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Fried Chicken ... to soak or not?

I've been tasked to make fried chicken for a Memorial Day gathering.

I'd like to get some guidance and advice about whether the chicken should first be bathed or soaked in buttermilk (or yogurt) prior to dredging and frying?

I know some people don't bother with the buttermilk part, and I also know that some people are adamant that that the chicken should be soaked in buttermilk for a couple of hours, if not overnight.

Any thoughts?

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  1. Count me in as a buttermilk soaker.

    I add salt and pepper to the milk and I think that acts as a brine, making the chicken quite tender. I also think the milk draws out blood and such, also a positive.

    1. I also totally advocate soaking overnight in buttermilk. It just makes everything so moist and tender, and is such an easy step in what can be a messy undertaking.
      Also, a good amount of salt, pepper and cayenne in your flour is a most.
      Where is that old post for the best fried chicken anyway? I remember someone asked for an old BA recipe (or from some food mag) and miraculously, someone was able to dig it up. That recipe was definitely full of love.

      1. I'm a firm believer in the soak overnight in buttermilk method. No idea what the chemistry is behind it, but I'm always sorry when I don't do it. In addition to S&P, I also add a hit of Sriracha. But then, I add a hit of Sriracha to just about everything.

        1. Soak soak soak then drip drip drain then bounce bounce bread then dry then fry.

          Chicken is better when soaked in lactic acid (produced by lactobacilli in both buttermilk and yogurt).

          Soak 24 hours in buttermilk or yogurt, with added salt, white pepper, garlic. Add some vinegar (acetic acid) to give a complementary acid tang,

          Drain off the excess soaking solution on wire racks. (There should be 10 pieces per chicken, since you surely cut those humongous breasts in half).

          Dredge in your favorite mix of flour and 11 herbs and spices, using a clear plastic bag inflated with a lungful of air and spun-twisted shut. Kids love the "inflate-the-bag-and -spin-it-shut" part, and so do I. Then, enjoy the jubilant bounce as you shake it up and down and get a product that is coated, but not clumpy. Remove with care to causing no wet-clumped fingers destroying the breading. Let the beasts now air dry on the rack.

          Then fry.

          6 Replies
          1. re: FoodFuser

            I wish I would have seen this Tuesday. I did everything you said FoodFuser...except fry. I baked. And while the chicken meat was good because of the soak, my crust came out woefully soggy. I gotta keep trying 'til I get it right. I was a little hesitant to fry using all that oil for fear I would be able to control the heat in my skillet. At least I still got good taqsting meat, but I wimped out.

            1. re: JackieChiles

              Jackie, I don't deep fry, I pan fry my fried chicken, using just a couple inches of oil in a frying pan, and flipping halfway through cooking to cook the other side. This method makes great fried chicken. Also, I use the smallest chickens I can find. This is not the time for the Oven-Stuffer Roaster.

              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                Trish, I did use a bigger chicken, and usually do. Perhaps that is my problem. I've tried several times to do what you suggest, but more than a few times the chicken doesn't get cooked all the way through. The smaller chicken is probably the key. My two biggest problems thus far are soggy crust and under cooked bird. I'll give her another whirl. Thanks.

                1. re: JackieChiles

                  If I am feeling lazy, or don't want to smell up the house with pan frying, I will "oven fry" my chicken and it always comes out crispy. Try to allow for soaking time, but sometimes during the week, there just isn't enough advance thought & planning available. I dip chicken pieces or tenders in melted butter and then in mixture of bread crumbs, seasoning, crushed corn flakes or panko and air dry on rack for 30-45 min. Vake in 375-400 convection oven on rack, allows air to circulate all around, making skin very crispy.

                  Another tip - when I am pan frying multiple chickens for a large crowd, I do the dark meat first, then stick on rack over cookie sheet, keep warm in 275 oven and cook second batch of white meat. This allows more time for dark meat to "cook through". I try to find broilers in the 3 lb or 3.5 lb range and cut them up myself.

