Let's put the debates to rest.
Perfect fried chicken--golden brown, with a flaky-crisp
crust and juicy meat--is easily accomplished at home.
Here's how to achieve irresistible goodness every time,
from the ultimate spice rub to a delicate dredge. (And
yes, the pan you use matters, too.)
could go on for days singing chicken-fried hallelujahs
to comfort food's holy grail, but sentimentality won't
get you a crunchy, superbly seasoned bird. Our guide to
the right ingredients, technique, and tools will. So put
on your apron, grab a cast-iron skillet and a cold one
(lemonade, sweet tea, beer-your call), and let's start
1. The Bird: Think Smaller
chicken was traditionally a spring dish in the
South, and the young chickens used were dainty compared
with today's hefty birds. To approximate those
pared-down poultry, cut a three- to four-pounder into
ten pieces, or use the equivalent weight in thighs,
drumsticks, and breasts. (If you fry anything larger
than four pounds, the crust will burn before the meat
has cooked through.) Promote even cooking by halving the
breasts, then cutting them crosswise. Antibiotic- and
hormone-free or organic chickens are worth the expense.
It's not like frying is an everyday affair, so start
with a good bird.
2. The Rub: Keep It Kosher
When it comes to seasoning your bird, Linton Hopkins,
chef at Atlanta's Restaurant Eugene, says to break with
tradition and forget about the buttermilk brine: "The
danger of brining in buttermilk is that you never get
the skin crisp enough." Embrace the overnight dry rub
Kosher salt is the key: It keeps the meat juicy
and carries the flavors of the spices to the bone. Use a
rub of onion powder, garlic powder, chicken seasoning
and a pinch of paprika to give the chicken an almost bacony
3. The Dredge: Do Not Double Dip!
Now that the interior of your bird is seasoned, it's
time to address the surface. A good wash and
dredge--that marriage of wet and dry ingredients--should
complement, not bury, the skin. The loose buttermilk-egg
wash imparts rich color and encourages the flour mixture
to cling. A single dip accentuates the skin's texture as
the fat renders and the skin becomes crackling. This
thin shell will fry up as a delicate layer: No fried
chicken should suffer the indignity of a bulky overcoat
with padded shoulders.
1) Let the seasoned chicken come to room temperature. It
won't cool the oil as much when it hits the skillet, and
it will cook more evenly. Meanwhile, set up your
dredging station from left to right.
2) A quick dip into buttermilk and egg sets up the
chicken for a golden, craggy crust. Designate one hand
as your wet-dip hand so you don't turn yourself into a
3) Using your dry hand, roll the chicken pieces in a
blend of flour and cornstarch (the latter helps the
flour adhere and promotes a good crust), then knock off
any excess by tapping the chicken against the edge of
the dish. "You want a rumor of flour," says
Peacock, former chef of Decatur, Georgia's
Watershed restaurant and co-author with the late Edna
Lewis of The Gift of Southern Cooking.
4) Gently lower the pieces into 350° oil.
4. The Fat: Solve the Peanut Riddle
Vegetable oil and shortening work just fine, but peanut
oil is a far healthier and tastier choice. Dense, with a
slightly earthy flavor and a high smoke point, peanut
oil is "the lard of oils," says Scott Peacock. Frying in
peanut oil produces a lovely, mahogany-brown crust.
Careful frying in shallow oil will render the fat from
the skin, resulting in a coveted crust. But an excess of
oil that remains while the chicken cools can translate
to a greasy finish. The solution? Use tongs to lift each
piece out of the oil and hold it at an angle for a good
three seconds while the fat drips back into the pan.
Transfer it to a rack set inside a rimmed baking sheet
so air can circulate and keep it from getting soggy. Let
cool for at least 10 minutes before digging in. Finally,
if you don't have a deep-fry thermometer, don't worry.
The oil will shimmer slightly when it's hot enough, and
a piece of bread should bubble on contact and brown
5. The Skillet: Cast a Little Black Magic
A cast-iron skillet--inexpensive and basically
indestructible--is the prized frying vessel for a
reason. It retains heat better than most pans, which
helps regulate the oil temperature and ensures even
frying. If you don't own one already, this recipe should
provide ample motivation.
6. The Finish: Give 'Em More to Love
This chicken doesn't need any embellishments, but these
sure won't hurt.
Tie 3 rosemary sprigs together with kitchen twine and
use as a brush to slather this fragrant honey over
everything from biscuits to chicken.
Bring 1/2 cup honey, 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, 1 rosemary
sprig, and a pinch each of salt and pepper to a simmer
in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from
heat and let steep for 30 minutes before serving. Dip
the rosemary brush into the honey and use to drizzle
over the chicken.
Sichuan-Spiced Dipping Salt
A little of this Chinese-style spiced salt goes a long
way. Serve it in small bowls for dipping, or sprinkle it
over fried chicken.
Combine 2 Tbsp. each of Sichuan peppercorns, cumin
seeds, and kosher salt in a small skillet over medium
heat. Heat, stirring often, until spices are toasted and
very fragrant, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; let
cool. Finely grind mixture in a spice mill or in a
mortar with a pestle.
Southern cooks use their chile-infused vinegar to add a
tart, floral kick to dishes like chicken or greens. You
can also use it to wake up salad dressings. Customize it
by adding bourbon or fruit liqueur and using your
Combine 2 cups distilled white vinegar, 2 dried chiles
de árbol, and 2 Scotch bonnet chiles (or any of your
favorite dried or fresh chiles), quartered lengthwise,
in a 1-pint jar. Seal and shake. Let sit at room
temperature for 1 week before using.
A Couple Extras:
Your No-Fuss Fried Chicken Toolbox
Bowl: Choose one large enough to hold all the chicken
pieces and that has room for tossing with the spice rub.
An airtight container works, too.
Tongs: Long-handled tongs give you the reach you need to
turn the chicken pieces as they cook. Frequent flipping
encourages even browning.
Skillet: A 10"-12" cast-iron pan is just right for this
recipe. If cooking more than one bird, use the same pan
and work in several batches.
Thermometer: Take the guesswork out of frying with a
deep-fry thermometer. The chicken will cool the oil;
adjust the flame as needed.
Rack & Pan: Wire cooling racks aren't just for cookies.
The rack allows air to move around the pieces as they
cool. The sheet pan catches any drips.
Leftover Chicken? It May Be Even Better Than the
chicken is more than a slice of pizza you found
in the fridge: It's a dish unto itself. Growing up, all
of the chicken I ate at Southern picnics, tailgates, and
church potlucks taught me how to read a drumstick.
I learned that a recipe's merit shouldn't be judged by
how the chicken is right out of the skillet but by how
it tastes the next day, after time spent cooling. Is the
meat still juicy and flavorful? Is the crust fused to
the skin, yielding the slightest crunch and toothsome
tug? Was the grease drained properly? Answer yes to all,
and you've done good.
Note: As always, for the
healthiest recipe version choose organic content as much
Original recipe from Bon
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