When someone offers me fried chicken, my first thought is to go into a carton bucket and pull out a drumstick. But I also recall dipping a craggy chicken piece into a pool of honey mustard after inserting a short skewer into a scorching hot bag of spicy popcorn chicken from a bubble tea business in Los Angeles. Fried chicken, from cutlets to full, deep-fried birds, is less of a fixed recipe and more of a culinary flow condition.
While it’s easy to attribute a perfect piece of fried chicken to trade secrets or a kitchen filled with a restaurant-grade deep fryer, the majority of the fundamental components required for any of these types are already in your kitchen—and most likely accessible at your local grocery store. You can even try a few different varieties of fried chicken in one week if you buy a whole chicken and break it down yourself, capitalising on the delights of eating the chicken while it’s still scorching hot and fresh from the fryer. It’s also a lot more fun to mix and match your dips. Consider this: a selection of spicy sauce, allioli, matcha salt, and anything else strikes your fancy in the heat of the moment!
Chicken breast is ideal for making katsu cutlets as well as milanesa and schnitzel. Flattened chicken has a larger surface area and cooks faster, allowing you to enjoy your sandwich sooner. Wings and drumsticks not only have a built-in grip, but they also offer greater taste than boneless counterparts. Many boneless chicken recipes call for a brief marinade or the use of ground spices during the dredging process to get around this. Skin-on, two-inch chicken thigh pieces are marinated in a mixture of ginger, garlic, sesame oil, and sake before being coated in flour and then potato starch to seal in the juicy marinade.
Flavor layering in fried chicken is a balancing effort. If you’re going to marinate or brine your chicken in pickle juice, buttermilk, or even sweet tea, time is key. If possible, brine for at least four hours and up to overnight. Shake off any excess marinade and pat the chicken dry. Some recipes include a step to air-dry it on a rack in the fridge for added crunch.
Dredging chicken may be as simple as covering it in flour, egg, and any crunch you desire, from panko to Cap’n Crunch or crushed potato chips! However, work swiftly to ensure that the oil is at the proper temperature, which can range from 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the recipe. However, if you marinated the chicken, flour will not absorb all of the surplus liquid. Cornstarch and potato starch are particularly useful for soaking up moisture yet remaining crispy after cooked. Before dumping the chicken into the oil, give it a little shake to remove any extra coating. It’s good advise for frying anything to maintain the coating uniform and the oil clean of floating particles.
The temperature and purity of the oil are critical to the frying process, as I discovered five years ago while watching cooks at New York’s Tempura Matsui lazily drag a sieve through the deep, circular vats of boiling oil between batches. I prefer to imitate this while skimming and getting the oil back up to full temperature while listening to calm ambient music. Reusing canola, vegetable, safflower, and other high-temperature oils is perfectly OK. You may clear oil using cornstarch, or if you can wait until the next day, you can use this gelatin procedure, which is more thorough.
Travel Beyond the Bucket With These Fried Chicken Recipes: