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Why are my homemade chicken tenders soggy?

If you’ve tried making chicken tenders at home only to end up with soggy, mushy results, you’re not alone. Homemade chicken tenders can turn out perfect with a deliciously crispy breading, or they can be frustratingly soggy. Fortunately, there are some easy tricks to ensure your chicken turns out crispy every time.

Common Causes of Soggy Homemade Chicken Tenders

There are a few key things that can lead to soggy chicken tenders when making them at home:

  • Using the wrong chicken cut – Chicken breasts tend to get soggy when breaded and fried. Opt for chicken tenderloins which will stay juicier and crisper.
  • Not drying the chicken properly before breading – Any moisture on the chicken will make the coating soggy. Make sure to pat the chicken dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Using too much flour in the breading – Too much flour will absorb oil and get soggy. Use more crispy panko breadcrumbs instead.
  • Frying at too low of a temperature – The oil needs to be 350-375°F to crisply cook the breading before the chicken overcooks.
  • Overcrowding the pan – Too many tenders in the pan lowers the oil temperature and causes them to steam instead of fry.

By avoiding these common mistakes, you can get perfectly crispy, crunchy chicken tenders every time you make them at home.

How to Make Crispy Chicken Tenders

Follow these simple steps for crispy, juicy homemade chicken tenders:

  1. Use chicken tenderloins – The long, thin tenderloins stay much crispier than chicken breasts.
  2. Cut tenderloins in half or into strips so they are sized similarly for even cooking.
  3. Season the chicken tenders with salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and other desired seasonings.
  4. Set up your breading station – Place flour, beaten eggs, and panko crumbs into separate shallow dishes.
  5. Dry the tenders very well with paper towels so there is no excess moisture.
  6. Dredge each tender first in flour, shaking off any excess. Then dip into the egg wash, allowing any excess to drip off. Finally press into the panko crumbs until well coated on all sides.
  7. Let rest 5-10 minutes so the breading adheres. You can also refrigerate for up to 4 hours before frying.
  8. Heat oil to 350-375°F in a large pot or Dutch oven. Use a thermometer to monitor temperature.
  9. Fry in batches without overcrowding the pot, flipping once halfway through until golden brown and cooked through, 2-5 minutes per batch.
  10. Drain fried tenders on a wire rack or paper towel-lined plate.
  11. Season again if desired while hot. Enjoy immediately for maximum crispness!

Making crispy chicken tenders is easy when you follow these steps. The key is starting with the right cut of chicken, proper breading technique, and frying at a high enough temperature. Letting the breaded tenders rest before frying also improves crispy texture. Now go enjoy some homemade chicken tenders that are crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside!

Tips for Extra Crispy Chicken Tenders

If you want your homemade chicken tenders to have an ultra-crispy crunch, keep these extra tips in mind:

  • Use very fine panko Japanese breadcrumbs – They fry up lighter and crispier than regular breadcrumbs.
  • Double dip in the egg wash – Dunking the tenders twice seals the breading better.
  • Use buttermilk instead of eggs – Soaking tenders in buttermilk adds flavor and helps the coating stick.
  • Combine panko with crushed corn flakes or potato chips – This extra crunch stands up well to frying.
  • Rest longer before frying – Letting coated tenders chill uncovered in the fridge for up to 24 hours dries them out further.
  • Fry at a higher heat – Raise the oil temperature to 375-400°F for maximum crispness without burning.
  • Press down while frying – Use a slotted spatula to gently press each tender against the bottom of the pot as it fries.
  • Blot fried tenders – After draining, gently press between paper towels to soak up any excess grease.
  • Finish under the broiler – Place fried tenders on a baking sheet and broil 1-2 minutes to recrisp exterior.

While the basic method will give you tender, crunchy homemade chicken tenders, these extra steps take them to the next level of crispy, crunchy perfection.

Common Questions About Making Chicken Tenders

Should I pound the chicken to make it thinner?

