Cooking

Fry a Little Tenderness

Master the art of fried chicken at home
Golden delicious fried chicken [All Photos: Tasting Table]
TT Culinary Institute: Fried Chicken

We've declared August 11-22 Fried Chicken Fortnight. Watch this space for two full weeks of recipes, chicken talk, chef tips and more.

"It starts with an alluring, intoxicating aroma," says food editor Andy Baraghani.

He closes his eyes and breathes in deeply. He tends to get a little emotional when he talks about fried chicken. We understand. Homemade fried chicken is pretty much the only reason to even look at your stovetop during the month of August. 

There's the wonderful smell of drumsticks sizzling in the kitchen, of cayenne-spiked flour melding with buttermilk as it turns golden and crisps. It's the promise of a delicious dinner and, if you're smart and make a big enough batch, some cold-chicken snacking the next day.

The idea of frying chicken at home can seem daunting. "Will I burn my kitchen down?" you may ask yourself. No, you won't. Not if you follow Andy's advice and open your eyes to the wonders of perfect homemade fried chicken (see the recipe).

Two-for-one brine
Since the finished chicken is all wrapped up in its delicious crisp shell, you'll need to season it properly beforehand. We find the most efficient way to do this is with a salty, flavor-packed buttermilk brine, infused with bashed-up herbs, garlic, hot sauce and lemon peel. Sounds over the top, but it does the work of a brine and buttermilk soak all at once: Each flavor will shine through and leave no bite unsalted. 

Takin' it slow
Let the chicken gradually come to room temperature before you dredge and fry. Just place the meat on a rack to let any excess brine drip off; that way the flour will cling directly to the chicken.

The crunch factor
"You need that crunch, but you don't want to make people work too hard to get to the juicy, tender meat," Andy explains. A single dredge in seasoned flour is plenty. 

What you need: a heavy pot, neutral oil, two thermometers and plenty of aromatics

Put it in neutral
The grande dame of Southern cuisine Edna Lewis fried her chicken in a mixture of lard and butter, seasoned with a slice of country ham. At home, we keep things simple with a neutral oil, like canola, and a deep, heavy-bottomed pot.

Take the temperature
Until you get a feeling for the frying process, just use thermometers. One to keep an eye on the temperature of the oil and an instant-read thermometer to check the meat. If it's not done but the crunchy crust is that perfect shade of gold, don't keep frying until it's dark and bitter: Better to remove it from the oil and let it finish gently in a 400-degree oven.

  • Infuse buttermilk with lemon peel, fresh bruised herbs and plenty of salt for flavor in every bite of chicken.

  • A single dredge is seasoned flour is all you need.

  • Remove chicken when it's golden, but let a thermometer be your guide.

  • Ready to make perfect fried chicken at home? Here's the recipe.

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