Colonel Sanders may get all the attention for his fried chicken, but here's the thing: I've never really liked KFC. In fact, for most of my life I haven't liked fried chicken at all, even though by all accounts I should. I love fried food, chicken is yummy, so logically combining the two should work out, right?
But I've come to realize not all fried chicken is created equally. After a considerable amount of experimenting I've finally landed on a fried chicken recipe that is a home run. It's fried chicken I love to eat, is a hit any time I entertain people, and even my wife (who normally gets queasy around chicken) loves it.
The secret to this amazing fried chicken? The preparation.
Just like you can't rush fine art, you can't rush fine fried chicken. From start to finish, it can take about an hour, but it's worth it. Don't skimp on any step or try to rush the process.
4-8 chicken cutlets (fries faster and more evenly than full chicken breasts)
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp vinegar + 1½ cups milk (buttermilk substitute)
1 Tbsp. Louisiana hot sauce
1½ cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
vegetable oil for frying
- Prepare a wash for the chicken by placing the buttermilk substitute (vinegar and milk) and hot sauce in a glass baking dish. Stir together well with wire whisk. Place chicken in the wash so it is mostly or fully submerged and cover the dish with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
- Prepare a dredge by combining the flour, salt, black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Combine evenly in a large, flat glass baking dish.
- After the chicken has sat in the wash for the half hour, you're ready to prepare the chicken. Take each cutlet from the wash and cover on both sides with dredge mixture. Repeat for all pieces.
- Place each flour-covered cutlet back in the wash. Then put each cutlet through the dredge again.
- Place the twice-coated chicken on a wire cooling rack (with a plate underneath to catch any drippings) to rest for 10 minutes. This is an incredibly important step. If you fry immediately, the coating doesn't have time to set and will flake off.
- Fill a frying pan or skillet about 1- to 1½-inches full with vegetable oil. Pan frying does a much better job than using a deep fryer. Heat at just over medium heat. Take the time to wait for the oil to properly heat before frying the chicken. The temperature of the oil plays a major role in the quality of the fried chicken. If it's not hot enough, the chicken won't properly crisp. Too hot and the chicken gets super crispy on the outside and stays raw on the inside.
- Place the cutlets in the pan. Be careful not to overcrowd. I typically do four pieces at a time. Fry until the submerged side starts to turn a golden brown. Using tongs, flip each cutlet over and continue to fry until the other side is also golden brown.
- Remove from the oil and place on a paper-towel-covered plate. Let it rest for 3-5 minutes for the crisping process to finish.
Yes, it's a time-consuming process, but it's well worth the wait. The chicken is amazingly crispy, juicy and full flavored thanks to the hot sauce and spices in the dredge. While it's not overly spicy, it definitely has a slight kick to keep things interesting.
Once I mastered frying chicken, we went from frying chicken once a year to, well, I probably shouldn't admit how frequently we fry chicken, but it's delicious!