Pounding the chicken tenderloins to an even thinner cut can help them fry up with a delicate, extra crispy texture. Place tenders between sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper and gently pound with a meat mallet or rolling pin until 1⁄4-1⁄2 inch thick. Go slowly to avoid tearing the chicken.

What is the best oil to use for frying?

The best oils for deep frying chicken tenders are refined oils with a high smoke point and neutral flavor. Good choices include peanut, vegetable, canola, avocado or safflower oil. Avoid olive or sesame oil as they can burn at high frying temperatures.

Should I marinate the chicken before breading?

Marinating the chicken tenderloins for 30 minutes up to overnight in buttermilk, yogurt, juice or seasoned sauce adds extra moisture and flavor. Just be sure to remove the tenders and dry very thoroughly before breading to prevent a soggy coating.

How long does the oil remain usable for frying?

The frying oil should be strained and reused for 2-3 batches of chicken tenders, checking that it maintains the proper frying temperature. After frying 3-4 batches the oil will start to break down and should be replaced with fresh oil.

Can I bake breaded chicken tenders instead of frying?

Yes, baking is a healthier cooking method that still yields tender, crispy chicken. Place breaded tenders on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through. They won’t be quite as crispy as deep fried, but still delicious.

Should I season the breading or the chicken?

For best flavor, season both the chicken and the breading. Salt, pepper and spice the raw chicken tenders first before dredging to infuse flavor throughout. Then add extra seasoning like garlic powder, paprika or cayenne pepper directly to the flour or panko coating.

How can I tell when the oil is hot enough for frying?

Use a deep fry or candy thermometer to accurately gauge the oil temperature. When the oil reaches 350-375°F, it will appear shimmery on the surface and a breadcrumb dropped in will immediately start bubbling and frying.

Is there a baked alternative to fried chicken tenders?

Yes, you can make oven-baked chicken tenders that are deliciously crunchy outside and juicy inside. Simply coat tenders and bake at 425°F for 15-18 minutes. While not identical, they are a healthier option that kids and adults love.

Can I freeze leftover chicken tenders?

Absolutely. Allow fried tenders to cool completely then place in a single layer in a freezer bag or airtight container. Remove as much air as possible and seal. Freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat still frozen at 350°F for 15-20 minutes until hot and crispy.

Common Chicken Tenders Mistakes to Avoid

When homemade chicken tenders don’t turn out right, it’s often due to simple mistakes. Be aware of these common pitfalls and adjust your technique for perfect tenders every time:

  • Using the wrong cut of chicken – Breasts are prone to sogginess, always opt for tenderloins.
  • Not drying chicken thoroughly before breading – Moisture ruins the crispy coating.
  • Using stale breadcrumbs – Fresh panko fries up lighter and crunchier.
  • Breading tends too far in advance – Wait to bread just before frying for ideal texture.
  • Overloading the fryer – Crowding causes temperature to drop and tenders to steam.
  • Frying at too low of heat – Oil needs to be 350-375°F for crispy coating.
  • Cooking too long – Overdone tenders lose moisture and end up chewy.
  • Resting in a steamy pile – Cool fried tenders individually on a wire rack.
  • Skipping the thermometer – Guessing the oil temp leads to under or overheating.
  • Reusing oil too many times – Flavor and performance decreases after 4-5 uses.

Paying attention to the details at each step of preparation, breading and frying is key to creating that sought-after crispy crunch in homemade chicken tenders. Avoid the common mistakes and enjoy the perfect chicken tender experience.


Crunchy, golden chicken tenders make for an easy, crowd-pleasing meal or appetizer. While they seem simple, improper prep and frying methods can easily lead to unsatisfying soggy results. Follow the tips outlined here for selecting the right cut of chicken, setting up an efficient breading station, frying at the ideal temperature, and avoiding common soggy chicken mistakes. With the right techniques, you’ll be rewarded with perfectly crispy, delicious homemade chicken tenders every time. So get out your thermometer and breading supplies and fry up a batch of chicken tenders that even picky eaters will devour.