Fried Chicken 101

Mother taught me how to make fried chicken. It’s actually very easy to do; it just takes a little planning and patience. Of course, she never measured anything, and neither do I for this recipe, but it’s super easy to make it up.

First, buy a cut-up chicken – also called a “fryer” in the grocery store. It consists of two wings, two legs, two thighs, and two breasts. Alternatively, it’s cheaper to purchase a whole chicken and cut the chicken yourself, and you can save the bones to make chicken stock. Here a how-to video:

Wash your chicken to rinse off any extra salt used to preserve the chicken until the sell-by date. This next step requires planning because you are going to soak your chicken in buttermilk overnight, which helps to make the chicken tender and moist when it’s ready to eat. This process is very similar to brining a turkey. Pour a pint of buttermilk into a large mixing bowl, and add in about 2 TBL of dill pickle juice. The pickle juice adds in the salt and pulls the moisture into the chicken.  Stir the mixture, then place your chicken parts into the bowl. Turn over the chicken until it’s completely covered and submerged in buttermilk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it inside the refrigerator until the next day.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper. The cookie sheet will be where you will place your dredged chicken pieces.

After you have brined your chicken overnight, you will now prepare your dredging station.  To make sure you have an extra crispy coating – because that’s why we all love fried chicken – we are going to double dredge each piece.  In a pie plate or shallow dish, pour in 2 cups of flour, 2 tsp of garlic powder, and 2 tsp of ground pepper. Stir until mixed.

Take the chicken pieces out of the buttermilk and lay them on a separate sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the counter (not on the cookie sheet). Do not rinse the parts. Reserve the buttermilk, do not throw it away.

Take a piece of the chicken from the waxed paper, dip in the flour, and with your fingers turn the chicken piece over and coat it’s evenly with flour. Then dip the chicken piece in the buttermilk, coating it lightly with milk (be gentle because you don’t want to remove all the flour from the first dip), then dip the chicken piece back into the flour mixture, coating it a second time. Place the double-coated piece of chicken onto the waxed-paper lined cookie sheet. Repeat this step until all the parts have been double-coated.  You may need to add more flour, garlic powder, and pepper to the dish if you run out during this process.

Discard the buttermilk and flour mixture once you are finished. Let the chicken sit on the counter for 30 minutes so the coating can set and come to room temp, so you aren’t putting cold chicken into hot grease.

While you are waiting for the chicken to rest, prepare your frying pan. I like to use my Grandmother’s cast-iron skillet because it retains heat, but if you don’t have one, a large skillet with high sides works fine. Place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan, without letting the tip touch the bottom of the pan.

Pour in about 2-inches of canola oil and heat the oil on medium-high until it reaches about 350 degrees. Regulating the temperature is where patience comes in. You have to oversee the oil to regulate the temperature, adjusting the heat as needed. Don’t watch a movie or text friends. Always attend to a skillet of hot oil – you hear me!

Once the oil has reached 350 degrees, very carefully start with the legs and wings, adding them in one at a time to the skillet. Cover the skillet with a grease guard like this . It protects you from popping grease and mess on the backsplash. Set the timer for 10 minutes. Don’t touch or mess with the chicken. After 10 minutes, turn the chicken over. While you are cooking your first batch of chicken, put another cookie sheet lined with foil and topped with a cooling rack (like ones you use for cookies) and place in a warm oven.  Do not put cooked chicken on a paper towel – it will make it soggy and defeat the whole reason we are doing this! The excess grease will drip off the chicken onto the cookie sheet.

Check your temperature, which likely dropped when you put your first batch of chicken in the grease. That’s okay, just slightly raise the heat. If the heat doesn’t go all the way back up to 350 degrees that okay, the grease and pan are still hot. Just work with adjusting the temperature a little at a time, but don’t fret if it doesn’t go up to 350 on the next batch.

After the first four pieces are finished cooking, place on the cooling rack in the oven, and move to wings and breasts. The breasts will need to cook 12 minutes on each side because they are thicker. So start with 10 minutes on the wings, turning them over, giving the breasts two more minutes to cook. Wings 10 minutes on side two, twelve minutes for the breasts on side two.  Remove from oil and put it into the warm oven. Let the last four pieces of chicken rest in the oven for about 10 minutes; then you will be ready to serve all your yummy fried chicken!

Since it does require some time and patience, fried chicken won’t be an everyday kind of meal, but when you do make it, your family will be in for a real treat! And, leftover fried chicken is perfect chopped up for a cobb salad the next day.

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