Nothing’s as irresistible as a freshly prepared plate of piping-hot fried chicken. Imagine savoring its hot, crunchy, and shatteringly crisp crust that’s fried to golden perfection. Or think of sinking your teeth down on the tender, super moist and flavorful meat inside. Isn’t this enough to make your mouth water?
Too bad when we prepare fried chicken at home we’re often left with a foul—that is, a plate of greasy, soggy fowl. So what does it take to have a plate of great tasting fried chicken each time? Master these 7 rules and you’ll never go wrong.
Rule #1: Cut the chicken into similar-sized pieces.
Cutting the chicken into similar-sized pieces ensures that all the pieces will cook at the same rate. Cut the breasts in half crosswise and separate leg quarters into drumsticks and thighs.
Rule #2: Use a buttermilk soak.
Just as buttermilk helps make pancakes to melt in your mouth, buttermilk can also help make fried chicken extra moist and flavorful. To make the buttermilk soak, combine the following in a bowl:
- dried tarragon, onion powder and sweet paprika – 1 tablespoon each;
- salt and garlic powder – 2 teaspoons each;
- cayenne pepper, black pepper, oregano and thyme – 1 teaspoon each.
Add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Pour in a cup of buttermilk, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Rule #3: Dredge and rest.
DO NOT skip the breading. This is what makes each bite crisp and crunchy and keeps the meat juicy and moist. The proper sequence for a successful breading are: buttermilk soak, flour, beaten egg and/or buttermilk, and flour. Dipping the Dredging the chicken in flour gives the egg and/or buttermilk something to cling to, while dipping them in egg and/or buttermilk helps to give an even coating that cooks well. You can add a little cornmeal with the second application of flour to give it a little more crunch.
It helps to season the flour to ensure that the meat is seasoned every step of the way. To do this, add 1 tablespoon salt and 1 tablespoon black pepper to 2 cups all-purpose flour (for every 4 pounds chicken pieces). Dredge the chicken pieces one at a time in the flour mixture, dip it in the egg-buttermilk mixture and dredge again with flour.
When you make it to the last step don’t shake off the excess flour. Pack it on instead and let it rest on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.
Rule #4: Keep oil at the proper temperature.
Fill a large cast iron frying pan with about ¾ inch of oil. Don’t try using extra virgin olive oil. Olive oil may taste great, but it’ll most likely result in a bitter tasting fowl because of its low smoke point. Use oils that have a high smoke point instead like vegetable, canola or peanut oil.
Heat the oil to 350°F over medium heat. The oil should be hot but not smoking. Expect the temperature to drop when you add the chicken. Keep the temperature at 350° as the chicken fries.
Rule #5: Fry in batches.
Don’t crowd the pan as this will lower the oil’s temperature and up the cooking the time, resulting in a greasy crust. Fry the chicken pieces in batches instead.
Rule #6: Finish it off in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with paper towels. Set a wire rack on top of the baking sheet with paper towels.
Cook the chicken just until crisp in the frying pan and then transfer it to the preheated oven to finish cooking. Cook until the meat registers an internal temperature of 160°F or about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Do the same for other batches.
Finishing it in the oven keeps the skin crisp and ensures that the meat is cooked all the way through the bone.