor added, plain cornmeal will work fine. Be aware that not all potato flakes are GFCF, so check your brands, and most also contain sulfites. If that’s a concern for you, you can just substitute more Rice Chex, or you could use one of my favorite ingredients which is almond meal. Sometimes I replace half the tortilla crumbs with almond meal, just to mix it up a bit. I’d probably bread everything in nothing but almond meal, if the stuff weren’t so darn expensive. [As always, any brand name ingredients I use were GFCF at the time of posting, but manufacturers can change formulas–always double-check the ingredient lists.]



Just toss it all in a bag…



And crush it up. Make sure to get those Rice Chex nice and pulverized.



Then toss in the chicken. But don’t pour the whole thing in, you only want the meat. You can sit there and move each piece into the bag with your tongs if you like, but if you want to know the truth, I just do it with my hand. A few slimy fistfuls and you’re done. Still only takes a quarter of the time even when you count washing your hands afterward. But I understand not everyone is as cavalier about this sort of thing as I am, so take your time if you must.



Mix it up real good. Every time I do this, I can’t help but hear the old Shake-n-Bake ads: “And AHH hey-ulped!” Maybe the little girl only had a Southern accent in the commercials for the South. Or maybe it’s all in my head.



Make sure you pinch apart any chicken pieces that are sticking to each other so they can get breaded on all sides. Another important thing to remember is that, sadly, not all chicken is gluten-free. Many times you will see things like “up to 10% solution” or “with broth” on the package, and chicken broth is quite often made with gluten as a thickener. You can verify with the manufacturer that the broth they use is gluten-free, but the safer thing to do is just buy organic/unprocessed chicken to begin with.



Prepare a landing pad. It’s important to do this before you start frying, because those little bite-size pieces cook fast.



Is your oil swimming? Then it’s time to fry! Notice how there’s a little bubbling action right around the nugget, but it is not splattering onto the stovetop or burning anyone’s delicate hands. My hands aren’t delicate (see earlier comment about shoving them into a bag of raw chicken,) but I hear some people like to take care of their skin.



Keep dropping them carefully in until the pan is full but not crowded. Again, you can add them with tongs if you feel it’s necessary, but we’re all about quick and easy here at the GFCF Lady’s house.



After just a few minutes the bottoms should be a lovely golden brown color. (Please note this is the one step you absolutely must not do with your hands…)



This one’s not done yet, so don’t be afraid to just put it back down for another second while you flip some others over. In an ideal world I would have the organization skills to flip them in the same order I added them to the pan, but then again, in my ideal world I would never have had to learn how to make my own chicken nuggets to begin with. When life gives you lemons, you make GFCF chicken nuggets. Or something.



Look at that beauty! Who wouldn’t want to just pop that in your mouth right then and there? Don’t do it, though. It’s still extremely hot.



Then just move on to the next batch. You’ll have some extra bread bits floating around, which is no big deal. But you may want to pull out the big pieces just to keep everything nice and tidy.



Like so. And these little crispy bits cool very quickly, so you could just snack on them while you keep cooking. You know, if you wanted to.



I like to be economical with my kitchen space, so I just add another layer of paper towels and stack the next batch right on top of the first one.



And so on. Think of it like a chicken nugget condominium. Did you know you can grow potatoes stacked vertically like this too? Horizontal is so last season.



I’d love to show you some artsy photo of these nuggets next to a sculpted dollop of ketchup, but that would be a lie.  The whole point is to make them in bulk ahead of time, and these nuggets are going in the freezer, plain and simple.  You do want to make sure they’re completely cool before you seal them up. If you trap all that steam, it will just turn to ice inside the bag. I just reheat them in the microwave, but you could do a few minutes in the oven instead if you want to make them super crispy again.


Happy eating!


GFCF Lady’s Chicken Nuggets

10 chicken tenders (about 2-3 lbs,) cut up
1/2 cup rice milk
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup Rice Chex
1/2 cup GFCF potato flakes
1/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup tortilla crumbs (or cornmeal)
1/2 tsp salt


9 comments to Chicken Nuggets

  • clodfobble

    These look delicious! I can’t wait to try them out.

  • grannymudita

    my grandson really likes these!

  • xoxoxoBruce

    If you leave the extra bread bits in the oil, will they eventually burn and give the oil that burnt flavor?

  • TheGFCFLady

    Bruce, I suppose they probably would if you used the same oil for hours, but each batch of nuggets takes 5-7 minutes at most. I’m done with the oil long before it becomes a problem. Thanks for visiting!

  • mrschaits

    You are a Goddess! Both my boys loved these, I even dragged out the old deep fryer and fired it up. Unfortunately I only made one pound not knowing if they’d be eaten, next time I’m making 5 pounds at once.

  • tdispnet

    im new to the GFCF diet.. im learning bout it and trying to incorporate it into my daughters diet..what type of milk did u use?? and the oil u said was canola oil, is that ordinary canola oil or is there a GFCF kind?

  • TheGFCFLady

    @ tdispnet: Pure canola oil is GFCF, and I’ve never seen a blended or flavored canola oil, but I suppose it’s possible. Reading the label is always your best bet. If it says “Ingredients: canola oil,” then it’s fine. 🙂 We have used a number of milk substitutes over the last few years, including almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, potato milk, and hemp milk. Different kids prefer different flavors (or have additional allergies to work around,) so you just have to figure out which one works best for your family. Good luck!

  • TheGFCFLady

    Yes, any milk substitute will work. Sorry for the delay in responding!

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