The Kitchn: An homage to the baked, crumb-coated chicken of our youth
The promise of crispy, juicy, oven-baked chicken is one that kept me rushing home as a kid. Mostly we felt like we won the dinner lottery when our mom made Shake'N Bake instead of her usual Hamburger Helper or tuna-noodle casserole. My own children pine for chicken nuggets (they mostly know the freezer kind), but the premise is the same: Coat chicken in crispy breadcrumbs, and be a champion of dinner.
While this technique isn't quite as simple as shaking chicken with breadcrumbs in a bag, the results are worth the minimal extra effort. Toasted panko breadcrumbs give the chicken a golden, crispy exterior, while a paste of eggs and mayo keeps the chicken juicy.
This recipe is not a play on oven-fried chicken -- it's more an homage to the baked, crumb-coated chicken of our youth, whether you grew up with Shake'N Bake or cornflake-crusted chicken cutlets. It's also the answer to a quick dinner when the drive-thru might otherwise call your name.
The secret to juicy, quick-cooking chicken
As you know, chicken breast comes in all different shapes and sizes. Pounding the chicken into thin, even pieces is the key to keeping this crispy oven chicken juicy while it cooks. If pounding sounds more time-consuming than therapeutic to you, use my favorite hack: Pound the chicken inside a gallon-sized zip-top bag. The bag contains all the mess and won't slip and slide under the mallet or rolling pin.
The crispy chicken play-by-play
Toast the breadcrumb coating. Toasting the panko breadcrumbs in the oven not only adds a ton of flavor and even more crunch, but it also gives the chicken a golden hue. Cover the baking sheet in foil so you can remove the foil after the panko is toasted and use it as a sort of tray for coating the chicken.
Pound the chicken. Place each chicken breast inside a gallon-sized zip-top bag and pound to about a 1/4-inch thickness. You can use the flat side of a meat mallet or a rolling pin, or even a heavy glass or empty wine bottle.
Coat the chicken with egg and mayo. An egg coating is pretty traditional, but combining the egg with mayo helps the coating stick to the chicken and stay moist in the oven.