I had an internet buddy ask me for my fried chicken recipe this week. While I was about to type the long, tedious recipe, I thought “ok, you know how difficult it is to find a good chicken recipe and you’re just going to give this one away? At least make a post about it and the importance of trial and error!” Ok, self, you don’t have to yell! But yes, my inner self is correct…a great fried chicken recipe is pretty hard to come by, and developing one, like I have been for the past year, is even harder.
I have been blessed to grow up with a grandmother and grandfather that both hailed from Southwest Georgia and prided themselves in the southern recipes they served their family. Collard greens, baked macaroni and cheese, banana pudding, oxtails and rice, and of course, the elusive fried chicken. I couldn’t get enough of that chicken and when I was a kid, I couldn’t care less how it was made, just when we were going to eat it. Then, at age 10, I wised up. I started to watch my grandmother make these things, and see what her little secrets were. Now, to this day, I’m the only one that gets close to the taste of my grandmother’s recipes.
When it comes to fried chicken, there are 4 factors that will make them spectacular: the brine, the seasoning mix, the flour and the oil.
The Brine: This is usually a step that most people skip because they either forget to do it the night before or they are too lazy. It’s easy: make a brine (or buy one), put your chicken in a tupperware container that can fit it all, and pour the brine over it. A great brine you can get right from the grocery store is buttermilk. It will give the meat a bit of a tang once its cooked, and it will also plump up the meat and make it tender and tasty. A quart of buttermilk would do just fine for about 2 to 3 pounds of chicken. No buttermilk? Put the chicken in the tupperware, sprinkle with salt, pepper and sugar, then cover with water.
The seasoning mix: ok, this is where it gets tricky. You can create this at your discretion, with one exception: you must have seasoned salt and pepper in the mix. They are the staples to a good chicken seasoning mix. I tend to throw in a bit of onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, old bay seasoning and a few other herbs and spices I like. The Colonel isn’t the only one with a few chicken secrets. Here’s the best rule: use the spices that your family likes, no matter how out of the ordinary. Like allspice? Put it in. Cinnamon makes you crazy? Drop a few pinches in there. Once you have it figured out, make a big batch of it and keep it in an empty spice container for future use. The bonus is that you don’t have to just use it for fried chicken. I’ve rubbed my mix on leg quarters and baked in a 350 degree oven and it was heavenly.
The flour: yes, it does need to be seasoned, along with the chicken. Once you are ready to cook, drain the chicken and sprinkle your seasoning on it. While you let the seasoning sit for a bit, prepare your flour. Here’s another secret: use self-rising flour. When I saw that Paula Deen does the same thing, I just about went crazy. That told me that I was definitely on the right track. No self rising flour? For every cup of flour, add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt. You should only need a cup of flour for about 3 pounds of chicken. The reason you season the flour and chicken is because you want to make sure every bite has that lovely seasoning on it. When you fry, flavors tend to diminish a bit.
The oil: you can use whatever you want, but for me, canola is king. Peanut oil is great but expensive and olive is not good for frying, so I don’t use those. Vegetable oil is the route you want to go, and canola is the best one heart-wise so thats what I use. I know, I know, fried foods aren’t great heart-wise anyway, but it’s like using the lesser of two evils. The oil needs to be at 350 to 360 degrees before you can put the chicken in. A fry thermometer is a great thing to use but if you don’t have one, take a wooden spoon or toothpick, place in the middle of the pan (should be cast iron, by the way) and look for lots of bubbles around it. If you see lots of bubbles, then your oil is ready. No bubbles? Make sure the heat is on medium and wait about 5 more minutes. Burned the wood? Way too hot! Take the pan off the heat for a few minutes and try the wooden spoon trick again in about 3 minutes.
Put the flour in a storage bag (or a tupperware container), put in a few pieces of chicken at a time, shake well, shake off excess flour and place in the oil. And no, you don’t have to cook dark meat first or separate breasts from legs, yada yada. Because of the meat to bone ratio in each piece, they will all cook within the same time range. You do want to place smaller pieces in last though, and take those out first. Fry the chicken for 8 to 10 minutes on the first side, flip over, and fry for another 8 to 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels or old clothing AND THEN move to a plate or bowl. Don’t keep the chicken on the draining area or it will start to suck up that drained oil, and thats definitely not tasty.
That should do it! Did I miss anything? Have any other questions about this fried chicken recipe? Leave me a comment and I’ll fix your fried chicken woes. Have a happy chicken day!