There’s a lot to love about fried chicken.
First, there’s that hot, crunchy, shatteringly crisp crust, fried to golden-brown perfection. Once you get through that, you’re rewarded with super juicy, moist meat—no dry, tastelessness here. But let’s face it: Most of us save fried chicken for dinners out or weekend brunches (chicken and waffles, anyone?).
We’re taking a stand, though: After a brief yet comprehensive refresher course with Bon Appétit senior food editor Dawn Perry, it’s time to get back in the kitchen with your chicken. It’s time to heat up that oil. It’s time to make some fried chicken.
1. Fried Chicken Don't: Just the drumsticks
Sure, a fried drumstick may be iconic, but you can fry up the whole bird—including, yep, the breast. (In fact, this might be one of the most genius ways to make the best of the breast, which pales in comparison to flavorful legs and thighs.) Slice large chicken breasts into pieces, says Perry—they’ll cook faster that way. Make sure to separate the thighs from the drumsticks, and you’re ready to go.
2. Fried Chicken Don't: Outta the fridge, into the fryer
Stop! Don’t start breading that chicken straight from the fridge—if you fry it now, the temperature of the oil will drop and your chicken won’t cook evenly (plus, you can forget about crispy skin). Instead, let the meat sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Now you may proceed!
3. Fried Chicken Don't: Who has time for a brine?
You have time for a brine, if you want to make that bird nice and moist. While we’re not going to require a brine (we’re not micromanagers, you know), we do highly recommend a nice dip in seasoned buttermilk for at least 4 hours, and up to 24. We think this recipe is a winner (winner, chicken dinner). Now, you may choose to use buttermilk in the breading process instead—see step 4, below—and that’s okay. But if you’ve got a few spare hours, it certainly won’t hurt.
4. Fried Chicken Don't: I need a deep fryer
Don’t waste your money on a clunky and hard-to-clean fryer. What you really need, according to Perry, is a heavy-bottomed cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven (we like Le Creuset‘s). “The cast iron retains heat better and stays at the temperature you want.”
Check more essential tips for making the best fried chicken.
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