Sunday, November 11, 2012

Easy Fried Chicken

Don't you just want to crunch right into this?!
By Madeleine Dee

Fried chicken... Just those two words remind you of home, don't they? Or of picnics on long Summer days with an ice cold glass of sweet tea?

Well, if they only remind you of a fast food bucket, I'm here to show you that crunchy and flavorful fried chicken is easy, fun, and totally manageable at home.

Here's what you'll need:

1. A small countertop deep fryer - Mine is a Presto Fry Daddy. Cheesy name, but it was inexpensive and it has been going strong with no signs of stopping for nearly 4 years. (You could also use a large, sturdy pot on the stovetop and a candy thermometer.)

2. Vegetable oil - A new, unused bottle, and enough to fill your fryer to capacity.

3. Chicken parts - I use SMALL boneless chicken breasts in an attempt at more healthy fried chicken (*rolls eyes*), but you can certainly use thighs. Be sure to get breasts that are evenly-sized, and try to avoid big ones because they will still have pink centers when your breading is finished. No one likes burnt breading, no one likes raw chicken.

4. Low Fat Buttermilk - I use 2 cups per 4-5 chicken breasts, so buy more if you have more chicken. :)

5. All-Purpose Flour - This is as needed, so make sure you have several cups to spare. 

6. Salt and Pepper - You'll need 1 tsp. of salt per two cups of buttermilk and a couple pinches of cracked black pepper.

7. Paper towels - Fold into a thick layer of neat squares on a large plate and place the just-fried chicken on top to absorb excess oil.

8. People to feed - I can't help you there. Unless you want to give ME some chicken.

Set your fryer to 350*F and make sure it's good and hot before you fry. (To test the heat, drop in a pinch of flour. If it starts to bubble and fry, you're good. If not, wait a while longer.)

Ok, all set? Good - I'm hungry!

1. Pour the buttermilk into a large bowl and whisk in 1-2 tsp. of salt (1 per 2 cups of buttermilk) and a couple pinches of black pepper. Coat your raw chicken lightly but completely in flour, shake off the excess, and soak your chicken in the buttermilk for at least an hour to tenderize and add flavor. (You can certainly soak the chicken for longer than an hour!)

2. Coat your buttermilk-y chicken in flour. Be messy and unceremonious - the more clumps, the better. Then repeat! Dip the chicken BACK into the buttermilk to coat completely, then dredge it right through the flour again.

3. When coated completely, gently lift the chicken and shake off any loose flour, then drop it gently into your fryer. (350*F is a great temperature because it allows the breading to fry slowly and evenly for maximum crispiness while ensuring completely cooked and moist chicken inside.) You will likely need to flip the chicken onto its other side once or twice for even frying.

4. Fry until golden and crispy, then drain off excess oil on paper towels. Enjoy as soon as possible without burning yourself! :)

If you'd like to fry smaller pieces at a higher temperature, you can slice breasts into long portions or use tenderloins. 

You could also raise the fryer temp to 400*F, evenly cube the breasts, and make fantastic popcorn chicken!

Feel free to experiment with seasonings. I've added a little dry Ranch seasoning to the buttermilk, a teaspoon of garlic powder, a couple pinches of cayenne pepper, etc. This is just a basic recipe to show you how easy fried chicken can be!

Be creative. :)

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Executive Chef and Owner of No Place Like Home in Louisville, KY. Writer, actress, chef, professional cook and professional eater.