Two years ago I embarked on a quest to find the perfect fried chicken. I have this thing where when I decide to make something new my neuroticism makes me research every recipe on Earth and make as many batches as needed until I nail it.
To the dismay of my roommates’ arteries, fried chicken was one of those things. Sorry guys, I love you.
There are SO many ways to make fried chicken. Brined, wet batter, dry floured, pre-seasoned, marinated.. the list goes on and on. After many attempts, I’ve settled on a dry rub version based on BonAppetit.com’s recipe (one of my favorite sources, check out their Twitter and try telling me whoever is writing those food puns isn’t my soulmate).
When you season the night before, you give the salt and spice blend time to penetrate the meat. Think about it, if you season the batter or the flour the seasoning is primarily in the crust. Not bad, but do you really want all your chicken’s flavor to come off with that first bite? I’ll answer this for you. You don’t.
Disclaimer: Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and all its just that if you don’t agree you’re wrong and I hate you. Get off my blog.
Like I said, there are many ways to fry chicken. Here’s mine.
- 1 4-5 lb chicken, cut into 8 pieces (splurge for that antibiotic free chicken. Treat yoself, you probably deserve it and even if you don’t, do you really want to be a part of breeding world-ending superbugs?? I mean really throw in the extra dollar I’m trying to make it into my sixties)
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup milk (yeah, you can use buttermilk but I find that when I do that I end up with half a container of buttermilk in my fridge for the next six months. By the time I remember it or find it buried behind a bag of potatoes it has begun its own colony and declared independence. Regular milk will do the trick and is less likely to secede from your fridge)
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt (YES. KOSHER IS IMPORTANT. We can go into a novel about why this is important to me and the deliciousness of your food, but I digress)
- 2 teaspoons black pepper, plus more to add to the flour mixture- grind it yourself, trust me.
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon cayenne (I like mine with some heat, you can always tone this down or even omit if you’re a huge weenie)
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 24 oz bottle peanut oil
- Add the paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, black pepper, and cayenne to a gallon-sized ZipLoc bag, shake to mix.
- Add the chicken pieces to the bag and turn to coat. Really roll those suckers around until they are evenly red and then push as much air out as you can before sealing the bag. Refrigerate at least four hours, ideally overnight. Patience is a virtue, my friends.
- Whisk the flour, cornstarch, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, and black pepper together in a large bowl. I never measure this part, you really just want to be able to see some flecks of black pepper in there. You’ll know when its enough because your arm will be tired of grinding and you’ll just think “Oh my god, whatever. I’m not grinding any more fucking pepper.”
- Whisk together the eggs and milk until smooth.
- This is where the “wet hand dry hand” thing comes in. Use one hand (your “dry” hand) to remove the chicken from the bag and give it its first coating in flour.
- Take your “wet” hand and dip the chicken in the egg mixture. Go back with the dry hand and toss for a second coating in the flour. Press it in with your hands to make sure each piece is well coated. Repeat with each piece and set them on a baking sheet. Ideally at the end of this process the wet-dry method would leave you with easy-to-clean hands, but somehow, no matter what I do, I always end up with Freddy-Kreuger-esque flour glue-covered hands. I’m not Martha Stewart, y’all.
- Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other deep, straight-sided pot (I used copper) over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 400 °F. I stick a candy thermometer in mine to make it easy to keep the temperature in line. I try to keep it around 325-350 °F while the chicken is frying. Just keep an eye on it and turn the heat up or down as needed. Relax. This is a lot harder to fuck up than you think.
- Picking up each piece with tongs and shaking off excess flour, add chicken pieces to the oil. In order to not overcrowd the pan and to keep the temperature from dropping too fast, you may have to do multiple batches. I usually do the breasts and the wings in one batch, and the thighs and drumsticks in a second.
- DO NOT TOUCH IT FOR AT LEAST FIVE MINUTES. I know its hard. I too have the urge to fuck with it and push it around, but RESIST. You will knock off that beautiful coating and be very, very sad. Leave it alone and let it sit there and think about being delicious.
- After five minutes, you may gently turn and move the pieces around so that they cook evenly. Remove and transfer to a wire rack or, if you’re a real southern OG, a pile of paper bags, when the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 F. Make sure you take your measurement from the thickest part of the meat, not touching the bone. I usually go for about 10-12 minutes on breasts, 12-14 on thighs and legs, and 8-10 for the wings.
Wait a few minutes, because that shit will be hot as Hades. Fried chicken is all about the patience. Thats why it’s always old grandmas that make it best. They’re naturally slow. Maybe yours isn’t but mine drives 50 on the interstate and I go with what I know.
I’m just as big a fan of taking a huge bite and dragon-breathing while flapping your hands like a baby bird as tears of regret stream down your face as the next gal, but I highly recommend waiting so you can maintain the use of your taste buds. It’s so worth it for this chicken, trust me. Save that for pizza rolls. I will ALWAYS burn the shit out of myself instead of maintaining self control. I never learn. I think we’re all just striving to move away from being impulsive, pizza roll people towards being patient, fried chicken people.
I find it’s best to spend this time singing to your chicken to the tune of the Nationwide commercial. “Hooooly shit chicken you smell so gooooooood.” The rule in my house has always been if you cook, the recipients clean but usually fried chicken gets me in such a good mood that I clean what I can while the chicken rests. Ten minutes is the longest I’ve been able to make it before digging in.
Fried chicken is best on a Saturday or Sunday night, gathered around a table with friends and family. Drink beer, bond over crispy goodness, try to stop chewing long enough to get a word or two out. No rush, no fuss. I usually end up sitting down at the table without removing my apron or the flour that inexplicably ended up on my face. That’s okay. It’s the casual kind of meal that brings people together. It will make you feel all warm and fuzzy and shit. When have you ever met someone that didn’t like fried chicken?
Disclaimer: If you have ever met someone that does not like fried chicken, listen to their cry for help and mail them to me. They need help and guidance. There is hope.