There’s something about the smell of fresh, crispy, tender, juicy fried chicken.
“There’s a little bit of an art form and an anticipation. It’s just one of those smells you can’t mistake,” said chef Tracey Deschaine of Dixie Picnic in Malvern. “I do love fried chicken!”
“It is incredibly delicious and succulently ‘bad for you,’” agreed chef Scott Moore of Billy Burger & Bakery in Elverson.
Why not whip up some this Memorial Day? Just follow their surefire tips.
“There’s a lot of debate about fried chicken — how to do it right,” Deschaine said. “A lot of success depends on getting the right-sized bird.”
She suggests shopping farmers markets or butcher shops for a 3- to 4-pounder.
“Real fried chicken is the breast, the wing, the thigh and the leg in their entirety — joints, meat and all. This is why younger chickens make better frying pieces,” Moore explained. “Simply put — the less work those birds put into those muscles, the more tender and easier to cook.”
He shared two variations, one marinated and the other brined.
“One is a bit more traditional,” Moore described. “And one is a bit more if you have chicken breasts that you want to make into a sandwich, or a salad, or even simple ‘chicken fingers’ for the kids.”
Another option: a dry rub.“If you do the dry rub and let it sit overnight, it really gives great flavor to the meat,” Deschaine said. “The next morning, dip it in the buttermilk and dredge it in the flour.”
“The buttermilk is always a key thing. You can season it with hot sauce. You can season it with pickles or pickled jalapeños,” Moore added. “I think those are the little secrets that grandmothers pass down.”
Crave that extra-crispy coating?
“Most Southern cooks swear by using self-rising flour. That’s their key to a crispy coating,” Deschaine revealed. Also: “Southern cooks swear by peanut oil. But I think more important than what type of oil is having a consistent temperature. 325. That’s the temperature I like to cook my chicken at.”
Try an electric skillet, aka “what your grandmother has under the cabinet.”
Finally, it’s fry time.“Once you put it in your oil, don’t mess with it. Leave it to fry on the one side for 5 minutes without messing with it, 10 minutes for the bigger pieces,” she said. “If you start flipping your chicken too soon, that oil hasn’t cooked that coating enough. You’re going to flip it, and the flour is going to come off.”
Patience pays off. Promise.“Sometimes in cooking the hardest thing to do is do nothing at all,” admitted Deschaine, who serves fried chicken with coleslaw, potato salad and biscuits — true to her roots.
“Growing up with three brothers and my dad and my mom, everyone was always fighting for their favorite piece of the bird,” she recalled.
And when a brother chose fried chicken for his birthday dinner, he called dibs on the drumsticks.
“At the time it wasn’t a fun memory, but it’s certainly a fun one now.”
Fried ChickenIngredientsAbout 8 pieces of chicken, bone and all
Marinade:1 quart buttermilk2 to 3 teaspoons of sugar
2 to 3 teaspoons salt (kosher would be better)
Few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
Batter:1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups cornstarch1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika2 cups cold water
About 10 cups of oil for frying (canola oil is fine)
InstructionsFor the marinade, mix the buttermilk, sugar, salt and hot sauce until combined. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (up to 24 hours), turning them occasionally.
When you’re ready to use the chicken, take it out of the marinade and try to pat completely dry. It’s good to have your chicken closer to room temperature for frying. You can allow the pieces to sit for 20 to 30 minutes.
For the batter, whisk together all the dry ingredients; slowly whisk in water and whisk until smooth. It’s also a good idea to let the batter sit at room temperature for 15 minutes or so
In a safe pot or Dutch oven, heat oil to 350 degrees. Transfer the chicken into the batter, allowing a full coat and let any excess drip off back into your batter bowl. Carefully place chicken into the oil.
Fry the chicken, adjusting your burner or stove top to try and keep the oil at 300 to 325 degrees. Fry until golden brown and cooked through, roughly 12 minutes. Drain the chicken on paper towels and/or a wire rack over a sheet tray. Season with a little sea salt. Bring the oil back up to temperature between frying your other pieces of chicken. This should guarantee you a nice crisp skin.
If you don’t have a hot-oil thermometer, you can use the old wooden spoon trick. If you place the handle of a wooden spoon into your oil, you should see little bubbles come off the spoon. This should mean the oil is around 325 to 350 degrees.
RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF SCOTT MOORE
Fried Chicken BreastsFor a fun way to utilize nice chicken breasts for sandwiches or even a fried main event you can follow these directions.
Clean and trim your chicken breasts, as needed, and cut in half lengthwise if they are thick.
You will create a brine: equal parts sugar (1 cup) and salt (1 cup) whisked into about 2 quarts of water. (You can add your favorite pickles into this water or even other enhancers like pickled jalapeño or garlic.) Let this marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
Create a simple seasoned flour: 3 cups all-purpose flour, less than a ¼ cup of garlic powder, onion powder, cornstarch, smoked paprika, black pepper and salt. (Cayenne pepper or other fun things can be added as well.)
Once the chicken is ready, you will take it out of the brine and place into buttermilk. Coat well. Place this into your seasoned flour and then back into the buttermilk, then back into the flour. This time around, you want that buttermilk to drizzle into your flour to create nooks and crannies on your chicken breast. Transfer the coated/floured breast into your hot oil, around 350 degrees.
This finished product works nicely for a sandwich. You can also simplify all of this by placing your chicken breast in your favorite marinade — using flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs in that order, which always will create a very simple crispy coating.
RECIPE COURTESY OF CHEF SCOTT MOORE
Dixie Picnic Fried ChickenThe day before you want to fry the chicken, you want to cut up the chickens and apply a dry rub overnight.
Ingredients2 whole (3- to 4-pound) chickens, cut into 10 pieces.
It’s best to cut the breast in half, so it cooks more evenly. Make sure to leave the skin on! There are lots of tutorials on YouTube to see how to cut up a whole chicken. Place these in a mixing bowl.
Mix the following spices in a separate small bowl:
1 teaspoon black pepper2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
InstructionsApply to the chicken pieces as a dry rub. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, place in a frying pan (electric or on the stove) about ¾ to 1 inch of peanut oil. Heat to 325 degrees. A constant steady temperature is key to a good final product. That’s why I like a good old-fashioned electric skillet. Set the dial, and you’re good to go.
Place in a mixing bowl: 1 cup buttermilk and 1 beaten egg. Place in another bowl: 4 cups of self-rising flour mixed with 1 teaspoon black pepper and 2 teaspoons kosher salt.
When you’re preparing your chicken, use one hand to dip in the buttermilk mixture and use the other one to dredge it in the flour mixture. I like to start with the big pieces. Dip each piece in the buttermilk mixture and then dredge it in the flour. Place it in the preheated oil and set the timer for 10 minutes.
Turn and do the same for the other side. For the smaller pieces, thighs, drumsticks and wings, set the timer for 5 minutes each side. Check the internal temperature for each piece. Your chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Drain on paper towels or better yet on a wire rack. This chicken is also delicious cold.
RECIPE COURTESY OF DIXIE PICNIC