Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Crispiest Fried Chicken

I've always been a bit afraid of making fried chicken. I'm no stranger to deep frying, but I always stuck to things that weren't going to make my family sick if I did it wrong. But, since we are spending a summer in the South, I've decided to do as the Southerners do, and fry up a bird!

This recipe promised to deliver crispy fried chicken with a coating that would stay crunchy even after being refrigerated for a while- and boy did it ever! It was flavorful and stayed crispy enough that I could make it while the girls were napping at lunchtime and still serve for dinner 5 hours later. I will say one thing though: this is a MESSY recipe. Don't try this at home on a busy weekday when you are stressed and pressed for time. My kitchen looked like a bomb went off in it after I was done. However, I was so happy stuffing my face with chicken, I truly I didn't care.

Here are some things to keep in mind about this recipe:

1.) You'll need a cut-up, bone in, skin on chicken, about 3 pounds. Actually, any amount of chicken with the bones and skin will do. You like all dark meat? Just grab one of those big packages of drumsticks. I actually couldn't find what I was looking for (I like a mix of dark and white meat), so I just bought a whole chicken and cut it up myself. It adds an extra step, but oftentimes it's cheaper.

2.) I brined my chicken, but it's totally up to you if you want to. I think it makes the chicken more flavorful and moist, but you have to do some advanced planning. If you're like me, that doesn't happen often (cue screaming children, "I'm hungry!!!!") but if you're inclined, heres what you do:

-Dissolve 1/4 cup of salt into about 1 quart of cold water in a large container. Put all of your chicken pieces in, cover, and chill for a few hours. That's it! No big deal.

3.) Use Wondra Flour when making your breading. You can find it in any grocery store in the baking aisle. It's in a little blue cylindrical canister, and is probably what your grandma used to make gravy. This quick-dissolving flour has been pre-cooked and dried, so it's super light. That definitely translates into a light and crispy crust for your chicken later on.

4.) Make sure you have LOTS OF SPACE. You'll need various stations for all of that brining, breading, frying goodness going on with this recipe. If you start with plenty of room to spread out, there's less of a chance you'll accidentally handle something cooked that has handled something raw. And cross contamination is no joke! (Salmonella, anyone?)

5.) If you can, use peanut oil. In my experience, the flavor is better than vegetable oil, and it has a super high smoke point, so things get crispier without drying out the meat on the inside. Plus, according to the good folks at The Peanut Institute (who knew there was such a place?) peanut oil doesn't absorb the flavor of the food you cook in it, so you can fry garlicky mozzarella sticks in in one second, then turn around and fry up a batch of doughnuts without the flavor suffering at all. Cool!

Phew! Ok, that's all of the tips I can think of before we roll our sleeves up and get into the recipe. Trust me, it's not as intense as it looks. And really, it's worth it. This will leave you looking like a total goddess of the kitchen. Albeit, a goddess covered in flour and oil, but that just adds to the overall mystique!

The Crispiest Fried Chicken

Serves 4t
3 pounds of bone-in, skin-on chicken                                      1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 cups flour (preferably Wondra)                                         1 teaspoon dried sage
1 1/2 cups constarch                                                                   1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons pepper                                                                    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder  
                                            3 quarts frying oil (preferably peanut)

1. Make the brine. Dissolve 1/4 cup salt into 1 quart of water in a large bowl or pot. Place in chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2. Whisk flour and cornstarch together in a large bowl. Scoop out one cup of the mixture and set aside. To the remaining flour mix, season with pepper, baking powder, thyme, sage, garlic powder, and cayenne. To this, add 1/4 cup water and rub together with your fingers until its evenly mixed. It will be a lumpy mess at this point!
Ready to rest in the fridge before frying!
3. Set up your breading stations! In 3 shallow containers (I use pie tins), line up your unseasoned flour mix, one with 2 cups cold water, and another with the seasoned flour mix.

4. Piece by piece, remove chicken from brine and toss in unseasoned flour mix. Next, dip the chicken quickly in the water. Finally, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour mix, pressing on the breading to help it stick if necessary. Repeat until you've breaded all of the chicken.

5. Set breaded chicken onto a baking sheet, and refrigerate for at least 30 min.

Peanut oil bubbling away!
6. While chicken is resting, heat your oil. In a large pot over med-high heat, heat about 3 quarts of oil in a large pot or Dutch oven (that translates to the oil being about 2 inches deep, give or take). Heat it for about 15 minutes, or until oil temperature reaches 350 degrees F.
Ater the first fry. Raw= not delicious!!!

7. Start frying that chicken, baby! In two or three batches, being careful not to overcrowd your pot, fry chicken for 5-7 minutes, until the crust is JUST STARTING to get golden and crisp. NOTE: Your chicken will NOT BE DONE! (This is just your first round of frying that evaporates all of that anti-crispy moisture in the breading that we are trying to avoid). Place half-cooked chicken on  plate lined with lots of paper towels. Let chicken rest 5-7 minutes.

8. After completing the first round of chicken frying, you're ready for the last one! Make sure your oil temp is back at 350 degrees F. In two or three batches, return the chicken the hot oil, and fry until done deep golden brown and crispy, about 7 minutes. Make sure you check your chicken's internal temp! Breasts should register at least 160 degrees, and any dark meat should be around 175 degrees. And if all else fails, cut one of those little guys open at the thickest part and peek inside to see if its pink or not (I know that's blasphemy for serious cooks, but if you're paranoid like me, it's helpful). 

9. Transfer your cooked chicken onto a plate lined with lots of paper towels. Refrigerate uncovered until ready to eat, or just tuck a napkin in your shirt front and dig in!


I hope you enjoy this as much as my family did!

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