The Ten Commandments of Fried Chicken
While the world may be on an avocado and sriracha kick, fried chicken is the most universally enjoyed food on Earth. Whether you prefer the juicy thigh, a tasty drum, or the humble wing, it's hard to beat great fried chicken. It's also both really hard to mess up and/or master. Here are the basics.
While America is gaining a more health conscious view on food, boneless fried chicken is for children and childish eaters.
Just like when you make a good stock for soup, bones add a rich flavor to your chicken. Lean breast and tenderloin cuts are the flavorless, plain rice of a dish. Sure, you can probably add enough seasoning to coax an errant 'mmm' out of those you cook for, but chances are they're being nice so you'll pass the salt.
If you look online, you'll find a million different ways to mess up your chicken. The biggest is the misconception that you can pull chicken out of the fridge, dip it in flour/egg/flour and hit the fryer. That is a recipe for disappointment.
Odds are, when you do a quick dip method, that breading ends up on the plate instead of stuck to your chicken. That's because fried chicken starts yesterday.
If you're planning for fried chicken, go ahead and prep the meat. You'll want to lightly toss your chicken in a little corn starch and let it rest in the fridge for a few hours, or better, overnight. Especially if you're craving chicken wings.
If you don't have that much time to prep, at least let your floured chicken sit on the counter for a solid twenty or thirty minutes. That's going to help stick your breading to the chicken and avoid pulling the heat out of your oil later.
Flour, corn starch, spices, eggs, and beer are all acceptable ingredients for your stellar chicken. Corn flakes are not. Stop doing this to the people you cook for.
Growing up, a health conscious mother may have opted for vegetable oil. It'll get the job done, but it also have your guests rating your fried chicken 'M' for meh.
Canola oil is very healthy, but has no taste. Peanut oil is also a choice, but it's expensive and also tasteless. Lard on the other hand adds a complex savory flavor.
Sure, it sounds gross, but you'll stack the flavors deep by cooking one animal in the fats of another.
Professional chefs on TV and YouTube tend to make things, well, complicated. They'll ramble off their signature list of twenty spices that make what they consider perfect chicken. The problem with that is, it drowns out the taste of your chicken.
You've probably had the thought that when you can't identify a flavor, it must taste like chicken, right? Well that's because your taste buds love chicken. It's not spicy or bland, savory or salty, neither firm or soft. Just perfect. Don't go messing up a billion years of perfection on the advice of a chef. They only add ingredients to fill out the menu description and justify the over-charged price.
You'll need salt, pepper, and paprika. Maybe a dash of cayenne if you're awesome, but that's really it. You can add basil or oregano if you want, but why? That's what your dipping sauce is for. Chicken tastes really good, why cover that up? Those "11 Herbs and Spices" is really just good marketing.
Chicken skin isn't the most pleasant thing to touch, but dang it's tasty. Leave it be. When you fry chicken the right way, it's both crispy and chewy - AKA - cornerstones of perfect chicken.
While marinating chicken in buttermilk is a Southern tradition, it's also the wrong way to prep the worlds favorite food. There are a lot of ways to brine and soak chicken. All of which leave your chicken feeling like pork on the palate. Do you want tough chicken? Because that's how you make tough chicken.
While it's handy to have a little fryer kit in the kitchen, there is no absolute way to fry your chicken. Pressure cookers do as fine as a deep fryer. Pan frying on the stove is just as good as a dutch over on the grill.
If you're frying in a pan, it really needs to be quality cast iron. Not that there's anything wrong with that fancy stainless, it just doesn't retain the heat as well. When you drop cold meat into hot oil, the oil will want to cool off. That makes for greasy chicken. Cast iron holds heat really well.
It's a natural instinct to pull oily, greasy foods out of a pan and set them on paper towels. It's an easy way to manage excess oil. It's also why your fried chicken is probably soggy. While it may be out of the frying pan, that chicken is still cooking. Creating steam. Developing crunch. You pop that piece on a paper towel, and it's just gonna goop on you.
Instead, place your chicken on a baking rack in a 250 degree oven. It'll crisp up, and continue to finish as it rests.
Sure, we'd all like to have that glorious 'Grandma' ability to eyeball how done your fried chicken is, but you're not there yet. You need two different thermometers. One for the oil, the other for the meat.
Bring your oil to 350-375 degrees. When you drop in your chicken, that oil is going to immediately cool off. You'll want to hover around that 325-ish area for perfection. Any cooler, you're risking greasy, oily chicken meat... Any hotter, it'll be both burnt and raw at the same time. Cook 6-10 minutes to an internal temp of 165, then let it rest on that baking rack in the 250 degree oven.