OMG. The best fried chicken ever and it’s not my recipe.
I have suffered over making fried chicken. I have several Southern staples slap down. I can make a mean pie crust. I can fry catfish with the best of them. But fried chicken has always defeated me. To brine or not to brine? All-purpose flour or self-rising? I’ve tried both ways in both categories to no decent result. And the infamous direction in any fried chicken recipe: cook until done. What the hell does that mean? How do you know if it’s done?
So I was very anxious to try the recipe in Bon Appetit. The whole issue is on Southern food and the recipe promised this: “This is the only fried chicken recipe you’ll ever need.” Pretty boastful.
I am a big believer in following a recipe exactly the first time. And I did. And I learned some things. The first thing is that today’s chickens are too damn big. Fried chicken, as I learned in the article, began as a spring dish with young chickens. Small chickens. If you look at a package of chicken breasts in the supermarket today they’re the size of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s biceps. So I cut the breasts in half, as the article advised.
The second thing I learned is that you should flip the chicken every two minutes or so. You’d think after countless tries of making fried chicken and having one side turn out almost black I would have figured this out.
The third thing is about seasoning. I’ve wet brined chickens before and I always thought the texture of the meat became spongy. What the article says is to dry brine it. They don’t call it that because they’re probably worried they’d scare you off, but basically you just apply the seasonings the night before and rest the chicken in the fridge. Somehow the spices penetrate all the way to the bone. How do it know? My question always about mysterious processes I can’t understand. I don’t know how it knows. But it does.
Last, cook until done. Get an instant read probe thermometer. I’ve told you about this before, people. Twenty
bucks at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I had to list the top five essential kitchen tools, this would be near the top of the list. The chicken is done when the thermometer reads 165 with the probe in the thickest part of the meat but not touching the bone. Actually, you can just go to 160 because the meat will continue to cook after you take it out of the pan, which naturally must be cast iron. Don’t make me come after you.
One thing I didn’t do in following the directions is get a deep-fat thermometer. Too cheap and I followed the old Southern rule of knowing when fat is hot enough to fry in: Stick the handle of a wooden spoon in the pan. If bubbles immediately (but not furiously) form around the handle, the fat is just right.
So I am giving major props to Bon Appetit (someone asked me the other day what “props” meant – Aretha Franklin, look it up) by not even putting the recipe here. Go to Bon Appetit for it. They deserve all the credit. Guess I should describe the end result. Shatteringly crispy skin. Deep flavor in the meat. Utterly juicy. What your grandmother probably made every Sunday. Not mine, but yours. I feel complete. I’m on top of the world. Master of the universe. I ate three pieces by myself. Bad mommy. But so good.