For a homemade version of the classic kid-friendly meal, start with raw, fresh, boneless chicken. Commercially prepared chicken nuggets arrive in plastic bags already pre-cooked for convenience and food safety reasons. At home, though, you can use fresh chicken for the best flavor and texture.
The Fresher the Better
Frozen, commercially-prepared chicken nuggets are usually pre-cooked, so all you have to do is give them a quick warm-up. At home, though, you must start with raw chicken or the breading won't stick well, nor will it brown unless you cook the chicken a second time. Always use fresh chicken, cut into 1-or-2 inch cubes. If the chicken is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator overnight before you work with it.
Once you've breaded the raw chicken, you can cook it, choosing one of several methods. Frying or pan sauteing chicken nuggets gives them the most flavor and crunch, but you can also bake them in an oven set at 375 degrees Fahrenheit or cook them in the microwave for 5 to 8 minutes. In any event, cook the chicken nuggets until the flesh is white and opaque. A meat thermometer inserted in the nuggets should read 165 F.
Keep It Safe
Since you're working with raw chicken, it's important to pay attention to food safety steps. Raw chicken can harbor bacteria that can cause food borne illness. Wash your hands, knives and cutting boards with warm, soapy water before you handle the chicken. Don't rinse the chicken, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is unnecessary and can spread bacteria to the sink and other parts of the kitchen. Do not use the cutting board for any other purposes until it's been thoroughly cleaned. Cook the chicken promptly and refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours of preparing them at 40 F. You an also freeze the leftovers in tightly sealed packages for later use. Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
So Many Choices
You must use raw chicken when making chicken nuggets, but that's about the only non-negotiable point. You can use boneless chicken breasts or chicken thighs. You can brine the meat first in a mixture of pickle juice and buttermilk. To ensure that the breading sticks, dip the chicken in a mixture of egg whites and water, milk or butter. Finally, choose a breading that suits your tastes. Panko bread crumbs are a common choice, but you can use crushed cereal or pretzels, or cornstarch for a gluten-free option. Be sure to season the chicken well with salt, pepper, garlic powder and any other desired spices.
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