I’ve been making fried chicken for a long time.
I’ve been eating fried chicken for as long as I can remember. From seeing it at family reunions, to dinner after Sunday morning church. Fried chicken has, in a sense, always been there.
This past Friday, the world celebrated National Fried Chicken Day. There’s a lot of nostalgia in fried chicken. For most kids in the South, you grow up eating a lot of it. It’s only natural for us to feel warm and fuzzy when we bite into a piece, flooding our brain with those powerful chemicals.
The way I make fried chicken is forever changing. I grew up soaking it in milk and egg, flour and Tony Chachere’s. The process was a little gross to the foreign. The first time I visited Hannah in Oregon, I made this fried chicken for her friends. They were a little freaked by the process, but after they ate it, they ate some more…and more. Ah, the power of soul food. We became good friends after this. After all, food connects us deeply to other people, and those memories seem to stick.
After searching around for the best means of fried chicken, I stumbled upon a recipe, which I’ve altered to my own taste and technique that I’m really happy with. I don’t believe this will be my final recipe, but it’s a damn good one.
There are two important things when dealing with fried chicken. Time and labor. Well, clean up too. But that’s always somethin’, ain’t it?
Fried chicken is a labor of love. It always has to be done fresh. You will get messy. Prepare yourself well.
This is how I make fried chicken.
As a pre-note, I love fried chicken on the bone. In general, that is how it’s supposed to be eaten and this recipe works just as well. But, for fun, I love chicken tenders. Or at least fried chicken that’s easy to grab and cut and mix with other food. For this recipe, I’ll just be using boneless chicken breasts. Dark meat lovers, you can do the same with thighs. I just like how the breast fries up. Nothing against dark, ya heard?
What you’ll need:
4-5 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts; sliced into strips/chunks (or as I like to call them the “mom choice” cuts of meat)
4 cups good buttermilk
2 cups AP flour
4 T kosher salt
3 T **freshly ground** black pepper
2 T Cayenne pepper (I know that seems like a lot, but add more or less depending on your tolerance of heat. What’s fried chicken without a little heat??)
1 T garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 1/2 T mustard powder
4 sprigs fresh thyme
About six cups (or a lot) of vegetable oil for deep frying (Or canola or whatever. I like vegetable oil these days.)
How to Cook it:
You’ll need to soak the chicken over night (or at least up to 8 hours), so prepare this part in advance.
Mix together all the spices. Half of your spice mix will be for your buttermilk marinade. The other half will be for your flour/batter.
In a big bowl, toss in your chicken. Poke the chicken with a fork, but not too much. Maybe a few pokes in each piece. Enough so the marinade/brine has a way to get all up in there. Toss in one half of the spice mixture you reserved for the buttermilk. Mix and massage into the chicken. Pour in your buttermilk, mix. Throw in your thyme (keep on stem), mix again. Cover and put in your fridge up to 8 hours or preferably over night.
The next day when you’re ready to fry, fill up a deep, heavy bottomed pot with your veggie oil. Enough so that your chicken will be able to deep fry without hitting the bottom of the pan. Kick the heat up. If you have a deep fry thermometer, get it up to 375. Keep an eye out. Don’t let it get too hot. Oil temp is important. If it’s not hot enough, you’re gonna get some soggy-ass chicken. Nobody wants soggy-ass chicken.
Prepare your flour by mixing in the rest of your spices you reserved the night before. I prefer the double dip method. This makes it much messier of a process, but I think it’s delicious. You can use tongs or something if you don’t want to get your fingers all cakey. Take each piece of chicken, cover in flour mix, dip back into buttermilk and again in flour mix. Do this for every piece. You can also do a lot at once and set it on a dry rack over a sheet pan. This is generally how I do it so I can keep an eye on the chicken while it fries and to not have to wash my hands a billion times.
Slowly submerge battered chicken into the hot oil. Do not over crowd the pot. The chicken should not touch each other. They need their personal space just as much as we do.
Monitor the oil temperature. Raise the temperature a bit after sticking in your first batch because the cold chicken will drastically lower your oil temp. Turn it back down once you’ve gotten back up to 375. It should take about 5-7 minutes for white meat. Usually takes longer for dark meat. When I take the chicken out of the oil, I place it on another raised cooling rack (on sheet pan), toss a little salt on it, and place it in our oven on “warm”.
That should do it! I love eating fried chicken with collard greens, black eyed peas, and cornbread. I don’t know. It’s like the perfect meal.
I also like eating fried chicken with a lot of people.
So cook it for them and soak in those good times.
You will always be reminded of them.