How to make southern fried chicken
April 28, 2005 10:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for recipes and techniques for authentic southern fried chicken.

Questions I have include (but aren't limited to): what parts of the chicken to use (wings, drumsticks, breasts, the whole bird, etc.), preparation of the chicken (rinse, salt, brine, season, etc.), what kind of batter/breading to use, what kind of oil to use and how much, oil temperature, and what kind of cooking vessel works best (I was planning on using a deep cast iron skillet, but have a wide range of other pots and pans, and could maybe even borrow an electric deep-fryer).
posted by rorycberger to Food & Drink (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Here's how I make fried chicken... I use the whole bird except for the back, neck and innards. I either cut up a fryer (cheaper) or I let the butcher do it. (I usually still cut the breast up into 4 pieces though.)

In a medium bowl, mix 3 eggs, 1/3c water, and about a cup of Texas Pete's hot sauce, until it's a bright orange color. After it's been in there a couple-5 minutes, I take it out and season it with a mix of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then I thoroughly coat each piece in 2 c. self-rising flour that's been seasoned with pepper, being sure to knock off as much extra flour as you can. Let the chicken dry a couple minutes. (These quantities are figured on 1 or 2 chickens. You'll need to increase it if you're making more than that.)

As for the frying, I use the deepest pot I've got (a 12 quart stock pot) and fill it halfway full with peanut oil. I heat that up, using a thermometer, to 350º.

I cook, in batches of 5 or 6 pieces at a time, with the dark pieces separated from the white, since they have different cooking times. (White takes less time to cook. The white meat cooks in 8-12 minutes, and the dark cooks in 12-15 minutes.) I remove them from the oil to drain on a wire rack over some paper towels.

If you're cooking a bunch, you'll get a rhythm going, where the next batch soaks in the egg/hot sauce mixture, while the next batch is drying with the flour, while the next batch is cooking in the oil. Also, be sure to check that there's not a bunch of fried flour debris in the oil, which will eventually burn and make your chicken flecked with dark brown spots.

A note about the hot sauce -- don't be intimidated about it. The final resulting chicken ends up flavorful but not spicy at all. I made this just last week for a bunch of my relatives, to rave reviews.
posted by crunchland at 11:04 AM on April 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

Alton Brown is both southern and a big fan of frying. Here's his recipe. If you're willing to still more time before you start frying, you can brine the chicken before you do the buttermilk marinade. A number of southern restaurants do that. You brine for a day, marinate for a day, and then dredge and fry.

Like crunchland, I prefer peanut oil for frying.
posted by anapestic at 11:20 AM on April 28, 2005

Alton Brown from Good Eats does it pretty well. GEFP info here. Food Network Recipie here.
posted by tayknight at 11:22 AM on April 28, 2005

An added note about the peanut oil ... the temperature will drop once you add the chicken, so be sure to crank up the heat and get it good and hot as soon as you can. You'll do best if the oil stays above 300º .. much lower, and the chicken won't cook right and the coating will soak up too much oil. You can also reuse the oil, provided it doesn't get too dark, but only if you've never heated it past the point where it starts smoking .. and the more often you use/heat it, the more likely you are to making it smoke. Just drain the oil from the pan back into the containers, straining it through a fine sieve and a funnel, and holding back the last dregs, which will inevitably have burnt flour goo. Storie in a dark place, for up to 3-6 months.
posted by crunchland at 11:37 AM on April 28, 2005

I have geekish tendencies and really like Alton Brown's show for the quirkiness and technical details. There are those who find him annoying, though. If you catch the episode, Fry Hard II, the description for how to cut up a fryer chicken is very good. He discards the wings (to use in stock) but I like those crunchy bits. I noticed that in this episode that Mr. Brown was careful to use gloves when handling the raw chicken, admonished his audience to clean up the mess, but managed to cross contaminate his kitchen by opening the fridge door with his gooey-gloved, chicken hands. Oops. The Good Eats recipe corresponds to the others that I have tried. I think they all agree on buttermilk but are mixed on double dredging the chicken in the flour, whether or not to season the flour, and brining.

