Monday, April 17, 2006

Alton Brown's Fried Chicken

from Good Eats

1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces*
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 tbsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
2 tbsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 cups flour
1/2 cups Crisco duck fat is better

Place chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours (I've let it sit for only 1 hour & still had good results).

Melt enough shortening (over low heat) to come just 1/8-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet or heavy fry pan. Once shortening liquefies raise heat to 325 degrees F. Do not allow oil to go over 325 degrees F. Rendered duck fat is a better medium for frying than transfat Crisco. The non-transfat version of Crisco tastes awful.

Drain chicken in a colander. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Liberally season chicken with this mixture. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess.

Place chicken skin side down into the pan. Put thighs in the center, and breast and legs around the edge of the pan. The oil should come half way up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side. More importantly, the internal temperature should be right around 180 degrees. (Be careful to monitor shortening temperature every few minutes.)

Drain chicken on a rack over a sheet pan. Don't drain by setting chicken directly on paper towels or brown paper bags. If you need to hold the chicken before serving, cover loosely with foil but avoid holding in a warm oven, especially if its a gas oven.

NB: The important thing about cooking this dish is the temperature of the oil. It needs to be hot, but not so hot that the chicken cooks faster than about 12 minutes per side. It is hard to judge the correct temperature. I used my probe in the thigh to monitor how it was going, turning it over at about 130 degrees. It is more difficult to get the second side done. But again, the chicken size makes all the difference. If it is too big, it is difficult to cook to the desired temperature. You really can't successfully make this dish with chickens over 3 1/2 pounds, and in order to get a chicken that size, you have to cut it up yourself. If you want to make fried chicken with a larger chicken, then you're better off using Ruth Schmidt's method.

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