Let’s take a look at making chicken sandwiches like fast food places like Chick-fil-A and Popeyes do. We’ll provide you with all the tips and secrets to make the best chicken sandwich at home without going through the trouble of full immersion deep frying.
It is flabbergasting what we Americans will, apparently, choose to dispute. There was actually a thing called “Chicken Sandwich Wars” in 2019, Chick-fil-A and Popeyes arguing over who had the first chicken sandwich. Stupid on the surface, even more when you realize Popeyes’ company started in 1972. Chick-fil-A trademarked “We Didn’t Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich” in 1961. Get over yourselves. Both make a good product, I prefer Popeyes, my wife is a Chick-fil-A fan. Their ads with the cows though, ‘eat mor chickin’, are excellent and we both find them funny.
There are twenty some players in the fast-food arena offering chicken sandwiches along with countless mom and pop shops doing their version. That kind of initiative is what makes this country special. Then we see the funniest part, the folks who say they’ll have a chicken sandwich because it is healthier. Than what?!
A meatless filled bun thing?
Maybe one of those so called ‘grilled’ versions out there is ‘healthier’, but only marginally so, when compared to a burger anyway. But we are here to show you how to get a great fried chicken sandwich at home, in the style you like best, and as healthy as possible.
We are not trying to get a build on one of the specific sandwiches you can buy. With so many market choices and all of our differing tastes we are giving you lots of choices in this recipe process. 4 different ways to bread the chicken each with different flavor and textures. Sauce and condiment choices, cheese, lettuce or tomatoes…. all the things you get to customize your food with. Funnily, the most constant thing on most the commercial sandwiches, besides using chicken, are brioche buns. ‘Cause they’re good. And now available in most groceries.
Ways to Fry Chicken
As you have probably seen elsewhere on Notakeout.com, we don’t promote deep frying at home. Some have said we are whiny babies for this position, others call us elitist since we had deep fryers at the restaurants we were involved in. That last part has a grain of truth, not the elitist part, elitist don’t get sweaty and slimed working a jamming shift on the kitchen cooking line. But our experience has taught us that it is messy and difficult to emulate commercial frying at home. So, we don’t. A deep skillet with less than half an inch of oil works great.
The pre-frying preparation of the chicken has a couple variables. We are going to stick with the most familiar chicken part used in good sandwiches, the breast. Mainly it lends itself to shaping and sizing to fit your target bun. Milder in flavor it takes seasoning well. A common preparation technique is to soak the chicken in buttermilk. The acid levels help tenderize and it adds a tangy flavor. A simpler brine of salt and sugar gives similar results, less tenderization, but that’s isn’t an issue for sandwiches in our opinion. We suggest using Greek yogurt as part of the breading process offering results that are very similar to buttermilk soakin, and less expensive. That is our process shown here.
Making Batter for Breading Chicken Breast
Using actual batter works, it makes a tasty piece of chicken, but it requires a batter dip and straight into the fryer. For pan frying we use the much easier prep step with a breading process. Traditionally, you dredge the food through seasoned flour, then into an egg wash with possibly some dairy added, then you coat it with your choice from bread crumbs, corn flakes, simply more flour, or a bunch of choices you can explore. One great aspect of this approach is that you can do this process and let the food sit for a bit before you cook it, with little loss of quality.
For this article we are going to bread chicken breasts four different ways.
- Only dredged in flour
- Dredged, washed and floured again
- Dredged, washed, breaded with panko* bread crumbs
- Dredged, washed, and corn flake breading.
*Panko, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a Japanese style bread crumb. Exposure to European cooking and their style of using bread crumbs (which only came by ship) caused panko to be created locally, and now they are very popular globally.
Corn flakes are still just corn flakes. ‘Dredged washed and floured’ we refer to as double dipped since it hits the same flour bowl twice.
Best Chicken Sandwich (Copycat Recipe)
- 4 Boneless skinless split chicken breasts cut into 2 pieces each
- 8 Brioche buns
- Sandwich Sauce (see recipe)
- Dill pickle slices
- Tomato slices
- 2 Cups Panko bread crumbs
- 2 Cups Crushed corn flakes
- 1 Quart Water
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Brown sugar
- ½ Cup Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon Granulated garlic
- 1 Egg
- ¼ Cup Plain yogurt
- 2 Tablespoons Water
- Panko bread crumbs as needed
- Corn Flakes as needed
- Mix brine; 1 quart water, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- Bias cut and shape the chicken breasts
- Add chicken to brine, cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours
- Remove the chicken and shake off excess brine
- In a medium bowl mix the dredge; ½ cup flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- If you want the lightest breading dredge your chicken and cook in a lightly oiled skillet and build your sandwich
- In another bowl make the wash, whisk together; 1 egg, ¼ cup plain yogurt, 2 Tablespoons water
- If you want to make a double dip, dredge one breast, dip in the wash, put back in the flour and coat again. Repeat until done, advance to cooking them
- Put your crumb choice into a shallow pan or dish
- With each breast piece dredge, wash and put in the crumbs
- Get crumbs on top of the meat and spread evenly pressing it into the crumbs
- Turn the chicken and repeat, pressing firmly into crumbs
- Over medium heat, warm your skillet or shallow pan with ¼ to ½ inch of vegetable oil in it
- Don’t overload the pan, cook the breaded meat approximately 7 minutes per side, until cooked through and well colored on the outside
- Toast the buns if desires (a toaster on the bagel setting works great)
- Build the sandwiches your way!