"I always brine chicken, because it seasons it all the way through," says Julia Lee, aka the Fry Queen and a cooking teacher in San Francisco. She likes her chicken seasoned very well; if you prefer it less salty, go for the shorter brining time and smaller amount of salt.
3/4 to 1 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 small chicken (about 4 lbs.), back removed, cut into 10 pieces (2 wings, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, and both breasts halved crosswise)
About 6 cups peanut* or canola oil for frying
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
How to Make It
Put 3/4 cup salt, the sugar, and 4 cups cold water into a large bowl and stir to dissolve. Add chicken pieces, cover, and chill 1 to 2 hours.
Drain chicken; pat dry. Pour oil into a heavy 6- to 8-qt. pot. Heat over medium-high heat until oil reaches 375° on a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Reduce heat to medium (oil will stay hot).
Meanwhile, mix flour, baking powder, and pepper in a bowl. Coat chicken in mixture. Let sit 30 minutes; coat again. "The flour gets sticky again, and the second coat will stick to the first," Lee says. "It makes it extra crispy." (You can dredge up to 2 hours before frying.)
Carefully lower chicken into hot oil, working in two batches so the pieces aren't touching. "If you overcrowd the pan, the oil temp gets too low, and you won't get that even, golden crust." Cook chicken until golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes per batch, turning at least once. As you fry, move pieces occasionally, "like they're floating in a bathtub. It keeps them from touching the bottom and forming brown spots." The oil temperature will drop when you add the chicken; adjust the heat to keep it about 350°. Color is one clue to the chicken's doneness, but so is sound. "You'll know it's done when there are fewer bubbles and the frying becomes significantly quieter," says Lee. Also, watch the second batch carefully: "It may cook a bit faster than the first--I often lower the heat."
Set a rack in a baking pan. Using a slotted spoon or spatula, transfer chicken to the rack in a single layer to drain.
*Peanut oil is ideal for frying, since it can reach 375° to 400° without burning.
This was a skills-stretching recipe for me-I've never done frying like this on the stove top, and the dredging didn't seem to have enough flavor (when I read it), but I decided to give it a shot. I'm verrrry glad I invested in the thermometer and went ahead and jumped right in. Hands down, no reservations, the best home-made fried chicken I've ever had. The original article showed the chef using chopsticks to move the chicken around, and I found that doing that gave me more control of the meat and created less mess when I dredged or added meat into the oil, while keeping my fingers well out of the range of the oil. It kept well for about 2 days of leftovers.
I followed this recipe exactly as it was written. I blame myself for being a person who strictly follows the rules - always. I HAD TO write a review to help someone else from making the same mistake I did. PLEASE drastically cut the amount of salt in the brine. While the chicken was beautifully colored, and crispy and juicy just like I wanted, the taste was similar to eating HAM because of the overpowering flavor of the salt. I literally watched my family's blood pressure rising while we ate dinner. I emplore you all - cut down the salt. I stumbled across another brine recipe that called for 2 tablespoons salt w 4 cups of water! How can that be? I will try that another day. Happy frying everybody.
Wrong completely! Sugar is NEVER added to chicken. Besides the fact of being bad for you it gives a false taste to the poultry! It takes away from the chicken flavor! Get rid of all the salt and in its place for spices add onion powder, All Purpose Seasonings, With a touch of Paprika. Also instead of soaking the chicken in water, soak in buttermilk over night. Now this will give the real taste you need for REAL Fried Chicken. Savory, delicious, completely enjoyable. Being a chef my customers told me they never had a more delicious taste in chicken ever.
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