I usually cook fried chicken at least twice a year. For the past three or four years, I invite friends over and slave over a Dutch oven full of boiling oil for a solid hour just to serve from 6 to 20 of my dearest friends some crispy, delicious, and decidedly unhealthy chicken. I love it. Over the years, I’ve picked up some tips.
Cut the chicken into parts
Whole chickens, even free-range ones, run about $1.99-$2.50/lb. Chicken parts are much more expensive. Buy a whole chicken and either get the butcher counter to cut it up (even at supermarkets, they’ll do it for free) or cut it up yourself. Then save the extra bits in a freezer bag in your freezer to make chicken stock. It’s so worth it, trust me.
A few tips:
- Wear an apron, and under that, wear a T-shirt that you won’t mind immediately tossing into the laundry. It’s not that messy, but it’s not un-messy.
- Use a sharp knife. This helps immensely.
I have done extensive research on instructional videos on cutting a whole chicken into parts, and Gourmet has by the best. Ian Knauer walks you through every step and offers lots of really helpful tips to do it well and to get the most meat onto each piece. It really is (almost) this easy — as long as your knife is sharp.
How to prep and fry the chicken
The best recipe out there, by far, is Cooks Illustrated’s The Ultimate Crispy Fried Chicken (subscription required). It involves a buttermilk brine and air drying (skimp on the air drying if you need to skimp on anything).
The worst recipe I’ve tried is Williams-Sonoma’s Ad Hoc Fried Chicken kit. It tasted fine, but there are so many unnecessary steps. And honestly, the ingredients are all kitchen staples. It takes about five minutes more to do it yourself (which adds up to about a savings of 1 hour 55 minutes because you really can cut out those extra steps).
For a faster recipe, I recommend Loretta Lynn’s–it’s very, very tasty and good for a Sunday dinner that you don’t want to spend all day working on. And of course, you must use Crisco.
Equipment needed for frying chicken
1. Dutch oven. If cooking for a big crowd, it can help to have two Dutch ovens going at one time. Cooks Illustrated recommends the Le Creuset French oven, which you can get for much cheaper than retail at a Le Creuset outlet store.
2. Deep frying thermometer. The most important thing is to keep the oil hot. Use a candy/deep frying thermometer to check the temperature of the oil. Wait til it gets up to 375 degrees before you put the chicken back in.
3. Tongs. You’re going to be pulling the chicken parts out of boiling oil. Get a good pair of tongs and wear oven mitts.
Note: I’m making fried chicken again today, so I’ll update the post with more tips as they come to me.