Pan-seared, breaded chicken gets its enticing aroma, crispy crunch and golden-brown color from a Maillard reaction. Maillard reactions, best accomplished with pan searing, cause the sugars and proteins in food to develop complex aromas and flavors, making it an important part of cooking breaded chicken. But you need high heat for pan searing -- too high to cook a piece of chicken all the way through without burning the outside first -- so that leaves you one option: finishing the chicken in the oven. Baking breaded chicken after pan-searing it gives it the crispness you get with deep frying, but with less oil and cleanup.
Set the oven rack to the center position. Heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and turn on the convection fan if you have one.
Heat about 2 tablespoons of high-smoking-point oil, such as peanut or canola, in a large saute pan or cast-iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat until it shimmers. If you want to pan sear 2 pieces of breaded chicken at once, you need a pan large enough to give each piece at least 2 or 3 inches of space on all sides.
Dust each piece of chicken with flour, dip it in egg wash and coat it in bread crumbs on all sides. Place each piece of breaded chicken on a wire baking rack set on top of a sheet pan.
Grasp the tip of a piece of breaded chicken firmly between your fingers and hold it over the pan. Lay the chicken in the pan slowly, gently and away from you, so oil doesn’t splatter in your direction. Repeat with one more piece of chicken if needed, but don’t pan sear more then two pieces at a time in the same pan.
Pan sear the chicken until it develops a golden-brown crust on one side, about 2 or 3 minutes, and turn it over with tongs. Turn the chicken away from you in the pan. Cook the other side of the chicken until it forms a golden-brown crust.
Turn off the heat and place the pan straight in the oven if using a cast-iron skillet. If using a saute pan, remove the chicken from the pan and place it on the wire rack set on top of the baking pan. Place the baking pan of chicken in the oven.
Cook small pieces of chicken, which usually weight about 4 or 5 ounces, for 5 minutes and turn them over with tongs. Cook large pieces, which usually weight around 8 ounces, for eight minutes and turn them over with tongs. If cooking tenders or sliced chicken, cook each side for two minutes before turning them over.
Cook the chicken another five to eight minutes, depending on their size, and remove one from the oven. Insert a meat thermometer deep in the side of it and check the temperature. Remove the cast-iron skillet or pan from the oven after the chicken reaches 165 degrees F and place it on a cooling pad.
Remove the chicken from the pan or skillet and place it on a plate lined with paper towels to drain.