Ditch the Frying, Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken Leg Quarters - The Healthier Choice for this Classic Recipe
The inspiration for this recipe was the memory of Sunday Chicken Dinners enjoyed when growing up. Chicken dinners typically fixed one of two ways, pan-fried or oven-baked, out of this world delicious and super easy to fix.
Classic fried chicken, as I remember, was fried to perfection in an electric frypan using vegetable shortening. It was prepared by dipping the chicken pieces in vinegar-soured milk or buttermilk, then dredged in flour, and seasoned with salt and pepper before cooking.
The other option was to prepare the chicken by shaking it in a flavored breadcrumb-style coating then baking the coated meat in the oven to mimic the texture on the outside of the fried version. The seasonings in the coating elevated the taste. And, who could forget the brand, its name, and slogan when the enthusiastic children featured in the commercials, pictured helping their grandmothers making dinner, exclaimed: “It’s Shake-N-Bake. And, I helped!”
My challenge in replicating the classic home fixed versions of those Sunday favorites was to re-create what I liked most about the texture, flavor, and taste of each recipe into one new gluten-free version.
Because I’m always experimenting with healthier options, I decided to focus my efforts on creating a version that is oven-baked, not fried, made without all the grease, and the messy cleanup!
After several trials, my spin on the classic that I remember turned out fantastic!
Baking it renders the fat in the skin, cooking the coating as it bakes, making it crispy. To up the crispiness, I additionally discovered a couple of little secrets, so read on to learn about these unlikely ingredients!
In the final version, both the wet and dry ingredients to make it are also updated. My additions in spices, dijon mustard, and hot sauce make it a tiny bit zesty, which keeps my dear hubby happy (he loves spicy food).
The tough part was tweaking the dry ingredient amounts to get the right coating consistency to stick to the chicken with having it evenly covered.
Secret # 1 – Start by soaking the chicken to marinate it.
Marinate the mixture in the refrigerator for as little as 30-minutes up to several hours. Doing this will tenderize the meat and will allow the spices and crumb-coating mixture to stick better to the chicken pieces.
After reading nearly every recipe that I could find in my cookbook collection and online, I set to work experimenting with various techniques in making the perfect oven-baked gluten-free chicken. I tried many methods, including a popular technique done in traditional frying by double-dredging. When you do double-dredging, you first shake the marinated chicken in seasoned flour then dip it in egg before the final dredging of it in a crumb or batter mixture.
What I found was that double-dredging made the breading way too thick for baking. The coating turned crunchy on the outside, but it fell off the chicken easily in serving and eating it. I tried the same method in deep-frying. When I did that, it worked fine, and the taste was incredible, but deep-frying did not provide the healthier version I was seeking.
Through the trials, I did discover the secret ingredients that increased my success with each method.
Secret # 2 – Include baking powder.
Baking powder is a leavening agent that increases the crunch factor by causing the wet and dry ingredients of the marinade and the crumb-coating to work together and rise in tiny bubbles as it bakes.
Secret # 3 – Add super crunch to the coating with Corn Chex and toasted and seasoned breadcrumbs.
Adding 1/4-Cup each of gluten-free Corn Chex cereal (finely crushed), and toasted, seasoned gluten-free bread crumbs (I make my toasted breadcrumbs) to add the desired texture to the coating raises the taste and texture of the end result.
This version, it turns out, is the best I can imagine. The spice-flavored crumb-style coating is not too heavy. Light and crunchy to the bite, it bakes up flavorful, juicy on the inside for that classically fried chicken crunch, texture, and taste.
The quantity that follows in the recipe makes four chicken leg quarters.
Cooked Chicken Temperature
If you’re unsure of when your chicken is cooked through, use a meat thermometer or oven probe to monitor the temperature. It should read 165º F (75º C) when inserted in the thickest part of the meat.
Crispy Oven-Baked Chicken Leg Quarters
- 9 x 11 Baking Pan
- Wire Baking Rack
- mixing bowls
- Zipper Bag
- 4 Chicken Leg Quarters
- 2 Tablespoons Butter melted
For the Marinade
- Set your oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 375-degrees.
- Combine the marinade ingredients and whisk together until smooth.
- Place the chicken parts in a plastic zipper bag. Pour in the combined marinade mixture. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Work the chicken and marinade mixture with your hands to evenly coat the chicken and place in the refrigerator to marinate 30-minutes minimum up to several hours.
- Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl, use a whisk to combine the crumb-coating ingredients. Mix the flour, cereal, and toasted breadcrumbs (finely crushed), baking powder, seasoning, and spices until incorporated. Set aside.
- Prepare a baking dish by melting butter and pouring it into the bottom of the baking dish (9 x 11” baking dish works well for four leg quarters).
- Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess liquid, and dredge* in the crumb-coating mixture being sure to coat all sides.
- Arrange the crumb-coated chicken in the dish, leaving plenty of room around each piece so that they are not touching. You want the pieces to bake and not steam.
- Place dish in the oven and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and bake for an additional 30 minutes. Increase oven temperature to 400-degrees and bake 10-15 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 165-degrees (insert a meat thermometer at the thickest part of the thigh, taking care not to touch the bone).
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(Nutritional values are an approximation. Actual nutritional values may vary due to preparation techniques, variations related to suppliers, regional and seasonal differences, or rounding.)