Have you ever wished you could make good ol' Southern fried chicken? And not just make it, but end up with chicken that's even better than KFC? Well, you're in luck because today I'm gonna show you how it's done!
I've been surprised at the number of women I meet that don't know how to make fried chicken. Some have been young and inexperienced, but some have been older and have had lots of years of experience under their belts, yet don't know how to make it. What a shame. Good fried chicken is a must. Like as in, I think God forgot an 11th commandment, "Every woman shalt know how to fry a chicken." So let's remedy that, shall we?
Now, let me just start this off by saying that I have no culinary training and what you'll learn here today has come by trial and error and lots of practice. I'm sure there are a lot of other ways it can be done, but this is what works for me. The only credentials I can provide for my cooking skills is this: When my husband was in the Marines we were stationed at Camp Lejeune and lived in a little house a couple of miles off base. We often had other Marines over for a home cooked meal who were single and missing loved ones. One in particular was my husband's best friend in the military. His parents came to visit him and on the first night there they told him they wanted to take him out to his favorite place to eat and told him he could choose any place in town that he wanted. You know what he said? Stephanie's kitchen. So there you have it. Those are my qualifications. A Marine that had the choice of any restaurant in town and he chose my kitchen. : )
Let's get started. Here's what you're gonna need.
- Chicken thighs and drumsticks with skin
(for this recipe I used 6 thighs and 4 drums)
- 1 Cup milk
- 3 Cups flour
(for gluten-free try using cornstarch in place of flour)
(for gluten-free try using cornstarch in place of flour)
- Oil for frying
(*Update - lard is preferred)
(*Update - lard is preferred)
- salt and pepper
- Seasoned salt
- Old Bay Seasoning (this is a must!)
- 2 eggs
The main spice I use in my fried chicken is The Farmhouse Blend. It's a combination Hubby and I came up with and we use it on a lot of stuff. It's awesome on fried potatoes, homemade french fries, chicken, fish, and even in mac-n-cheese! All it is is equal amounts of Old Bay Seasoning and seasoned salt. I keep mine in an Old Bay container that's marked so that I don't get it mixed up with the other non-blended one.
(Old Bay can be found at most any grocery store in the spice aisle.)
Start off by putting your 3 cups of flour into a long shallow container of some sort. I find that a 9 x 13 pan works well. Add 3.5 - 4 Tablespoons of The Farmhouse Blend. Get in there with your fingers and mix it in really well. You might think it seems like a lot of seasoning, and it kind of is, but that's the secret. You want that flour to be tinted almost pink with seasoning so that you end up with lots of flavor in the crust.
Next, in a round shaped container mix the 1 cup of milk and 2 eggs. Use a fork and whip it up like you're going to make scrambled eggs. I've used buttermilk instead of regular and it works well and adds nice flavor, but I do find that it tends to soak up a lot more flour thus giving a thicker crust.
Now you're going to prep your chicken pieces. The drums should be ok, but thighs usually tend to have an extra flap of skin that's not needed. Go ahead and cut those off.
Now that all your prep work is done you're ready to start heating your oil. I always use a cast iron skillet, but any large good quality skillet will suffice just fine, though if you're serious about making excellent chicken I would suggest you invest in a good cast iron piece.
I usually just eyeball it here, but for your sake I measured the oil this time. If you're not too technical you can stick your finger in and if comes almost to the crease of your first finger joint you're good. If you like things more precise my larger 12" skillet took 3.5 cups of oil and the 10" skillet needed 2 cups. You can use whatever kind of oil you prefer. I've used Canola before and even lard, though I'm not as experienced with lard and I've found that it cooks differently than oil.
*Update (March 2014)- I now only use lard. I put in several big scoops and heat it the same, though it reacts differently and seems to get hotter the longer it goes, so I usually have to turn it down a bit more than I do with vegetable or canola oil. I much prefer it over regular oil because it results in a crispier and less greasy piece of chicken. The vegetable and canola oil soak into the breading much more than the lard does, so if you can get your hands on some good quality, unprocessed lard then do it! It makes for the best fried chicken!*
Set you're heat on med/high. You want it good and hot. For my stove and cast iron skillet I use setting #6.
Before you start to coat you're chicken you need to give it a good healthy dose of salt and pepper on both sides. Don't be afraid of salt. I don't believe that hogwash that it's bad for you, and the flavor just isn't the same if you add it after cooking. So sprinkle it on liberally. This is going to give the actual meat some good flavor instead of everything just being in the crust.
Now you're ready to start the breading process. Dip the chicken one piece at a time into your flour mixture. (Adding a coating of flour first will give the egg/milk mixture something to cling to and make it less likely that your breading will just slide right off.)
