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I can't think of anything more heavenly than a pile of perfectly fried chicken.
But, let’s face it, fried chicken can be intimidating to make.
Even as a seasoned home cook, I followed a strict no-fried-chicken-at-home rule for a while. But not anymore! Here are my secrets for fully cooked, super-juicy, crispy chicken every single time.
1. EMBRACE THE MESS
The first rule of fried chicken is to embrace the mess.
Your shirt will most likely be covered in clouds of flour and, yes, your stovetop may get a little greasy. Your hands are definitely going to get breaded (like mine did in the video above) but this is all part of the fun and well worth the effort. After all, you can just wash them off -- they're not going to be like that for the rest of your life!
“It's fine if you bread your fingers because you can just wash them off. They're not going to be like that for the rest of your life.”
2. GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR MARINADE
Marinating (or brining) the chicken is the key to juicy, perfectly seasoned chicken.
For my Ranch Fried Chicken, I flavor my buttermilk marinade with some ranch seasonings to give it a #basic twist. If that’s not your vibe, marinate them in a quart of buttermilk with some of your favorite seasonings. We make fried chicken in the prep kitchen pretty often. It's one of Rachael's favorite things. She actually has a really, really delicious Italian fried chicken, where she basically just marinates it with all these delicious yummy Italian herbs and garlic and rosemary. Or try Sunny Anderson’s Sweet Tea Fried Chicken brine.
Just make sure you don’t marinate it for too long or the meat will get weirdly soft—I recommend at least an hour but no more than 24 hours.
3. THINK FLOUR + POWER
What’s fried chicken without a crunchy coating that's both crisp and tender? We ask you what some of your biggest problems were when frying chicken were and Jamale commented "fried chicken is that the breading always falls off."
To guarantee perfectly breaded chicken, you’re going to have to get your hands dirty and pack the flour onto the chicken. Like really pound it on there. I could explain this in further detail but, honestly, it’s probably easier if you just watch me do it in the video. It should basically look like your chicken is covered in pie dough with little dough crumblets hanging off if you do it right.
4. LET IT REST AFTER YOU BREAD IT (BE PATIENT PART I)
Patience makes perfection in this recipe. There are a few moments of marinating, waiting, coating, waiting, frying and waiting some more -- but trust me, it’s well worth it.
After the chicken is coated, it needs to rest… waiting for your oil to heat up is the perfect amount of time, which brings me to my next tip.
5. MAKE SURE YOUR OIL IS HOT ENOUGH (BE PATIENT PART II)
You want to make sure that the oil is hot enough before you drop the chicken into it because if you drop it in and the oil's not hot enough, then the breading's going to get soggy and it might fall off.
How will you know if your oil is hot enough? Drop one of those little crumblets in. You want to see it sink a little bit and then immediately pop back up with a bunch of bubbles around it. That means you’re ready to start fryin’.
Because the oil temperature is so important, you also want to work in batches and make sure to let your oil get hot again in-between.
6. ...THEN TURN THE TEMP DOWN AT THE EXACT RIGHT MOMENT
Now here’s the secret you really need to know to nail perfect fried chicken every time: Drop the breaded chicken into a super hot pot of oil, pop a lid on it and turn the heat down to medium low. The low heat guarantees that the coating won’t burn before the chicken is cooked and the lid traps the heat both frying and steaming to chicken at the same time.
By the way, don’t be alarmed when the chicken starts to pop, hiss and spatter -- that means this method is working just fine.
7. BE PATIENT PART III
You're going to want to eat this chicken right when it comes out of the pot but I would encourage you to again let the chicken rest because if you start eating it right now, all of that delicious yummy crispy coating, is going to fall off.
Instead, while your chicken rests, it’s time to think about what you might want to serve it with. We asked you guys on YouTube, "Do you like to serve your fried chicken with any condiments?" and here were the poll results:
Those of you who chose “other” had some pretty interesting ideas. One of my favorite’s was Carlos who suggested a buffalo, BBQ mash-up (which I’d like to call Buffalo-becue sauce.)
Wesley likes to serve his with a homemade pink peppercorn honey, which sounds perfect! You could also try my Mexican Ranch or, if you’re a ketchup lover like my friend Jeanette, try her recipe for Sweet & Smoky Ketchup.