Patrick Decker

Tastes Great Looks Bad: Oven “Fried” Chicken

With resolutions and diet season upon us, it’s a timely bit of irony that I come home at night craving fried chicken.  In the interim, I fill the void of deprivation with one of my favorite weeknight low-guilt meals: baked chicken.  It’s comforting, delicious, easy, and with this clever styling trick, crispy without the grease of traditional fried chicken. The secret to beautiful, crispy baked chicken lies in the breading.  Just like Rach says and does: to get a crispy coating on anything, dredge it first in flour, then egg, and then breadcrumbs.  The secret to keeping your breading on the chicken (instead of sliding off onto your dinner plate) is in the flour.  When you’ve got your breading station set up, take a few pinches of flour and whisk them in with your eggs until it resembles the consistency of pancake batter.  This small step helps all of the breading to bond together and creates a super crispy breading on the outside of your chicken.

Should the rare opportunity present itself that you have some extra time (I know, I know, it’s a long shot), let the breading dry on the chicken for about about 15 minutes before you put it in the oven.  This bit of curing time gives everything even more “bonding time”.  Just think of it this way – bread your chicken, then turn the oven on.  By the time the oven is hot, you’ll be ready to go!

Crispy Oven “Fried” Chicken

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup flour, divided
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 2 cups panko-style bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, whatever you’ve got in the fridge (about a handful)
  • 4 skinless, bone-in chicken breasts (halved) or thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray


Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Set up a baking sheet with a cooling screen on it and reserve. Set up three dishes on a work surface.  Fill the first with the flour; in the second whisk together the eggs, dijon, and 1/4 cup flour (borrowed from the first dish);  in the third combine the panko and herbs. Season the chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper and coat each first in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly on the breadcrumbs to make sure that they stick. Arrange the coated chicken on the prepared baking sheet and mist each lightly with the nonstick cooking spray.  Bake until the breading is golden brown and the meat is cooked through, about 40 minutes.  Serve.

Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food.  Always has.  Probably always will.  As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary team on Rachael’s daytime talk show, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day, and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night.  You can see what he’s up to by following his latest twEATs on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at

7 Responses to “Tastes Great Looks Bad: Oven “Fried” Chicken”

  1. BEV says:

    Do you have the nutritional value?

  2. Patrick says:

    Hey BEV –
    I used a simple online calculator, so don’t hold me to these numbers, but the ballpark nutrition info per serving (using about a 6-ounce chicken breast per portion) is 400 calories, 7g fat, and almost 50g protein – a HUGE savings from traditional fried chicken!

  3. Debbie says:

    I was raised that after you prep your chicken, the next step is to brown it a bit. How do you feel about browning before you put the chicken in the oven?

  4. Leah Smith says:

    Hi Patrick,
    I love oven fried chicken. The recipe that I used called for mayo instead of eggs (not sure how healthy that was) and chex cereal along with panko and a couple other ingredients. Are you familiar with that recipe or suggest one or the other? I will have to try this one and see how it turns out.

  5. Patrick says:

    @Debbie – I’m guessing you mean to brown it on the stove? If so, I wouldn’t because (1) you risk knocking your breading off and (2) it jacks up the calorie count big-time cooking it in all that oil. If you end up trying it, let us all know how it turns out!

  6. Patrick says:

    @Leah – I have definitely heard of using mayo and in fact use great yogurt to marinate my chicken when doing it the classic “deep fried” way. The chex I have not tried, but they definitely sound delicious!

  7. Nancy says:

    Hi Patrick, here’s another version: soak boneless chicken pieces (thigh or breast in strips) in seasoned buttermilk for 30 minutes, roll in crushed corn cereal (Chex or Corn Flakes), bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, serve with dipping sauce. The golden color of the cereal and its crunch make the chicken appear fried. The buttermilk tenderizes with few added calories. I have committed food fraud with this recipe dozens of times over many years to adults, children and teenagers who all thought it was fried chicken (and also thought it was much better than “chicken tenders” or “nuggets,” and it is of course much healthier too). Easy to freeze the chicken pieces after rolling in cereal for quick treats for teenagers.

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