“Pan-fried chicken is all about the clarified butter in which it’s cooked, which lends a well-rounded richness that you just can’t get from olive oil,” writes Samin Nosrat in the introduction to this easy, seasoning-building recipe. We agree: After trying this recipe with both olive oil and the aforementioned clarified butter, we now keep an extra pint of the stuff around for whenever the mood for moist, crispy chicken strikes.
Recipe: Finger-Lickin’ Pan-Fried Chicken
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1½ cups fine white breadcrumbs, preferably homemade, or panko
¾ ounce Parmesan cheese, finely grated (about ¼ cup)
1 cup flour, seasoned with a large pinch of salt and a pinch of cayenne
3 large eggs, beaten with a pinch of salt
1¾ cups clarified butter or ghee
The Field Method for Cast Iron Care
Line one baking sheet with parchment paper, and another with paper towels.
If the tenders are still attached to the breasts, remove them. Use a sharp knife to remove the bit of silver skin, or connective tissue, at the top of the underside of each breast.
Place one chicken breast with the underside facing up on the cutting board. Lightly rub one side of a plastic bag with olive oil and place it, oil side down, on top of the breast. Pound the underside of the breast with a kitchen mallet (or, lacking that, use an empty glass jar) until it’s evenly about ½-inch thick. Repeat with the remaining breasts.
Season the breasts and tenders lightly with salt, and then set up a breading station. Set up three large, shallow bowls or roasting dishes, each one with the seasoned flour, the beaten eggs, and the breadcrumbs. Mix the Parmesan into the bread crumbs.
Working like Henry Ford, coat all the breasts and tenders first in flour, then shake off the excess. Then dip and coat them all in egg, and shake off the excess. Finally, coat the pieces in breadcrumbs and set them on the parchment-lined baking sheet.
Set a 10- or 12-inch No.8 or No.10 Field Skillet cast iron pan (or other frying pan) over medium-high heat and add enough clarified butter to come ¼ inch up the sides of the pan. When the fat shimmers, add a few bread crumbs to test the temperature of the fat. As soon as they sizzle readily, place as many chicken breasts as you can fit into the pan in a single layer. There should be space between each breast, and the fat should come at least halfway up the sides of the chicken to ensure that the breading cooks evenly.
Cook the breasts over medium-high heat until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes, then rotate and flip. Cook until the second side is evenly brown, remove from the pan, and drain on the sheet lined with paper towels. (If you’re unsure that the meat is cooked through, poke through the breading with a paring knife and check. Return to the pan and cook longer if you see any pink flesh). Add more clarified butter to the pan as necessary and cook the remaining breasts and tenders in the same way. Sprinkle lightly with salt, and serve immediately.
Adapted from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat (Simon & Schuster, 2017)
Seasoning Rating: Best
Pan-frying is always great for seasoning: cooking oil coats the skillet evenly and leaves your pan looking shiny, strong, and more non-stick than ever.
Best—These dishes are the best options for building resilient seasoning, and surefire choices for getting tricky pans back on track.
Better—The best way to keep your skillet in great shape is to cook frequently, and cast iron-friendly dishes like these are your bread and butter.
Safe—These recipes won't strip seasoning away from your pan, but won't really add any, either.
OK—Be sure to clean up promptly. Recipes with this rating might feature acidic ingredients which can affect seasoning if not washed soon after cooking.