Calling All Cooks II - Fear of Frying

OK, I’ve successfully made caramel, one of the two cooking areas that’ve intimidated me, so it’s now time to try to learn how to do the remaining one.

Frying. Deep Frying.

As an aside: Please don’t suggest a Fry-Daddy type machine. I want to learn to do it the “hard” way first. (Like forcing a kid to learn the multiplication tables before letting him use a calculator).

That said, I want to make Fried Chicken.

Question #1 -
What do you do with the oil afterwards? I’ve read that it can be saved and reused, but…yecch. Besides, I doubt that I’m going to be frying very often, I don’t want to keep a tub of used oil around for weeks or months. Do I?

Question #2 -
Lid or no-lid? Per my reading, Lid=Limited splatters, steams the chicken, cooking the insides better, but the crust is soggier. No Lid=Crispy coating, but splatters everywhere and possibly undercooked interior.

Question #3 -
Thermometer: “Real Men Use Tools” or “Thermometers Are For Wimps”?

Question #4 -
Any special techniques that I should know? Tips and tricks?

Question #5 -
How much oil should I use (enough to completly cover the chicken pieces? Enough to cover the chicken half-way?) Any particular kind of oil? And what about the people who suggest using melted shortening? What’s up with them? :wink:

Question #5 -
How do I know iwhen it’s done? Do the “Poke it with a fork, and see if the juices run clear” thing?

Question #6 -
Anyone have a particularly good recipe for Fried Chicken?



  1. You can reuse it, but I dump it. Old oil doesn’t heat
    up to the same temp as new oil

2)I never use a lid. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, but I generally don’t have any problems without a lid.

  1. Thermometers are fine. Use them until you can reasonably
    guess the oil temp. Some people suggest tearing off a piece of bread and dropping it in the oil for 60 secs. If it comes out crispy, neither soggy nor burnt, the oil is fine.
    But do cook at the right temp! (375-400 IIRC)

  2. Naw, just cook at the right temp, have your chicken at room temperature, and don’t cook too many things at once – this drops the temp of the oil and you’ll get soggy chicken.

  3. When I deep fry chicken wings, I use a bottle and a half of oil. When I do chicken, I don’t deep fry the proper way. I only use enough oil to cover half the chicken and flip the chicken here and there. The thing is, when I do this, I don’t totally do 100% pure deep frying…I’ll lower the temperature at some point to keep the damn crust from turning black. Normal sunflower oil or canola oil or vegetable oil is fine. Some people swear by peanut oil (gives you a crispier result.) Don’t use olive oil – it has a lower smoking point (not that you would waste your money to do that, anyway.)

6)Basic fried chicken –

One bowl flour
One bowl w/ 3 or so beaten eggs
One bowl w/ breadcrumbs and whatever spices your heart desires (Cajun seasoning, for instance)

Coat chicken in flour, dip in beaten eggs, dip in breadcrumb-spice coating, and deep-fry. That’s as simple as you can get.

If you do save the oil, I recommend straining it through a coffee filter into a jar or jug (glass, not plastic) and putting it in the fridge. It may get cloudy, but that’s okay - when you warm it up it will get clear again.

I wouldn’t use a lid, especially if you’re pan-frying (see below). If you’re concerned about spattering, you can buy a spatter-guard; it looks like a piece of window screen in a round frame with a handle. They let the steam out but stop the spatters. (of course, it’s one more thing to clean, but you’d have that with a lid, too.)

The only tip I can think of is to make sure your pan is deep enough that oil doesn’t come too close to the lip of the pan. It will bubble up when you put the chicken in.

Keeping your oil at a good temperature is important, and that’s easier to do with a thermometer, at least at first. You’ll develop a feel for it eventually. NOTE: the temperature mentioned above in pulykamell is too high - you want to keep it at or a bit above 325 degrees. Too low, and your breading will soak up too much oil and be greasy; too high, and the outside will brown before the chicken is done. Related note: don’t crowd too much food in the fryer at once, or it will lower the temp of the oil too much.

As for how much oil to use, for deep-fried chicken you want to be able to completely submerge the chicken pieces. This ensures a nice even coating. You can also do pan-fried (aka southern-fried) chicken by putting enough oil to come about halfway up the food in a cast-iron skillet and frying that way, turning the chicken occasionally. It’s a very different item from deep-fried chicken, but both are delicious. I recommend either peanut oil or melted shortening…both stand up to heat well and will not impose their own flavor on the food.

The above recipe sounds like a good basic starting point. If you want to elevate your chicken to another plane, however, try this (you’ll need to start the day before).

1 chicken, cut up into frying parts (or use a package of the parts of your choice)
1 quart buttermilk
1 cup flour
3-4 eggs, beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 cup uncooked cream of wheat
Oil for frying

Rinse chicken, pat dry and put in a bowl with a cover or a large ziploc bag. Pour buttermilk over chicken and make sure it’s completely coated; place in the refrigerator and marinate overnight.

When ready to cook chicken, heat oil or shortening in pan to 325 degrees. Remove chicken from buttermilk and wipe clean with paper towels. Discard buttermilk. Arrange three bowls in a row leading to your fryer; in the first put the flour, in the second the beaten eggs, and in the third, combine the bread crumbs and uncooked cream of wheat. Take each chicken piece and dredge it in flour, then dip it in the egg and finally into the crumb mixture (for extra crunchy coating, take the chicken on a second trip through this process). Place in hot oil, letting the chicken flop away from you to keep from being splashed, and fry until the coating is a deep golden brown, turning occasionally. Do not crowd pan. Drain cooked chicken on a rack or on paper towels.

