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Making a Crispy Fried Chicken

(Newsletter Issue #010)


How to make a crispy fried chicken

Fried chicken, deservedly one of our most popular fried foods, is not technically deep-fried, because it isn't completely submerged in the oil. Rather, it is cooked by the method called shallow-frying, in which food is fried in enough oil or other fat to come halfway up its sides. Frying gets the chicken piping hot and very crispy - when you want a really great crust, it's the best method.

Cooks debate endlessly about how to coat chicken to get the best crust. However, we can just dredge the chicken parts in flour. Since chicken skin browns perfectly well on its own, it needs only a little help to get really crisp. We save more substantial batters made with flour, water, oil and sometimes eggs, to deep-fry moist foods like vegetables that don't have a skin and so need an additional something to produce a crispy outer layer. Don't use a bread-crumb coating for frying chicken as the breading just gets too oily. Breaded chicken breasts are better sautéed. Two to four hours in a white wine marinade before frying will add enough flavor to the chicken so that it won't need a sauce. But if you like, serve fried chicken with a salsa or a flavored mayonnaise.

Kitchen Notes

  • Fry chicken at 360oF.

  • An electric frying pan is good for frying chicken because the built-in thermostat makes it easy to regulate the temperature.

  • Most cooks use vegetable oil for frying chicken, but "pure" olive oil (not extra virgin, which is expensive) will give it an even better flavor.

Fried Chicken

1. Cut the wings off a chicken and then cut it into 8 pieces. If desired, marinate the chicken for 2 to 4 hours in a mixture of chopped garlic, sliced onions, white wine and a little olive oil. 3. Heat the oil in a electric frying pan or large heavy pot to 360oF. Gently lower the chicken pieces into the oil with tongs. Start checking the chicken after 5 minutes.
2. Just before frying, toss the (drained) chicken pieces in flour and pat off the excess. 4. When the pieces have browned on one side, turn them over. The chicken is done when the pieces feel firm to the touch with no fleshiness, about 10 to 15 minutes in all. Drain on paper towels.

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