Ah've a hankerin' fer sum frah'd chikkin!

Sometime in the not-too-distant future, I think I’d like to fry some chicken. Now, I consider myself a decent cook; but fried chicken isn’t really in my repertoire. It’s different every time I make it, since I haven’t settled on a recipe yet. The last time I made it I did it to use up a couple of boneless thighs that were in the freezer. That doesn’t really count. The last time I fried the typical collection of chicken parts, I did it this way:

I dusted the parts with cornstarch, dipped them in a beaten egg, and dredged them in flour seasoned with salt, pepper, and maybe a couple of other things. I used my cast-iron chicken fryer – basically your standard skillet with slightly deeper sides, and a basting lid. The chicken tasted good, but the coating got a little over-done. There seems to be competing parts of the equation. The oil needs to be hot, or else the coating will absorb it and be too greasy. But the breasts were rather large and needed to be cooked longer, resulting in over-done coating. So realising that ‘proper’ chicken-frying is a contentious issue, I have two questions:

[ul][li]The preparation. I do not like buttermilk, so I don’t have it in the house. I’d rather not buy it just so that I can use a small amount for chicken and then throw the rest away. Aside from that: Season the chicken, or season the coating? I’ve seen shows where people season the chicken parts with salt and pepper, and don’t seem to do anything to the flour. I’ve always seasoned the flour, but not the chicken. Which is better, and what seasonings should be used? (I use salt, pepper, a dash of cayenne, and sometimes other things.) Cornstarch to help the coating stick, or no? Milk in the egg wash, not no? Should it be cornstarch, egg wash, flour, and into the fryer? Or cornstarch, egg wash, flour, egg wash, flour, and into the oil?[/ul][/li][ul][li]Cooking. Legs and wings cook fine. What about the larger pieces, especially the breasts? Ten minutes per side cooks the meat to the bone, but the coating comes out a bit dark. How do I get a golden crust and the meat fully cooked?[/ul][/li]While I’m at it, how do I make chicken gravy? If I roast a chicken, I use the drippings and use my usual (successful) gravy-making technique. Frying chicken gives you lots of nice scrapings, but it just seems a little weird to use cooking oil as gravy fat; so I’ve never tried that.

My actual fry technique leaves something to be desired, so I will only comment on seasoning.

Anything that you want to taste good needs to be seasoned. Salt and pepper the chicken parts in advance (give them a half hour) then season the flour too. You want both the crust and the chicken to have flavor and the seasoning in the crust won’t penetrate to the chicken itself.

You could skip this if you are making a hyper flavorful crust, but I like my chicken to taste like chicken not like fried seasoning, so season everything appropriately and be careful not to over salt. More potent flavors (cayenne etc) should go in the crust if they are being used.

I use buttermilk powder. It’s in the baking aisle, and it works just like powdered milk, only it’s buttermilk. That way I don’t throw out 3/4 of a carton of buttermilk! It’s also really good in my ranch dressing seasoning/mix.

I do know that you’ve simply got to use small chickens for fried chickens. There’s a reason they’re called “Fryers” on the label. 3, 4 pounds tops. Otherwise you have just the problem you found - overdone and underdone at the same time.

Other than that…fried chicken isn’t my specialty. I can do it, but it’s not stellar or foolproof, so I eagerly await further replies.

Buttermilk: first the chicken, then make biscuits to go with the chicken, then have buttermilk pancakes the following morning. All gone!

I’ll look at my copy of Southern Cooking later to see about the chicken.

I hate buttermilk. I LOVE fried chicken that has been marinated in it. I get over the gagging while preparing it (really!) by thinking about how good it will be when done.

KFC used to separate the breast into three pieces: left breast, right breast, and keel and that took care of the size disparity (though they did it more for portion control than cooking control–after a few minutes in the oil-filled pressure cooker, you could eat the bones if you wanted, so undercooking wasn’t ever a problem).

We take the easier way at our house. I cut the breasts in half before coating them, so there are roughly equal sized top and bottom portions of each breast.

Oven Fried Chicken:

1 Chicken, cut up, or use chicken parts
1 Cup Flour
2 Tablespoons seasoned salt (I use Lawrey’s)
1 Tablespoon ground black pepper
2 Teaspoons ground poultry seasoning
1 cube butter or margarine
about 1/2 cup cooking oil
2 good size iron skillets (no substitute)

Cut up chicken if purchased whole. Wash chicken pieces in cold water and dry off with paper towels. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut cube of butter in half and put each in a skillet with some cooking oil. Put skillets in oven to heat them and melt the butter. While skillets are heating, combine flour and seasonings in a 1 gallon zip bag. When butter in skillets has all or mostly melted, remove from oven. Coat chicken pieces thoroughly in seasoned flour, and place skin side down in skillets. Do not crowd much. Reserve seasoned flour to use in gravy. Bake chicken about 30-35 minutes, then turn over and continue to cook 30-40 minutes until chicken is cooked through and browned. Remove from skillets and keep warm. Pour off all but about 1/2 cup of drippings, but make sure you get any browned bits from both skillets. Add some of the seasoned flour until you have a smooth but still liquid roux. Cook roux over medium heat for about a minute, then add about a quart of milk, stirring to combine, and continue to cook until mixture boils. If too thick, add more milk. If too thin, make more roux and add, whisking to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve with chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans cooked with bacon and black pepper.

