They make it look so easy. Grandmothers, I mean. They just whip out the chicken and the cast-iron skillet and fry up a batch while they’re listening to “Divorce Court,” like it ain’t no thing. You ask them how they do it, and they act like it’s just country cooking. Natural. Effortless.
OK, they don’t lie, but there’s nothing simple about frying chicken, especially for beginners. So many decisions. Fryer versus pieces. Oil versus shortening. Cast-iron skillet vs. large pot. Southern-style versus spicy versus extra-crispy. Paper towels versus wire racks. And then there’s the whole overnight soaking thing. So, it helps to have a dependable starter recipe, like this No-Fail Fried Chicken, and some pointers.
Here are a few tips for No-Fail Fried Chicken:
1. Size matters. When it comes to buying a fryer, smaller is better for quick, even cooking. Don’t go for the Whole Foods 4-pound miniature turkey. Drive to the cheapest grocery you can find, and pick up a wee fryer, ideally around 2 1/2 pounds.
2. Cut the recipe’s flour in half. If the recipe calls for dredging your chicken in 2 cups of flour, measure only 1 cup into your dish, and add the rest as needed. That way, you use what you need without contaminating the rest.
3. Separate white and dark meat. White meat cooks faster, so if you’re not used to cooking white and dark pieces together, you can wind up with dry breasts, and NO ONE wants a dry breast. Instead, fry a batch of dark meat (drumsticks and thighs) and a batch of white meat (breasts and wings).
4. Skip the skillet. For now. While you’re figuring out how much oil to use and getting the feel for turning the chicken, it’s much safer to use a large, heavy pot for frying. Since the pot will keep the oil contained, you won’t have to worry about popping and splattering.
5. Use an instant-read thermometer. Your oil needs to be around 325 degrees F. Too high, and the chicken will burn. Too low, and it will be greasy. Since the temperature will dip dramatically every time you add chicken to the pot, you’ll want to adjust the heat to stay within 10 degrees of 325.
6. Use tongs. I know, all the cool kids use a fork to turn their chicken, but a fork is a bad idea, because a.) it brings your hand that much closer to hot oil, and b.) it forces you to stab into the meat and lose some of its juices. (See also dry breasts)
7. Drain your chicken on a rack, not a plate lined with paper towels. Paper towels can only absorb so much grease. If you want your chicken to stay crispy, place the pieces on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels.
Once you’ve mastered these tips, your frying technique will be unstoppable, and you’ll be ready to move on to the cast-iron skillet and experiment with other fried chicken recipes. Then you can write up some tips and send them to me.
No-Fail Fried Chicken
From Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)
- 1 fryer chicken (2 1/2-3 pounds), cut into pieces
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup Frank’s® Hot Sauce
- 2 cups self-rising flour, for dredging
- 1 teaspoon each salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne
- Oil, for frying (preferably peanut oil or shortening)
- Heat the oil to 325 degrees F in a deep pot. (Start with about 1/2 inch. Add more as needed.)
- In an aluminum pie pan or medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add hot sauce.
- Measure 1 cup of the flour into a separate shallow dish. Add the remainder as needed.
- Combine salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder and cayenne, and use them to season the chicken.
- Dip chicken in egg mixture; dredge in the flour.
- Place the chicken in the preheated oil, skin-side down, and cover partially with a lid to maintain temperature and control splatter. Fry chicken for 6 minutes on one side, then 6 on the other. Then turn it, and fry 3 minutes on each side, for a total of about 18 minutes. (Chicken should have an internal temperature of about 170 degrees F for the white meat and 180 degrees F for the dark meat.)
- Remove chicken from the pot, and drain on a rack over a sheet pan lined with paper towels to keep it crispy.
52 thoughts on “Fried Chicken”
Thanks for the great tips! Your chicken looks great! And those biscuits are perfect, too!
Thanks! The biscuits are Scott Peacock's Hot Crusty, Buttermilk Biscuits, which I posted here: http://ezrapoundcake.com/archives/2038. They are SO GOOD! The biscuits look different in this post, because I made them with shortening instead of butter.
I totally second the last tip! I used something like this to dry the things I fry. It is usually semi-circle and comes in different sizes. Buy one that filts your pan/pot and the excess grease drips back to the pan/pot. Brilliant!
That is genius! Thanks for sending the link.
I know what you mean. I have tried frying chicken before and had a very hard time. And I never cook it the correct way and it's always underdone. I will have to use your advice next time I try. Thanks!
The first time we tried frying chicken, we bought a gigantic 4 pound fryer at Whole Foods and wound up with almost-burned skin and undercooked chicken. But the second time, we used this recipe, and it worked like a dream. Good luck!
The chicken looks great ! And I agree those biscuits do too !
Thanks! I posted the biscuits before, but this time I made them with shortening instead of butter. Always experimenting. ;) http://ezrapoundcake.com/archives/2038
A couple of things extra that I do are
1. season the meat early in the day, and let it rest in the fridge
2. Let the meat rest at least 15 minutes after you dredge/flour it, that way when you fry it, the lovely flour/egg mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan
I season the meat, too, instead of putting the seasonings in the flour, but I've never done it ahead of time. Will have to try that.
Oh, letting the dredged chicken set for a while makes so much sense. Cool!
Okay, I am making this. I am a terrible chicken fryer, just terrible. You are right about those grandma's, both of mine had different techniques, but produced some of the most delectable bird around. I am intrigued by your use of hot sauce, too. Guess what I am buying at the store today? I will keep you posted.
Great tips, and I also agree with TnTrash and Chocolatechic's posts. Good fried chicken can be surprisingly challenging to make.
Thanks! I hope this post helps some people who are just learning how to do it, like me. Maybe I can do a follow-up with all the great advice coming up in the comments. Hallelujah.