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    You know, I didn't use a rack. I didn't have one big enough. I guess I need that. I did use a whole chicken, cut up myself. I soaked it in buttermilk over night, and I did use panko also. I feel I'm getting close from everything I've read, but I guess I'll keep trying with these additional suggestions. Thanks

                    1. re: JackieChiles

                      I'm not a perfect chef either and sometimes have cooked the outside of the chicken too fast in the pan, so I do something similar to what Diane does.

                      I take the chicken after it is browned on both sides, and put it on a cooling rack on top of a flatish pan or cookie sheet with sides, and cook the chicken at around 350 degrees until it is done. The nice thing about using the rack is the frying grease is repelled off the chicken and you don't need to put it on paper towels, or paper bags afterwards.

                      This works really well. The chicken is crispy and cooked through.

                      Also, in my flour mix, I use a lot of salt, black pepper and a pinch of cayenne.

          2. Hi All – This is an update to this thread.

            It is, after all, my favorite thread. Why? Because it was my first post on CH, and because I just started a new job and have not have any time to post lately. I’m happy to be posting and cooking again! There are a very many great people on this board that have eased my way into the CH culture and its been much appreciated.

            So to the fried chicken! See my two photos please.

            Question # 1) Why did it come out so dark? Well, it’s really not all that dark, but there are spots that are really dark? Is that blood? Did I fry it too long? It soaked in buttermilk for two days? Why did the blood not disperse – I still saw blood on the cut bones, even after the 48 hour soak?

            Question # 2) Look at my pan? The bits are the left over panko, I think. I used half Crisco, half Veg Oil. I think it looks clean but I’m not sure. I did not use garlic so that is not garlic.

            Overall – it tasted good, had a good crunch, but I think I can do better (well – I’ve tasted better anyway)

            Here’s how I prepared it.

            1) 48 hour soak in buttermilk. I put it in Wed, and didn’t have the strength to do it Thurs., so I waited until today.
            2) Drained chicken of the buttermilk
            3) Dredged in flour, panko (half a small bag of panko is all I had left so I added it), salt, pepper, and cayenne. (What amounts do you use? I eyeballed it).
            4) Fried in a cast iron skillet with half Crisco, half veg oil (I just didn’t have enough Crisco to go the whole mile).
            5) Let stand on a rack for 30 mins.

            Ok –As I said, the taste was good, but I’ve had better, and I’ve seen better. What can I possibly be doing different to make the perfect fried chicken? Or is this a case of sometimes it tastes better when SOMEONE ELSE prepares it. I’m not sure.

            Thanks All

            Oh - One other question. Why don't more people post pictures on this site? I'm so much of a visual cook, I love pictures, it really helps me a lot. I always feel a little let down when someone describes a great recipe or dish that sounds so good, but I don't get any pictures! Is it just me or what?

             
             
            3 Replies
            1. re: JackieChiles

              mmm fried chicken. so simple but so elusive. does any one have any tips on making the crust crispy but not overly greasy? i've had good results with flavorful, tender chicken but my crust, while crispy always ends up a bit on the greasy side? could it be the type of oil i fry in? i used peanut oil last. maybe i should just go for broke and buy that lard...

              1. re: cookswithcats

                I do have a tip for de-greasing fried chicken, as I stated above. I call it the "heat repelling" system.

                After the chicken is fried, put it on a baking sheet with a cooking rack on it. Place the chicken on the rack and bake in a preheated 350 to 400 degree oven for just a few minutes. The grease will run from the chicken skin through the rack onto the cooking sheet.

                By using the "heat repelling" system, I don't even need to drain the chicken on paper towels or a paper bag, etc... The heat and rack does the work for me.

                This method also helps if the chicken fries on the outside too quickly and is still undercooked inside. You can cook it until it is done in the hot oven.

                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  Another southerner's vote for buttermilk. It makes it stickier for one, so the coating adheres better, but the acidity-tenderizing effect can't be beat with a brine.

                  I LOVE this "heat repelling" idea. I did it once by accident with some larger pieces that were getting a little too brown in the oil...moved them to the oven and they came out so dry and crisp. Perfect. I'll just do it like that every time now!