D’oh! I see I left out the seasonings in the above recipe. You’ll want to add salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic powder and/or onion powder to the breadcrumb mixture.

What is the world coming to when a man can grow up without ever having been taught to make fried chicken? Help is here. The only chicken I know that is deep fried is from KFC (Kentucky Fried Creature-that-tastes-like-chicken-bioenginered-organism) but they use a pressure deep fryer.

I use 1/4" of canola oil or butter crisco in the bottom of a Lodge deep cast iron skillet. They make some pans specifically for chicken frying but I use the combo cooker because the lid is also a griddle, great for camping. Heat the oil enough to bubble when you put thye chicken in but not smoke. Heed the advice to avoid olive oil in high temp cooking like this or stir fry.

I just put some flour and black or lemon pepper in a paper bag and shake up thighs or leg quarters but I’m going to try some of the other recepies suggested here. Fry until not pink in the middle anymore while not burning the skin. You’ll get a feel for it. If you have to use a thermometer you’re trying too hard. Just let the force be with you and you’ll soon have everyone raving about your chicken.

May I reccommend 1/4" of olive oil?
After the chicken is done, brown flour a tablespoon at a time in the used oil. When it is thick, add chicken broth a bit at a time. You will have a very nice gravy.

Standard vegetable oil, such as Wesson, about 1 1/2" deep.

Heat - medium high

Before starting, sprinkle chicken Tony Chachere’s (pronounced Sa-sher-ay) Creole seasoning and let sit in the fridge for about an hour. Mix about 1 egg to 1 cup milk. Dip the chicken in egg/milk and then roll in flour which has generously seasoned with the aforementioned Tony’s Seasoning. Fry until golden brown.

Sorry I can really provide exact measurements, I learned most of my cooking watching my family, and they rarely used them.

By the by, if you want to know more about Tony’s visit

… and no, I don’t work for them, it’s just good stuff.

One other thing, speaking of saving oil, my Dad’s family used to slaughter a pig once a year, so for quite a while afterward we would have things fried with real hog lard, which they saved for use over and over again. It had a great taste, but what a cardiovascular knightmare!

An easy way to tell when the oil is at the right temperature is to take a clean, dry, bamboo chopstick (you do have bunch of them lying around, don’t you?), and hold it in the oil. If small stream of bubbles forms and they rise lazily to the surface, this is precisely 325 degrees. If a mad torrent of bubbles roils off the chopstick, take the pan off the heat and add some more oil double quick or else you’ll ruin the oil. And if no bubbles form, you got some more heatin’ to do. But make sure you clean and dry the chopstick before the next test, or you won’t get a good reading.

And here with the cheating, college-student, dorm-cooking cheapo-ways of getting crispy fried chicken is me! There are several things you can add to the flour/spice mixture to give a crispy coating to your chicken: crushed corn flakes, crushed rice crispies, crushed crackers, Kraft powdered Parmesan cheese (can burn–watch carefully) and crushed seasoned croutons. (Only add one of the above!)

So far as seasonings for the flour mixture, if you are looking for a really flavorful meal, you can add one (or more) of these things to the flour mixture:

ranch dressing powder
mustard powder
cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes
dill weed
chicken bouillon (For me, OXO Chicken flavor works best)

Ok, now I know that some of you think this stuff sounds nasty and weird but I assure you, my husband loves my fried chicken (better than his mother’s!) and has even said that if we were to ever get divorced, he would ask for my fried chicken recipe over cars or houses!


I’ve always heard 375 F (190 C) as being the proper temperature (at least for canola oil). In fact, has a guide to deep-frying which maintains this. Plus, it advises to preheat the oil to 7-8C (15 F) higher than the frying temperature, or close to the 400 F I suggested.

I use a thermometer and my thermometer also suggests 375 for poultry, and IIRC, Joy of Cooking is where I first learned this guideline.

That being said, I find that deep-frying chicken at this temperature is occasionally too high. The crust tends to burn on me before the insides are well-cooked. HOWEVER, when I do chicken wings, nothing below 375 will do. They will not be light and crispy. They will be soggy. In my experience, at least, if I dump too many wings in the oil, and the temp dips to just 315, I get semi-soggy wings (they’re still more crispy then soggy, but you can tell something isn’t right.)

This is just my experience.

stupid software geek who can barely handle the microwave checking in:

I want to try this, but you all mention a thermometer… would this be the same oven thermometer i stick in a roast, or is there a special deep-frying thermometer?

I was planning to use a candy thermometer. The roast kind of thermometer a)may not go up high enough (most roasts are badly overcooked by about 200f) and b)if it’s the kind I have (the thermometer is a disk and the probe is a prong underneath) it’d be hard, and dangerous to put it in the oil.


John Egerton’s landmark work Southern Food: at Home, On the Road, in History states that true home-made southern fried chicken is PAN-FRIED, not deep-fried. Follow the above recommendations using 1/4 inch of fat, tops. It’s nice to use a little bacon grease, for flavor, before topping off with a neutral fat.

I personally never dip the chicken in buttermilk or breadcrumbs or any other medium that will become, to use the professional culinary term, yucky. I just salt and pepper, onion- and garlic-powder the bird and dredge it in salt/pepper/paprika seasoned flour before it hits the pan.