my pathetic Fried Chicken
This weekend we had a BBQ for some friends. I've been wanting to fry some chicken since reading the posts on here lately with all the tips.Well, it came out lousy. Not crispy, too dark, blah! I thought I did everything right; soaked in butter milk over night, used crisco,started in a little rendered salt pork, let it dry before frying, room temperature etc ( I thought I did my homework!)
Here is what I suspect; 1. My oil was not hot enough, I kind of knew this but the chick got very dark very quickly and started to burn. 2. Maybe I let dry too long and the coating got gummy. Any suggestions?
Redhat, Your results are not uncommon for newbies in the art of frying chicken. Great fried chicken like a great omelette is hard to make. Here's some additional suggestions:
1. Only use a heavy skillet, never a cheap $12.00 teflon pan from Target. Cast iron is best.
2. Heat the skillet without any oil in it on your burner's lowest setting. Heat until the pan is too hot to put your finger on.
3. Add the Crisco or peanut oil. (Your personal preference.)
4. Leave the burner on the lowest setting until the oil is too hot to touch with your finger. Now both the pan and the oil are the same temperature.
5. Move the burner to medium high. Use flour to check the oil for proper temperature. When a pinch of flour sizzles when it hits the oil, you're ready to fry the chicken.
6. Don't crowd the pan with chicken and fry the dark meat separately from the white. Start with the dark meat and leave skin side down for about 5 minutes. Do not turn until the skin is a golden brown.
7. Have your oven on at 200 degrees to hold the first batch of chicken while you fry the white meat.
Your next batch should turn out much better. However, don't be surprised that it might take you years to finally get the seasoning, texture and flavor you want. It's a right of passage.
This is ranging just a bit off-topic, but I've been wathcing the old French Chef episodes available now on DVD (and thank god - I've been waiting forever). In the wonderful episode To Roast a Chicken, Julia displays fryer, broiler, roaster, capon, and stewing chickens, while explaining what defines each in terms of size and age. She also shows how the cartilage at the end of the breastbone can be used as a measure of the age of a chicken.
I recently spoke to an organic farmer who raises chickens who told me that most commercial chickens, through the wonders of hormones and breeding and so one, are sold now at the age of two-three months, no more. That means sold at a roaster size, a five to six pound bird. At that age, Julia's chickens were a mere one to two pounds and considered suitable for frying or broiling only. I can only imagine that frying chicken pieces from a tender, one-pound chicken would be much easier than trying to fry great big pieces from a five-pound chicken.
So, I guess my questions are thus: does anyone still have access to the full range of chicken sizes at his/her supermarket or specialty butcher shop? Was frying chicken easier back when fryers were available? Is there any way to convince the good people in the organic chicken biz that we really do want fryers and old stewing hens as well as roasters? Does anyone else feel cheating out of his/her rightful chicken options, not to mention chickens that taste like chicken?
re: Two Forks
Most chickens sold whole in supermarkets are closer to being roaster size rather than genuine fryer size.
Genuine fryers are used for chicken parts (which is how most chicken is bought nowadays) and by chains that make rotisserie chicken, et cet.
But the issue of size is quite salient: do not try to to replicate a fried chicken recipe by cutting up a roasting chicken.
This also goes for many recipes: many either explicitly state they are intended for 3-4 lb birds, and people assume that the recipe works just as well with a 5-6 lb bird -- well, it often won't work as well.
re: Karl S
Seems the pervasive $.69-$.99/lb chickens I get at Roche Bros, Stop and Shop, and Market Basket weigh in at right around 3 lb, sometimes up to 4. I eat 2-3 a week, so I am quite certain of their wide availability. These are what I have always seen as "fryers". The "Oven Stuffer" roasters seem to be in the 6 lb range. Both seem to be widely available.
My understanding, in response to OP, is these tend to be 6-8 week old chickens, while the roasters (Oven Stuffer, and supermarket brand labeled as roasting chicken) are as much as 12 weeks old.
re: Two Forks
Oh, sorry, I was confused - I was thinking in terms of what's available at the supermarket, not what's sold for commercial use, and I'm sure you're right that most of the chicken that are doomed to end up as chicken fingers are fryers. But I've never seen a chicken smaller than four pounds at the supermarket. So, does anyone know how old most supermarket chickens are?
Okay, I just googled a bit and found the following, from Wine Spectator: "In fact, says Richard Lobb, communications director for the National Chicken Council, the typical supermarket chicken is closer to 7 weeks old. Fryers generally weigh about 3 to 5 pounds." So the average supermarket chicken is the size that in Julia's mind would have made it a roaster or broiler, but it is now considered a fryer. And it's younger to boot. So now I'm back to my original questions - does anyone have access to the full range of chicken ages/sizes anymore, was frying chicken easier when you could get a 1-2 pound fryer, does that lack of the same piss anyone else off as much as it does me, and what can be done about it? Even most of the smaller organic chicken farms I've looked at just sell generic "chicken," no age given, in the 4-5 pound range. Does anyone know of a source for real stewing and frying chickens either online or in the Boston area?
I have a butcher shop that sells chickens from a local source and I can get real fryers, I am going to have to ask about getting old hens. The only thing they have not been able to get for me is hanger steak. The chicken I fried up last night was under 3 lbs. before being cut up. They taste better too. I have sworn off supermarket meat.
My chicken came out perfectly last night crispy and moist. I use a cast iron skillet and I do use a thermometer at all times when I am frying. I get the oil to 350F before adding the chicken and monitor the heat, regulating it to keep it at about 320 F. while it fries.
I haven't made fried chicken in a while, but have had the most success w/ the linked recipe. I do remember it being a touch salty so might reduce the salt in the brine next time. I used cayenne and no herbs.
What I thought was very important about this technique:
1. Cornmeal in coating added nice texture and flavor.
2. Brining, of course! Flavorful to the bone.
3. Letting the coated pieces set in the fridge for 1-2 hrs. None of the coating slipped off while frying.
4. Covering for first 5 min. of frying. Helped inside to get done more quickly.
5. Cooling on wire rack instead of paper towels or bag maintained its crispiness better.
I'm going to make this again very, very soon. Have also heard of some cooks in the south who brown a bunch of onion slices first to infuse the oil.
Your oil was not hot enough. Use the Joy of Cooking recipe. Use a very heavy skillet and a candy thermometer. I made perfect fried chicken the first time out this way.
Also try to find good free-range chicken, as fresh as possible and not chilled in water. Frozen is okay but not optimal. Get whole chickens and cut them up yourself.