Fried chicken is a tailgating mainstay, but the fat, carbohydrates, and calories can be a game-lovers turnoff. Here, two chefs share their tips for healthier—but no less delicious—versions of this fan favorite, which make the most of rich spice blends and simple techniques to boost flavor while cutting back on fat.

Louisiana-born Chef Kelly English of Restaurant Iris and The Second Line in Memphis is practically a professional tailgater— he’ll even be cooking for a series of upcoming college games around the country. In 2009, Chef English was voted as best new chef by Food and Wine magazine and he’s gone on to become one of the most recognizable culinary names in the south. He’s also a diehard fan of Ole Miss and the Memphis Grizzlies—there’s even a dish named for the Grizzlies on the menu at The Second Line. He shared his recipe for oven-baked chicken so tender you won’t even miss the oil.


  • 6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 6 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped thyme
  • 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon
  • Salt to taste

Combine Dijon, thyme, and tarragon. Rub the whole breast with salt and pepper, brush on the mustard-spice mixture, and dredge in panko crumbs. Place on a resting rack in the oven at 350° and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is no longer pink.


Chef Judy Joo, host of Korean Food Made Simple on the Cooking Channel, incorporates a Korean spice blend to add a little kick, and a very thin, crispy crust, to her fried chicken.

“Being American I have always loved fried chicken,” she says. “Korean Fried Chicken, the better KFC, has been gaining wide popularity in its many forms. The difference is in the very thin, crisp skin. The spicy sauce can either be drizzled on top or kept on the side. As a kid, I used to just eat the skin off fried chicken—it’s the best part!”

The batter’s dry and wet ingredients can be assembled, but not mixed together, ahead of time. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients right before you’re ready to fry the chicken, otherwise the batter may thicken too much.

Tip: Cook the chicken in batches, one for the drumsticks and thighs and a separate one for the wings. Loosen the BBQ sauce with a little water if you want to drizzle it on or glaze the chicken.


  • ¼ cup (32 grams) cornstarch or corn flour
  • 2½ teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 2 chicken drumsticks, 2 thighs and 4 wings (with tips) (bone in, skin on)


  • ½ cup (70 grams) cornstarch or corn flour
  • ¼ cup (34 grams) fine matzo meal
  • ¼ cup (35 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt or sea salt
  • 2½ teaspoons garlic granules
  • 2½ teaspoons onion granules
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup (237 grams) water
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) vodka
  • 2 tablespoons Korean chili paste (gochujang)

Korean BBQ Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons Korean chili paste (gochujang)
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 packed tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon roasted sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger, about a 2-inch piece
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Make the Coating: In a large bowl whisk together the first 4 ingredients. Add the chicken and toss well until evenly coated in all areas. Transfer chicken to a rack, shaking the chicken well to get rid of any excess coating. Let rest uncovered for one hour. Pour enough oil into a 6-quart Dutch oven to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat oil over medium-high heat until a deep fry thermometer reads 350 degrees Fahrenheit/175 degrees Celsius.

Make the Batter: In a large bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Just before frying, whisk the wet mixture into the dry mixture. The consistency should be relatively thin and runny. Working in two batches, dip each piece of chicken into the batter, letting excess batter drip off. Suspend the chicken in the oil for a couple of seconds for it to set before letting it slip completely into the oil, otherwise the chicken will fall and stick to the bottom of the pot. Fry chicken until golden brown and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes per batch. Transfer to a wire rack to drain as done.

Make the BBQ Sauce: Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until slightly thickened, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve the chicken with the BBQ sauce, pickled radish, and beer.

ALY WALANSKY is a Brooklyn-based travel and food writer. She always appreciates an athletic man rocking his uniform.