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Oven-fried chicken is a cooking method that gives chicken a crispy, crunchy outer coating similar to traditional fried chicken. Chicken prepared in the oven contains less fat and calories than chicken fried in oil. The outer coating of chicken fried in the oven is drizzled or sprayed with a small amount of oil. The overall heat of the oven and the small amount of oil combine to deliver a crispy outer coating. Depending on the ingredients, chicken fried in the oven contains about one third less fat than chicken fried in hot oil.
One of the advantages of oven-fried chicken is control over which oil is used to achieve the crispy outer coating. Traditional fried chicken is usually cooked in canola, corn, or vegetable oil. Cooking chicken in the oven opens up the choice of cooking oils. Butter and olive oil, for example, are not suitable for stove-top frying but work well for baking. These lighter oils add distinctive flavors not possible in traditional fried chicken.
The coating ingredients for classic fried chicken are limited. Most pan-fried chicken recipes call for the chicken pieces to be dipped in flour or a flour-based batter before being cooked in hot oil. Oven-fried chicken offers a wider variety of coating options. The chicken pieces can be coated in crushed cornflakes, toasted bread crumbs, or crushed crackers. Instant potato mix can be used, and there are prepackaged coating mixes as well.
It takes longer to cook oven-fried chicken than it does to cook traditional fried chicken. Chicken fried in hot oil on the stove is subjected to high temperatures. These high temperatures cook both the chicken’s outer coating and the chicken meat in a short period of time. When chicken is cooked in the oven, the meat cooks first and the outer coating crisps toward the end of the cooking time. Although traditional fried chicken requires much of the cook’s time to monitor and turn the chicken pieces, chicken fried in the oven can be left to cook on its own.
There are a variety of recipes for oven-fried chicken. Some call for the chicken to be dipped in a liquid before being covered in the coating. This process uses the liquid to help the outer coating adhere to the chicken. The liquid can be beaten eggs, melted butter, or milk. Spices such as garlic powder, paprika, or thyme are added to the outer coating ingredients before the chicken pieces are coated with the mixture.