Tuesday, February 21, 2012

{The Best} Fried Chicken

Ya'll -- yes the Southern girl voice is coming out for this one -- forget all those "Best Way to Make Fried Chicken" cover photos and articles that are out right now. The BEST and EASIEST way to make fried chicken uses only a few basic items and is ah-mazing. I can (again) thank Heloise for this one from her 1962 book, Heloises's Housekeeping Hints.

Ready for the lowdown? Here's what you need:
  • A big bowl
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Chicken (fryer quarters, legs, thighs, whatever you want)
  • Flour
  • Crisco shortening, plain
  • Cast-iron skillet with lid (or a non-stick skillet with lid)
  • Tongs

  1. First you will fill your big bowl with SALTED water, then place your chicken in here to soak for a while. (Heloise says you also can take the skin off the chicken and this method still will yield super crispy fried chicken.) Let it soak until frozen chicken is thawed, or until fresh chicken has the chill knocked off.

  2. Next, pull your chicken out of the water and immediately coat well in plain flour. That's right -- no salt or other seasonings required. Don't shake the water off the chicken. It helps the flour form a seal around the chicken. Remember, we want to keep all those tasty juices INSIDE the chicken!!

  3. Let the floured chicken rest for at least 30 minutes. 
  4. While your chicken is resting, heat up some plain Crisco shortening in your skillet. About an inch's worth will do. 
  5. After the shortening is melted and it's a good medium-high temperature, it's time to drop in the chicken. 
  6. IMMEDIATELY put the lid on the skillet.
  7. When the chicken is golden brown, turn it over once and cook the other side until golden brown.
  8. Remove cooked chicken and sprinkle on some salt.
  9. If you aren't immediately going to the table or have other batches to make, place the chicken in a covered Dutch oven, etc. to keep warm.

This all boils down to three easy steps:
1. Soak chicken in salted water.
2. Coat in plain flour.
3. Fry it up!!

I guess you could say there's one more step -- my favorite -- eating some juicy, crunchy, home-made fried chicken!!

Here are some other helpful hints and reminders to making great fried chicken:
  • Make sure you use a medium-high heat to cook. Too high and it will cook the chicken on the outside but not the inside.
  • Only turn the chicken over once (or twice is OK too, I have found). Turning it over and over before it really gets a chance to cook and make a crust will allow grease to seep in and you'll end up with greasy chicken.
  • Here's a fun trick to getting a golden color when using plain shortening -- add a few drops of yellow food coloring after the shortening melts to get a golden color on the crust. According to Heloise, "It's a golden yellow and looks as if it had been fried in pure butter!"
Even though this method was described by Heloise 50 years ago, it still holds true today. Good fried chicken is good fried chicken, then and now. 

Heloise said she had a group of friends come over one day who helped her try all sorts of things to come up with the best way to make fried chicken. They tried all kinds of batter recipes -- buttermilk, egg dips, etc.; used a variety of oils, grease, and shortenings; and used all types of cooking vessels -- fryers, cast iron skillets, aluminum and stainless steel pans, etc.

In the end it was the simple way that was best -- salt water soak, plain flour and frying in cast iron. Seems as if "Keep It Simple" applies even to fried chicken. :O)

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