The Unique Way Giada De Laurentiis Elevates Chicken Fingers

Humble chicken fingers — or chicken tenders, if that's your thing — are a truly versatile dish. You can serve them with french fries and honey mustard. You can douse them in buffalo sauce and accompany them with blue cheese and ranch dressing. Whether you're a die-hard fan of Raising Canes or you only enjoy Popeyes on occasion, a basket of chicken fingers always hits the spot. In fact, so intense is the American love of fried chicken products, from tenders to sandwiches, that poultry suppliers have been struggling to keep up with demand, Bloomberg reports.

Of course, just because chicken tenders are sometimes seen as a "kids' food" doesn't mean chefs can't take a crack at it. Ayesha Curry, for example, bakes her chicken tenders in a crispy, golden parmesan crust (via People). The Pioneer Woman's recipe covers the chicken with a slightly sweet, caramelized coating made of Cap'n Crunch cereal. And even the Italian-American Food Network star Giada De Laurentiis has her own special trick to give chicken tenders an extra salty, savory, satisfying crunch with every bite, she shared on YouTube.

De Laurentiis' secret is a pretzel crust

Rather than cornflakes or Italian breadcrumbs, Giada De Laurentiis employs crushed pretzels to achieve the signature golden brown crust that all proper chicken tenders have. "I think it makes for a really great coating on the chicken," explains De Laurentiis as she prepares the dish on Food Network's Youtube channel. "It creates this crunch that is, I think, phenomenal."

De Laurentiis walks us through each stage of her surprisingly simple recipe. To start, she recommends slicing up a chicken breast rather than using pre-cut chicken tenders, as she finds the meat to be moister. The strips are then lightly coated in flour, given a quick bath in two beaten and seasoned eggs, and then gently tossed in the pretzel crumbs before being pan-fried in a hot skillet containing just enough oil to cover the surface — no deep-frying here.

After frying the chicken for a few minutes per side, De Laurentiis makes "doctored-up" ketchup, consisting of a ½ cup of standard ketchup, a teaspoon of Madras curry powder, and ¼ teaspoon of fennel pollen. These seasonings, she says, cut through the sweetness of the ketchup and make the pretzel-crusted chicken "extra special."