Okay, directly paraphrased from the book Southern Cooking, which is pretty much a bible of all things Southern (adjust quantities as needed). The fat mixture (combined with the cornstarch) makes for extra-crispy and flavorful chicken. Time consuming, but worth it:

3lb cut up chicken, brined for 8-12 hours
1 quart buttermilk
1 pound lard
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup country ham pieces or a thick slice of same, cut into strips
1 cup flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground pepper

Drain and rinse the brined chicken. Place chicken in a bowl and add the buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 8-12 hours. Drain the chicken and discard the milk.

Put the lard, butter and ham in a large, heavy skillet. Cook over low heat for 30-45 minutes, skimming as needed, util the butter stops throwing off foam and the ham is browned. Remove the ham and save for other uses, or discard. Heat the remaining oil to 335 over med-high.

Blend the flour, cornstarch, salt and pepper with a whisk. Dredge the drained pieces in the flour mix and shake off all excess flour. Slip into the hot fat skin side down without overcrowding. Fry for about 8-10 minutes per side, remove and drain on a wire rack or crumpled paper towels.

Sounds good, but the SO thinks fried chicken is a bit heavy as it is. If I were to use lard, she wouldn’t eat it!

Surprisingly, there is little fat retained. You get the flavor, but nearly all the fat stays in the pan unless you don’t pay attention to the heat level and overcrowd things.

just to put my two cents worth in, we did not go with the heavy batter or the buttermilk/ egg mixture. we had a bag with flour salt and pepper that we dropped the chicken in one by one and shook until coated. The chicken was moist enough so the flour mixture stuck to it but didn’t peel off after it was cooked. You put about 1/4 to 1/2 inch of shortening/oil/ lard/ bacon drippings in the cast iron skillet and heated it until when you threw a little of the flour in it sizzled, you can also check it with a shake of water off your hand, the water should crackle. put in the floured chicken and cook until brown and crispy. Chicken breasts are much bigger these days than when I fried chicken so you might want to cut them in half of even pound them into mediallions so they are cooked all the way through. You can also do chicken strips this way so they are uniform in size. Make sure you have plenty of salt and pepper in the flour. This to me is the absolute best way to have chicken but of course this is how I grew up eating it.

whoever earlier said that very little of the oil goes into the chicken is correct. the coating seals in the juice of the meat and seals out the oil (if it is hot enough)

Now if you want to experince amzing fried chicken go to small town gathering in the South, a funeral gathering, picknic on the grounds, church raising, whatever it is, it will be fantastic.

This is basically how I make my fried chicken, but to ensure thorough doneness, I cover it after browning and cook on medium low for about 20 minutes, then I take the cover off and crisp it back up on high for a few.

I haven’t made fried chicken in ages, but my mom swears by solid fat over (so lard or Crisco) over regular oil. She says the chicken comes out less greasy that way.

Love buttermilk. I follow Cook’s Illustrated recipe. I cut the breasts in half. Brine in a buttermilk solution, coat in flour with a touch of buttermilk to give the coating more texture, fry until golden brown on the exterior, finish in 400 degree oven until internal temperature of pieces is met. I use half Crisco, half canola oil with about 2 tbsp of bacon fat for a little extra flavor.

If you keep the oil down to 335, you likely won’t need the oven. Most people make the mistake of cranking up the heat to 375 or more, which means raw chicken and burned skin.

That might be the best advice so far! (It’s hard to control the temperature on an electric stove, unfortunately.)

Would that work with a shallow fry? I know that using a convection oven helps dry and crisp the coating after a hot fry.

Fried chicken is made in heavy skillet, not a deep fryer (unless you’re going to KFC). Or are you asking something else?

That’s how I fry it (shallow fry), though I have seen deep fry recipes.

My wife and I eat low-carb, and make a low-carb version of fried chicken.

1 bag plain pork rinds (I use the 3.75 oz bag from Aldi)
8 pieces chicken
2 eggs
Spice mixture of:
[ul]
[li]Salt[/li][li]Pepper[/li][li]Garlic powder[/li][li]Paprika[/li][li]Cumin[/li][/ul]

I have the spice mixture in a shaker, since I make it often enough.

Grind the pork rinds in a food processor to crumbs.
Beat two eggs, and use to coat the chicken pieces.
Shake spice mixture to cover chicken.
Toss chicken in pork rind crumbs.
Fry two or three pieces at a time at 320 degrees for 14 minutes.