How to Make Fried Chicken
Three simple steps—dunk, dredge, fry—are all it takes to produce the crisp, juicy fried chicken of your dreams. Here’s a foolproof recipe and illustrated how-to
By Gail Monaghan in the Wall Street Journal
IN ALL ITS golden glory, Southern fried chicken is a comfort food that contains multitudes. Some like it hot, with mashed potatoes and gravy. At room temperature, it’s perfect party or picnic fare. There are all the different parts to choose from, too. When I was growing up, our housekeeper, Marge, who hailed from outside Atlanta, stuck to thighs only; I favor the bony wings and backs normally used for stock; and then there are those who prefer white meat. But a crackling exterior always goes a long way toward selling whatever piece of poultry lies within.
This “All-American” food was actually enjoyed by inhabitants of Europe and Asia long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. The recipe took hold stateside soon enough, though, appearing in the 1828 printing of Mary Randolph ’s “The Virginia Housewife” with instructions to dredge fresh chicken pieces in flour, season with salt and pan-fry in hot fat until golden.
Variations now abound. Twentieth-century doyenne of Southern cooking Edna Lewis fried her chicken in a pound of lard and a stick of butter after two overnight soaks—first in brine, then in buttermilk—and a flour-cornstarch-salt-and-pepper dredging. Some cooks add mustard, cayenne, smoked paprika, celery seeds or onion powder to the dredge. Dunking the chicken in beaten egg before dredging will help to form a thicker crust upon frying. Replacing the flour with bread crumbs, corn meal or even crushed Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes cranks up the crunch.
Ms. Lewis’s fried chicken is delicious, but I prefer not to spend half a week making mine. Instead I follow the lead of Marge, who skipped the brining and marinating. On Wednesday nights when I was in grade school, she fried up batches of the best chicken on the planet—or at least in our neighborhood. Friends followed me home from school on Wednesdays angling for a dinner invite. I still use the recipe Marge wrote out for me when I left for college, the very one reproduced at right. It’s so easy: Just dunk the pieces in milk then pop them into the dredging mixture. Marge shook her chicken in a paper bag for quick and thorough coating; my only update is a switch to Ziploc. Either way, just enough breading will cling to the meat to produce a crust that fries up thin, crisp and impossible to resist.
- ¼ cup cornstarch
- 2 cups milk
- 1 (3½-pound) chicken, cut into 8 or 10 pieces
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1-2 cups vegetable oil, lard or shortening
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
1. Pour milk into a bowl large enough to hold chicken as well. Add cayenne or Tabasco, if using. Add chicken and turn to coat. Remove chicken pieces and set on a wire rack to allow excess milk to drain off, 5 minutes.
2. In a large Ziploc bag, combine flour, cornstarch, 1½ teaspoons sea salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, to flour mixture in bag, seal and shake to coat. Shake off any excess and set on wire rack.
3. Set a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add ¾ inch oil. (Oil should come no more than halfway up sides of chicken pieces.) Heat to 375 degrees, using a hot-oil thermometer to monitor temperature. Slip a few chicken pieces, skin-side down, into hot oil. (Do not crowd pan.) Cook, turning frequently, until chicken is golden all over, about 20 minutes. Lower heat to medium and continue to cook until meat is cooked through, 5-15 minutes more. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining chicken.
The entire article with graphics can be found at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/how-to-make-fried-chicken-1422645740