* I personally haven't tried this, but have heard that a good gluten free version of this is to use corn starch in place of the flour and that it still turns out great. *
Make sure it's coated really well and use the backs of your fingers to press it on. The firmer it's attached to the skin, the better it's going to stay adhered during the cooking process. Give it a gentle shake to shake off any excess flour.
Next, soak the floured chicken in your milk/egg mixture.
Again, make sure it's coated well and allow the excess to drip off for a few seconds. If you have a lot of excess moisture you're more likely to have the coating slip off.
After the egg mixture, then you'll place it back in the flour and do a second coating of flour. Press it, squeeze it, massage it - just make sure the flour is adhered well.
This is what it should look like after 2 coatings.
Just set it aside on a plate and start on the rest of your batch the same way.
Here's a little tip - don't wash off all this gooey stuff from your fingers. It's going to provide a nice protective coating to your fingertips when you go to lay the chicken in the hot oil.
By this time your oil or lard should be nice and sizzling hot. I always test it by dropping in a little pinch of flour. If it sizzles and spits you're good to go, if not wait a little longer. (Be patient because if you put it in before it's hot enough the coating will just soak up the oil and get soggy and fall off.) In the above picture it's sizzling and ready to fry. (For you technical types I tested the temp for you and it was around 325.)
Gently lay your chicken in the hot oil being careful not to splatter it on yourself. I suggest wearing an apron to protect your clothing because there is always splatter of some sort.
Don't crowd your skillet. You want plenty of room around each piece so that you can turn them easily. I always have two skillets going, one for thighs and the smaller one for drums.
Now, this is important. The heat was set at a high temp because you want to sear the coating. This helps lock in the moisture, and it also helps make the coating sturdier and less likely to fall off. So, you're going to place the chicken in this very hot oil for about 2 minutes.
Then you're going to flip them and sear the other side for another 2 minutes.
They should be a nice golden brown after 2-3 minutes at a hot temp.
After searing the second side for 2 minutes, you're going to place a lid over your skillet and turn the heat down very low. On my stove I turn it down to a 1.
If you don't have a lid to fit your skillet you can use foil over it and it should work just fine. I had to do that a time or two after Hubby broke my first big glass lid.
Set your timer for 12 minutes. I would suggest checking them halfway through to make sure they aren't getting too browned (or black, but I wouldn't know anything about that...cough cough).
(A lot of people will tell you never to place a lid over frying chicken, I think because it sort of steams them and could make them soggy, BUT...we'll deal with that at the end. I've never had good success getting them cooked all the way through without using a lid.)
Here's another tip for you - when the 12 minutes are up and you lift the lid to flip the chicken over, be sure to lift the lid straight up, not at an angle. There were will be condensation on the lid and if you lift it at an angle it'll drip into the oil and cause major spurts and splatters that result in much pain to your forearms. Drain the lid over the sink before placing it back over the chicken.
Ok, so here we're are about halfway through. My chicken has cooked for 12 minutes under a lid and now I've flipped them over, very gently I might add. You don't want to tear the coating, so treat them with a gentle touch.
Place the lid back over the skillet and continue frying on low for another 12 minutes.
If you're making enough chicken that you'll be doing two batches then at this point you're going to want to preheat your oven to 200º so that you can keep your first batch nice and hot while you fry up the 2nd batch.
Now the 2nd round of 12 minutes is up and yes, your chicken is going to be a little on the soft/soggy side. To remedy this you're going to take the lid off and crank that burner back up to med/high and set your timer for 3 minutes. Then flip the chicken over and let it fry for another 2 minutes at med/high. This will crisp the coating back up to perfection as well as get it hot enough to sear the coating on your 2nd batch.
At this point, congratulations, it's ready to devour! But if you're doing another batch place the first batch into a glass container, loosely cover with foil, and keep them in the warm oven until you're ready to eat.
Ok, so let me just offer a bit of encouragement here. I know this seems like a lot of information to absorb, and maybe you're feeling overwhelmed and reluctant to try this out. But please don't be intimidated, just get in there and try it. Take it one step at a time and just practice practice practice. Even though I've given you all the help I know how to, you'll still have to get used to your own skillet, the settings on your stove, etc.
Don't be discouraged if it doesn't turn out perfectly the first time. It certainly didn't for me. I had been married for almost 7 years before I was brave enough to even try it for the first time. I fried it up to what looked like golden perfection and made some yummy sides to go with it. We sat down to dinner with our mouths watering....and cut into bloody chicken. I was so disappointed and aggravated that I cried. I really did. BUT...I didn't let that stop me. It took me several more times, but eventually I got it right, and now my husband and others who've tried it say I could put KFC out of business.
So stick with it! Keep trying until you get it right. Your taste buds will thank you, not to mention your grateful family!
If you're in need of a cast iron skillet here's one made by Lodge. The 2nd handle is super handy on these large ones 'cause they're heavy! I love having the extra handle on mine.
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