My personal bias (as a Northwestern Yankee) is to brine for four hours in a seasoning salt and sugar solution (Broussards Spicy Cajun Creole Seasoning), use a heavy cast iron skillet to minimize temperature drop, and single dip the chicken for convenience.
posted by KrustyKlingon at 12:05 PM on April 28, 2005

This is how I learned to do it at home from my South Carolinian ex mother in law, one of the best Southern cooks I have ever known.

Cut up a whole chicken - or buy a cut up fryer.
Salt & pepper it.
Put about 1/2 c. flour, 1/2 c. cornmeal, some seasoning - I use more salt & pepper, some Old Bay (I lived in Maryland too long) some dried thyme, maybe some oregano or chili powder - whatever, go wild! into a paper bag.
Get a large cast iron frying pan going with about an inch of oil in it (I use canola; she used Crisco; YMMV) over fairly high heat - hot enough where it sizzles when you drop something in it, not hot enough to smoke.
Dip the chicken pieces into a bowl (actually a deep dish pie pan works great) of beaten up egg & buttermilk (I mix regular 2% milk with lowfat sour cream, but hey, that's just me.)
Put each piece of chicken into the bag & shake vigorously, remove and put it into the hot oil. Turn it over several times. (Handy hint - it's ready to turn over when it is easy to turn over, not when it's stuck to the bottom of the pan. Keep checking.)
Takes about 20 - 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Kiss your waistline goodbye!
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:52 PM on April 28, 2005

20 to 25 minutes, not 15. Sigh.
posted by mygothlaundry at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2005

No matter what recipe you use, you gotta have a little garlic powder. It makes it. Recipes for fried chicken also work very well for pork chops.
posted by wsg at 2:24 PM on April 28, 2005

Regardless of the recipe, the proper sequence for optimal breading on the chicken is: bread - flour - egg wash - breading mix. The flour sticks to the chicken, the egg wash sticks to the flour, and the breading sticks to the egg wash.
posted by MrZero at 3:04 PM on April 28, 2005

I'm with mygothlaundry. The way my family has always done it is in a brown paper bag (they're free at the grocery store!). Fill it with flour, salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper (if you like it a little spicy). Drop the chicken in the bag and shake it around until all of the pieces are well coated. You could also just add some Tony Cachere's to the flour if you're lazy.

To get the breading on the chicken, dip it in your egg mix. For the egg mixture, you can use buttermilk and beaten eggs, or regular milk and beaten eggs, or evaporated milk ang eggs - (which I think is the best). Then put it back in the bag and shake for some more coating. To go light on the breading (my Mom prefers that, but she's weird), put it into the heated oil after the first coating (and skip the egg/milk).

You'll get crispier results the colder the egg mixture is, so make sure it's cold, and hasn't warmed to room temperature too much. Also, an iron skillet is a must. Anything else, and you'll likely get soggy chicken.

When you are done, empty the oil, as described above, leaving all the chunky bits in the bottom with about 3-4 tablespoons of oil. Add some flour, and stir until it is well mixed. Then slowly add some milk, stirring with a whisk. Add salt and pepper, and stir until it thickens. This is the cream gravy that you'll be pouring over the mashed potatoes that you are serving with the fried chicken. This is a must, otherwise I will laugh, call you Yankee, and bitch about the War of Northern Aggression. And I will bitch alot.

This also works great for chicken fried chicken breasts, just use boneless/skinless breasts instead.
posted by stovenator at 11:57 PM on April 28, 2005

Another good source for technical info, as well as recipes, is "The Perfect Recipe" by Pam Anderson. She approaches things rather scientifically and reports what did not work when she tried it, as well as what worked the best. Her recipe for fried chicken is the best I've ever used (not that I make it a lot - it's messy and labor-intensive, but terrific for a special down-home treat!)
posted by Quietgal at 9:40 AM on April 29, 2005

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