Fried Chicken Times & Temps
January 20, 2009 8:14 PM   Subscribe

What is the ideal oil temperature for fried chicken? What about frying times?

I pan-fry my chicken using Crisco (vegetable shortening). I am interested in specifc input from the hivemind regarding temperatures and frying times.

I fried yesterday between 325 and 350 and got decent results. My frying / candy thermometer says that 365 F is the ideal temp, and many websites agree. Alton Brown, however, in his Fry Hard recipe, says that 325 F is the ideal temperature. What's up with that?

No two websites agree on the ideal cooking time for a given temperature. Typically I fry thighs and drummies. I've found that for thighs, 10 minutes per side at an average temp of 340 or so gets me close, though I will try 12 minutes next time since the last batch was not completely done right at the bone. For drummies, 3.5 minutes per side gets me about where I want to be, though I might need another minute more next time. Most of the recipes I find have times for a mix of pieces, but not for thighs. Any help here?
posted by charlesv to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
In my fast-food stint as a teen, I'm pretty sure we deep-fried at 410F for 12 minutes, starting from regular refrigeration temperature. But, that was long ago, and my memory is crap.
posted by cmiller at 8:20 PM on January 20, 2009

I haven't fried chicken in years, but the way my mom taught me how to do it was 375 for 7 minutes a side, then turn the heat down to 275 and cook it for 15 minutes a side. The higher temperature makes the crust great and the long cooking at the lower temp gets the meat cooked thoroughly. This is assuming that you have about an inch to an inch and a half of oil, not enough to submerge the whole piece.
posted by zinfandel at 8:29 PM on January 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

I always shallow fry too (gotta have that milk gravy), with Crisco and parts marinated in buttermilk/Tabasco and then shaken in a paper bag with flour, cayenne, and baking powder (it makes the crust shattering-crisp, try it!). I always fry at about 350 degrees, never crowding the pan - a quick drop in oil temperature is a sure-fire way to get soggy, oil-soaked crust and meat, and I'll actually use two skillets at the same time rather than try to fry too much at once. I use cast iron pans to hold the heat, and fry about 15-18 minutes total for thighs and backs, and 12-15 total for breasts and drumsticks. I bring the chicken to room temperature before cooking.

The key is to use very small chickens, smaller than you can usually get at the grocery store - even thighs from a 3.5lb chicken skate on the edge of getting burned before the inside is done, and the breasts are way too big. 2.5-3lb chickens are ideal for shallow-frying (I would suspect that the usually-reliable Alton's weirdly low temperature is to compensate for the bigger chickens usually marked as broilers/fryers).

Fried chicken is always a balance between sealing up and cooking the crust quickly and getting the meat done. Small parts and consistent oil temperature are key. One of the big advantages of shallow-frying is that the crust will stay crisp even when held (mine is usually still crisp the next day after a stint in the fridge), so you can cook in batches, holding in a warm oven until you're ready to serve.

I love fried chicken! Haven't made any in a while, I think I know what we're doing this weekend.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:38 PM on January 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

It appears that Alton and the scientists (Cook's Illustrated) agree on 325 degrees, as this 2001 recipe from my old Cook's collection says to start with the oil at 375 degrees, as it will cool to 325 once the cold chicken pieces are immersed in the hotter 375 oil:

"Maintaining an even oil temperature is key to the success of this recipe. An instant-read thermometer with a high upper range is perfect for checking the temperature; a clip-on candy/deep-fry thermometer is fine, though it can be clipped to the pot only for the uncovered portion of frying."

1 1/4 cups kosher salt or 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons table salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons paprika
3 medium heads garlic , cloves separated
3 bay leaves , crumbled
2 quarts buttermilk (low fat)
1 whole chicken (about 3 1/2 pounds), giblets discarded, cut into 12 pieces (see illustrations below)
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3–4 cups refined peanut oil or vegetable shortening
1. In large zipper-lock plastic bag, combine salt, sugar, paprika, garlic cloves, and bay leaves. With rubber mallet or flat meat pounder, smash garlic into salt and spice mixture thoroughly. Pour mixture into large plastic container or nonreactive stockpot. Add 7 cups buttermilk and stir until salt is completely dissolved. Immerse chicken and refrigerate until fully seasoned, 2 to 3 hours. Remove chicken from buttermilk brine and shake off excess; place in single layer on large wire rack set over rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate uncovered for 2 hours. (After 2 hours, chicken can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 6 hours longer.)

2. Measure flour into large shallow dish. Beat egg, baking powder, and baking soda in medium bowl; stir in remaining 1 cup buttermilk (mixture will bubble and foam). Working in batches of 3, drop chicken pieces in flour and shake pan to coat. Shake excess flour from each piece, then, using tongs, dip chicken pieces into egg mixture, turning to coat well and allowing excess to drip off. Coat chicken pieces with flour again, shake off excess, and return to wire rack.

3. Adjust oven rack to middle position, set second wire rack over second rimmed baking sheet, and place on oven rack; heat oven to 200 degrees. Line large plate with double layer paper towels. Meanwhile, heat oil (oil should have 2 1/2-inch depth in pan) to 375 degrees over medium-high heat in large 8-quart cast-iron Dutch oven with a diameter of about 12 inches. Place half of chicken pieces skin-side down in oil, cover, reduce heat to medium, and fry until deep golden brown, 6 to 8 minutes; after about 3 minutes, lift chicken pieces with tongs to check for even browning; rearrange if some pieces are browning faster than others. (Spot-check oil temperature; after first 6 minutes of frying, oil should be about 325 degrees. Adjust burner if necessary.) Turn chicken pieces over and continue to fry, uncovered, until chicken pieces are deep golden brown on second side, 6 to 8 minutes longer. Using tongs, transfer chicken to paper towel–lined plate; let stand 2 minutes to drain, then transfer to rack in warm oven. Replace paper towel–lining on plate. Return oil to 375 degrees and fry remaining pieces, transferring pieces to paper towel–lined plate to drain, then transferring to wire rack with other chicken pieces. Cool chicken pieces on wire rack about 5 minutes and serve.
posted by webhund at 8:49 PM on January 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

2nding webhund on the temp....I used to work the fryolators in my past life as line cook. there were two, side by side. the 'cool' fryer was set to 325, and the 'hot' fryer was set to 375. that's about the upper and lower ranges for frying most foods. you'd be surprised at the difference - something that cooked in 30 seconds at 375 would take several minutes at 325.
posted by gnutron at 11:50 PM on January 20, 2009

It's got to do with the composition of the product being fried. A "perfectly" fried food maintains a balance between the steam coming out of the cooking food, and the hot oil trying to get in. Those two forces should meet right about at the skin of the food- the hot oil should crisp up the skin/batter, but not encroach into the food too much making it greasy.. A big thick batter makes a difference. Also the speed of recovery of the temperature of the fryer.

Fun fact- fast food timers have temperature probes that vary the set cooking time depending on the temperature of the oil.
posted by gjc at 4:41 AM on January 21, 2009

We deep fry chicken wings at 375 - as webhund says, the cold chicken does bring the overall temperature down when it first goes in.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 8:03 AM on January 21, 2009

By coincidence, Mark Bittman has this article and accompanying recipe in the NYT today. It's for fried chicken using boneless/skinless chicken breasts and thighs.
posted by webhund at 10:59 AM on January 21, 2009

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