When it comes to comfort food, few things can top a crispy piece of deep fried chicken. The classic combo of crunchy coating, juicy meat and tingly spicing can please a crowd whatever the situation. Unfortunately, however good it is in the hands of an expert, attempts to recreate your favourite chicken at home all too often end in a greasy, flaccid mess.
Despite the dangers of amateur deep frying, there are a few handy tips that can turn even the most inept home cook into Colonel Sanders. For anyone looking for a finger licking recipe in the comfort of your own kitchen, these six hacks are the only guide you’ll ever need.
1. Use the whole bird
Fried chicken is at its best when varied. Though a deep fried drumstick may be the most iconic symbol of chicken superiority there is, any poultry expert will tell you that birds have a whole lot more to offer than one classic cut. Chefs should look to use everything from breasts to thighs to provide a combination of light and dark meat.
2. Serve sensible pieces
When you’re feeling exceptionally hungry, it’s easy to grab hold of the biggest hunk of chicken you can find and fling it towards a pot. Unfortunately, when working with birds, and breasts in particular, size does matter. Large pieces will often go crispy on the outside before they’ve had a chance to cook all the way through, while small chunks can overcook in no time at all. This means that sensible portioning is an absolute must.
3. Don’t be afraid to marinade
The secret to all great fried chicken lies in the liquid. Soaking your carefully cut up pieces in a prepared solution of buttermilk or brine is what guarantees a tender, flavourful end result. Whatever you opt for, we recommend allowing the chicken to soak between 24 and 36 hours in order to absorb as much flavour as possible. We promise the wait is worth it.
4. Seasons change
One of the joys of cooking with chicken is the way that it can adapt to almost any flavour. While birds can be seasoned with anything from paprika to pepper, it is absolutely that they are enhanced at very stage of prep. This means seasoning everything from the brine to the breading in order to impart as much flavour as possible and avoid a bland bird. Chilli powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper are all highly commendable additions. Salt is a must.
5. Temperature is key
One of the biggest challenges of cooking fried chicken is managing the oil. We recommend working with oil that has a low smoking point, heated to about 335 degrees farenheit, as this crisp up the coating whilst cooking the chicken all the way through. If you don’t have a thermometer handy, an easy way to check is to toss a pinch of flour into the oil. If it sizzles, you’re good to go.
6. Give it a rest
This goes for both before and after cooking. Your chicken should never be cooked straight from the fridge, as this will significantly lower the temperature of your oil and mean that the chicken crisps before it is properly cooked. Similarly, cooked chicken should be allowed to drip dry on a wire rack to get rid of any excess oil. Never wrap fried chicken in paper towels, as this can inadvertently steam the bird and ruin the crisp coat.
Once you’ve had a taste of some top notch chicken, it’s always going to be tough to go back to normality. Legions of chicken fans have resigned themselves to birdless homes - convinced that they can never come close to the pros. However, as this list proves, it doesn’t take years of training to master a chicken.