An electric skillet is a good thing for fried chicken. Can get and sustain the right oil temperature and has a nice tight lid. We brown on both sides and then put the lid on it for ten minutes or so. Then take lid off and flip those pieces to get crispy. YOUR grandmother killed them with one hand and cooked with the other. We come from hearty stock!
Wow, that makes perfect sense. We've got one lying around here somewhere…
Ahhhh, I'll have to try it. Do you put all the chicken in at once?
If it is a small chicken, you can get it all in at once. Super
Oh man, now I'm craving fried chicken and it's only 10am.
Fried chicken isn't breakfast food where you live? But you can eat it with biscuits! And waffles!
I don't think Grannies lie intentionally. They just get old and dotty!
I've just recommended to my cousin's wife that she make fried chicken for a picnic so I'm going to send this post to her ASAP!
Thanks! I hope it helps. And people are offering such good tips in the comments. Might be worth a follow-up.
Quick question: why self rising flour?
Oh! Self-rising flour is the secret ingredient for a lot of people. It gives you a crust that's really crispy and sort of puffed out, like restaurant-style fried chicken.
You know, I was not even hungry until I read this post. Now I have a hankering for home cooked fried chicken. Crap.
I know EXACTLY what you mean. Now that I'm reading all these tips in the comments, they're only giving me excuses to fry another batch.
Great tips. I've never tackled fried chicken, and should. I've seen this "hot sauce and eggs" combo before, Deen, etc., but I'm curious, does this make "hot/spicy chicken" or is it pretty mellow? I'm a hot sauce weenie, but I like a little nippy taste every now and then.
This is definitely NOT hot, spicy chicken. The hot sauce just gives it a little kick.
Great tips. And I agree… grannies don't exactly lie, but they do sort of deceive. I mean, have you watched them make biscuits? No measuring, no recipe but perfect biscuits every time. Of course, I suppose it has something to do with experience. Maybe someday we'll be those deceptive grannies?
The biscuit thing KILLS me. The closest I've come is Scott Peacock's Hot, Crusty Buttermilk Biscuit recipe: http://ezrapoundcake.com/archives/2038
Someday, we will be those deceptive grannies. Someday.
I've never attempted, nor think I will attempt to fry chicken. I don't mind eating it and your's certainly looks delicious.
No point in cooking it if no one's around to eat it. I appreciate your sacrifice. ;)
You clever young people! As I think of it, using the self-rising flour does make sense since when I make tempura I use soda water in the batter – same principle right?
Self rising flour isn't very common here in Canada but I suppose you could just add a bit of baking powder to the flour?
Yesss, same principle. The ratio is 1 teaspoon baking powder to 3/4 cup flour, plus a pinch of salt.
LOL! I know a bunch of grandma's reading this were like WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA? until they read on. I know when I read that title I was like, uh-oh! :)
Thanks for the tips espcially the no paper towel & don't mix up the whites & dark!
Great post. Great copy. Great pictures. As always. Loved the reference to Divorce Court. I am impressed yet again!
If I start practicing now maybe I can make it look effortless in another 25 years! Even with masterful technique, Granny will always be one up. It's all the unconditional love that makes Grandma's chicken so good!
Thanks for this! Tried it last night and it came out very well! Now to keep adjusting until I find perfection….. And to those who asked – the hot sauce does not make it spicy. Of course, I got nervous when I saw it called for a whole cup and ended up only adding a half. Next time I'll try a whole!
Awesome tips! Loving your list skillas too. But now I am craving fried chicken like a mutha. haha.
Great tips! That picture has me drooling.
Those are really, really, really really good tips for fried chicken. Especially the hot sauce.
Oh wow this looks so delicious! I have never made fried chicken and I would love to try it out! I'm going to try your tips!
girlfriend, my mom makes the best fried chicken, and she makes it look so simple. i finally learned her method and i have to tell you that it easy way easy! we use oil and not shortening… canola…papertowel, large pot, you get the idea… :)
My TN MIL fries a mean chicken. She tried to show me how once, but I am a slow learner. Hubs loves fried chicken, so I really should be a good wifey and learn how to do this the right way. Your tips will help me tremendously. It looks delicious!
Oh good Lord. Now I'm needing some fried chicken in the most insane way ever. Great tips!
Here's a silly question…. what does one do with all the used oil after it cools?
If you discard it, how?
That's not a silly question at all.
If you want to reuse the oil for frying, you can strain it into a container and keep it in the fridge.
If you're ready to throw away your leftover oil, the important thing to remember is NOT to pour it down the sink. Put it in a container, like a leftover milk jug or peanut butter jar, and either toss it out or take it to a recycling center.
Ok. Eggs versus buttermilk? I always let my chicken sit in the buttermilk overnight. Yes? No? Now I want this…
I'm sure your fried chicken is good and all…..but I want one of those biscuits!
WORST FRYER ON THE PLANET. I can't fry anything that needs to be doused in flour. I usually leave all my frying to KFC, Churches, Honey's Kettle and Popeye's. I learned a couple of lesson here. Now I need to go do the homework.
I just found your blog and am enjoying it. Your recipe for fried chicken is very similar to the one I found from Paula Deen and it's GREAT! It makes a wonderful crust on the chicken. Must be what the self-rising flour does…
[…] do a bit of research before I started to make it for such an important meal. So, using tips from Ezra Pound Cake’s excellent post about fried chicken as my starting point, I got busy planning. I also perused the fried chicken notes in the […]
Thank you for the tips! Last time I made fried chicken, it took me 2 1/2 hours to cook it and all the seasoning fell off it. But I'm going to try it again tonight! Wish me luck!
Comments are closed.