If done right, classic pan-fried chicken is delightfully crispy, golden brown and lighter than deep frying chicken in a vat of oil. A crunchy crust with a hot, juicy interior can be tough to perfect, so here are a few tips for achieving delicious results every time you fry.
Soak the chicken overnight in buttermilk. This serves two purposes – First, the lactic acid helps to tenderize the meat. Second, the buttermilk provides an even, thoroughly coated base to which the flour can adhere.
Adding herbs and spices to the chicken before coating with flour keeps the seasoning close to the skin. And be sure to generously season the flour mixture for a flavorful crunch. Salt, pepper and a little cayenne are all you need for a tasty bite.
Depending on the size of the chicken pieces, you may need to fry the chicken in batches. Because maintaining a consistent temperature is the key to making fried chicken, you’ll want to use an instant-read thermometer and keep the oil between 325˚F and 350˚F.
Let the cooked chicken rest on a wire rack over a baking pan (not on paper towels). The airflow will allow the chicken to become crispy and cool more quickly.
1 3 to 1 1/2 pound
chicken cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons
fresh herb leaves or sprigs such as bay leaves, rosemary, tarragon, or thyme (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
peanut oil, canola oil, or vegetable shortening for frying
Place the chicken in a large airtight container. Mix the buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of the salt, and the sugar in a medium bowl until the salt and sugar dissolve. Pour the mixture over the chicken, add the herbs (if using), cover, and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.
Stir together the paprika, black pepper, the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, the garlic powder, and the cayenne in a small bowl. Combine the flour and baking powder in a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag or a large lidded container. Seal the bag (or cover the container) and shake to combine.
Drain the chicken in a colander (discard the buttermilk) and transfer to a baking sheet. Sprinkle the chicken with the spice blend. Add 1 piece of chicken to the flour mixture, seal the bag, and shake to coat. Transfer to a plate and repeat.
Pour enough oil to fill a 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet to a 1⁄2-inch depth. Heat the oil until it reads 325°F to 350°F on an instant-read thermometer. Carefully place the chicken thighs in the center of the skillet (because they take the longest to cook) and the legs, breasts, and wings around the perimeter, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. (You may have to fry the chicken in batches.) Fry until the chicken is golden brown and crisp on both sides, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into
the chicken reads 165°F for the breasts and 170°F for the drumsticks and thighs. Transfer the chicken to a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving.
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