Frying Chicken: Do’s and Don’ts
By Jenny Pham
Most people think of the southern states when they think of fried chicken, often associating it with a side of mac and cheese and mashed potatoes but surprisingly enough, fried chicken originated from Scotland. Nevertheless, it eventually made its way to the United States and has developed into different flavors, spices, and forms over time.
From drums, thighs, wings, nuggets, patties, and even “popcorn chicken”, you can dress them up, douse in sauce, or cover them with a simple dry rub. There’s always going to be a debate on what qualities make up the “best fried chicken”, but in reality everybody has their own preferences so there is no right or wrong way to prepare fried chicken. However, there are some practices that should be followed in order for it to be considered fried chicken.
We’re here to take you through the basic “do’s and don’ts” of frying chicken so you can have a presentable meal in celebration of Black History Month.
- Set the chicken out at room temperature before preparing. This might be against any FDA regulations you’ve seen about leaving meat out at room temperature, but allowing your chicken to set at room temperature for 30 minutes won’t hurt you. In fact, this step will allow the chicken to fry more evenly. If you batter the chicken and fry it cold, the contrast of the hot oil and the cold meat will lead to uneven cooking.
- Brine the chicken. Allow the chicken to soak in a bath of brine of your choice so that it could absorb the moisture of the liquid, leading to a juicier and more flavorful chicken.
- Layer on that breading! Some people opt for a low carb option and forgo the breading process, but this essentially acts as a protective layer and locks the moisture inside the meat. Plus, who doesn’t love a good crunch to their fried chicken!
- Season, season, season. Because the meat won’t be seasoned on the inside, if you’re frying up bigger chunks of chicken, you may want to make sure that you’re packing the flavor on the outside so that it balances out the flavorless meat.
- Keep your fried chicken heated! No one likes cold and soggy fried chicken, after you fry the chicken, place it on a baking sheet and keep it in a warm oven (about 250 degrees F) to keep crisp and warm until serving time.
- Waste money on a deep fryer. Seriously, all you need is a cast iron pan that can hold 2-3 inches of oil. This way, you can use the pan for other purposes, not just for frying. Win-win.
- Overlook the oil type. Oil matters as it is an essential ingredient and decides the fate of your chicken’s crispiness. Consider the “smoke point” of the oil when selecting which oil to put into your frying pan. This is the point when oil breaks down and starts smoking, giving off a burnt/bitter taste to your food (no thank you!). Oils with low smoke points could be olive oil or coconut oil. Higher smoke point oils are vegetable or peanut oil so opt for these instead.
- Skip the second breading layer! Breading chicken 101: dip the bare chicken in flour, dip in egg wash or buttermilk, and then dip again in flour to build a sturdy coating before it hits the hot oil!
- Overcrowd the frying pan. If you add too many pieces at a time, the temperature of the oil will drop and you will be left with soggier fried chicken!