Fried Chicken 101
You don’t have to be a Southern grandmother to know how to fry a chicken. Start with our core techniques for making fried chicken, and you can make a wide range of fried chicken recipes.
Three Common Fried Chicken Pitfalls
Making good fried chicken is easy, as long as you avoid these pitfalls.
GREASY FRIED CHICKEN
Blame it on cold oil. Don’t forget to monitor the oil temperature, and adjust the burner accordingly as you fry. When you add cold chicken to hot oil, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens: The oil temperature drops. Also, no crowding: Lots of cold chicken just exacerbates the problem.
UNDERCOOKED FRIED CHICKEN
Blame it on scorching hot oil and/or unevenly sized pieces. If you fry chicken parts straight from the package, the big ones, say the breasts, don’t have time to cook through by the time the legs are done: Cut pieces down to size. Also, don’t overheat the oil. Scorching oil causes the same problem.
BLOTCHY FRIED CHICKEN
Blame it on lack of patience. If you fry the chicken immediately after dredging, the coating tends to peel off. While the oil heats, let the dredged chicken rest on a wire cooling rack for at least 10 minutes. The resting time helps the coating stick. You can’t call it fried chicken without the crispy skin.
Cutting Up a Whole Chicken
Using a chef's knife, cut off the legs, one at a time, by severing the joint between the leg and the body.
Cut each leg into 2 pieces—the drumstick and the thigh—by slicing through the joint that connects them. Your knife should glide right through the joint—if you hit something hard, you're not cutting through the joint.
Flip the chicken over and remove the wings by slicing through each wing joint.
Turn the chicken (now without its legs and wings) on its side and, using scissors, remove the back from the chicken breast. (The back can be saved for stock, if desired.)
Flip the breast skin-side down and, using a chef's knife, cut it in half through the breast plate (marked by a thin white line of cartilage).
Perfect Fried Chicken
Most fried chicken recipes follow this basic sequence of steps.
1. CUT INTO SIMILAR-SIZED PIECES
Cut breasts in half crosswise, and separate leg quarters into drumsticks and thighs so that all the pieces will cook at the same rate.
2. SUBMERGE IN BRINE
Mix 2 quarts water, 1/2 cup table salt, and 1/2 cup sugar (for 4 pounds of chicken parts). Soak the chicken 30 minutes to 1 hour; any longer can cause the meat to be too salty.
3. DREDGE AND REST
Season 2 cups flour (for 4 pounds of parts) with salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in flour, shaking off the excess. Rest the dredged chicken on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes.
4. KEEP OIL AT PROPER TEMP
Fill the pot about halfway with oil and heat to 350 to 375 degrees. When you add the chicken, the temperature will drop. Keep it at 300 to 325 degrees while the chicken fries.
5. FRY IN BATCHES
Fry half a chicken's worth of parts at a time in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot. Batch cooking keeps the temperature steady and minimizes dangerous and messy splatter.
6. KEEP WARM IN OVEN
When the first batch of chicken is fried, transfer it to a wire rack set over a baking sheet, and place it in a 200-degree oven to drain and keep warm while you fry the next batch.