Love chicken tenders but you're trying to eat clean? Consider baking chicken tenders in foil to cut calories. Baking is a lot healthier than frying and can significantly reduce the amount of fat and bad carbs.
Baking chicken tenders in foil takes less than half an hour. Cook them at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or higher until their internal temperature reaches 165 F.
What Are Chicken Tenders?
Chicken tenders are also known as chicken strips, chicken fingers or goujons. They're usually served fried in most pubs and fast-food restaurants. These thin strips of meat are attached to the underside of each breast and make a healthy addition to salads, soups and skewers. Deep-frying isn't the only way to cook them.
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To put it simply, chicken tenders come from the bird's breast. You can either cut them directly from the breast or buy them separately from grocery stores. By cooking them at home, you'll have full control over the ingredients.
Read more: 12 Tips to Keep Chicken Tender and Tasty
A 3.5-ounce serving of fried chicken tenders has about 271 calories, 19 grams of protein, 17 grams of carbs and 14 grams of fat. The same amount of raw chicken strips boasts 22 grams of protein, 2.6 grams of fat and 0 carbs, according to the USDA. That's about 113 calories, considering that protein supplies 4 calories per gram, while fat provides 9 calories per gram.
Low in fat and high in protein, chicken strips make a healthy addition to any diet — it all comes down to how you cook them. Protein is the most satiating nutrient and can make it easier to reduce your food intake and lose weight, according to a July 2017 review published in Food Hydrocolloids.
When combined with regular exercise, protein helps build and preserve muscle, support cell repair and accelerate post-workout recovery, points out the American Council on Exercise.
Baking Chicken Tenders in Foil
Fried chicken fingers are loaded with empty calories from oil, white flour, bread crumbs and other not-so-healthy ingredients. Baking chicken tenders in foil is a quick, simple way to save calories and cut down to fat. Depending on your preferences, you can make chicken tender foil packets with veggies, rice, bacon, avocado, asparagus or even pineapple.
Start with a basic recipe and improvise along the way. Chicken fingers are tender and have no bone, which makes everything a lot easier.
First, mix water and salt in a container. Submerge the chicken tenders in this saline solution until they are entirely covered. Secure the container with a lid and refrigerate at 40 F or less for no longer than two days, recommends the USDA. This process is called brining and helps prevent overcooking while enhancing the flavor and increasing moisture.
Drain the brine and use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the chicken strips. Next, place them on a sheet of heavy-duty foil or use a double layer of regular foil. Rub them gently with spices, herbs, salt and olive oil. Chicken tenders go well with most seasonings, including cilantro, basil, garlic, parsley, oregano, cayenne pepper and more.
Fold the foil over the chicken strips, bringing its side edges to meet above the chicken and form a seal. Leave an air pocket over the poultry so that the steam can escape.
Preheat the oven at 350 F or higher — just like you'd do with breast halves, advises the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. If you cook only poultry (with no veggies), it should be ready within 20 to 30 minutes. Bake it until its internal temperature reaches at least 165 F (use a food thermometer for this purpose). A lower internal temperature may put you at risk for foodborne illnesses.
Cooked chicken tenders can be stored in the fridge for three to four days or in the freezer for one to three months, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service.
After the chicken tender foil packets reach 165 F, remove them from the oven and let them cool slightly. Discard the aluminum foil, transfer the chicken strips to a large plate and serve them with veggies or nutritious side dishes. Try our favorite 10 Healthy Winter Side Dishes, which are rich in vitamins and minerals without adding empty calories to your meal.
The next time you cook poultry, try other delicious, healthy recipes like marinated chicken tenderloins in the oven, our Turmeric Marinated Grilled Chicken Tenders, baked chicken nuggets or BBQ chicken foil packs.
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Chicken Tenders"
- USDA: "Raw Chicken Tenders"
- USDA: "How Many Calories Are in One Gram of Fat, Carbohydrate, or Protein?"
- Food Hydrocolloids: "Revisiting the Role of Protein-Induced Satiation and Satiety"
- American Council on Exercise: "9 Things to Know About How the Body Uses Protein to Repair Muscle Tissue"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Chicken From Farm to Table
- USDA: "Brining Safely Will Bring Tender, Flavorful Meat to the Thanksgiving Table"