My mom makes great pan-fried chicken. I tried to replicate it, but I can’t get it right. A few times I almost poisoned my family with salmonella. The chicken was a lovely golden brown on the outside, but raw and pink in the middle. Other times the chicken was done in the middle, but dry and burned on the outside.
I really wanted to master fried chicken. Our family loves it. It’s one of the few things my boys eat without complaint. And I didn’t want to bring it home in a cardboard bucket every time I served it.
I attempted baked fried chicken, but the breading fell off. I also deep-fried it, but again it was either raw in the middle or burned.
Finally after 14 years, I figured out an easy fool-proof way for dummies like me to make great fried chicken. It’s fried and baked. If you always wanted to make good fried chicken and never could, try this method. It won’t let you down.
First you need some raw chicken with the skin removed.
Is the photo of raw chicken too much? I thought there might be a few people who don’t know what raw, skinless chicken looks like. It happens. Nothing to be ashamed of. Someone once asked me in all honesty how to boil water.
I keep it fail proof by only using chicken legs. That way you don’t need to worry about thicker pieces like the breasts needing a longer cooking time. Dark meat is less likely to dry out too, because it has more fat in it. Besides chicken legs are perfect for eating fried chicken the way it was meant to be, with your hands.
Then find either a big heavy-bottomed pot like a dutch oven or a high-sided skillet. Cast iron is perfect for this. Cast iron is perfect for everything, but that’s another post. Fill the pan 1 1/2 to two inches deep with vegetable oil or some other cooking oil with a high smoke point. Very, very important. Something like olive oil will — well — smoke if it gets too hot.
Next you need a thermometer that attaches to the side of the pan to monitor the temperate of the oil. I use a candy thermometer. Make sure the tip is in the oil, but not touching the bottom of the pan to get an accurate reading. It’s important to keep the temperature of the oil between 350-360 degrees. Hot enough to cook the chicken, but not burn it. Also, if the oil is too cool, it gets absorbed into the chicken. Then you get soggy, greasy fried chicken. Blech!
Let’s sidetrack a bit for a minute. If cooked properly so that oil doesn’t absorb into the food, deep friend food isn’t as bad for you as everyone says. It’s when it’s sopping with grease that it gives you an instant coronary. Dripping wet fried food is food that was fried in oil that wasn’t hot enough.
So back to the recipe, turn the burner on to warm the oil up in the pan while you prepare the coating.
Next you need a cup of milk in a shallow bowl and some flour and Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. Mix two cups of flour with 1/4 a cup of Lawry’s in a long shallow pan. That makes way more coating than I need for six chicken legs, so you might want to halve it. Remember, once you put raw chicken in the coating mixture you have to toss it for safety reasons. No saving it for next time. Dip the chicken in the milk, then roll it in the flour mixture to coat.
Before you start frying, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees to get ready for the final step.
When the oil is hot enough start adding your coated chicken.
You can cook two or three pieces at a time depending on the size of your pan. When you put the meat in, it will start to cool the oil off. You want to keep the oil at 350-360 degrees, so keep an eye on the thermometer and adjust your burner accordingly. If you put to many pieces in at once, you can’t keep the oil hot enough.
Cook each piece of chicken in the oil for three minutes on each side. Remove to a paper towel to drain. It should look done with a nice light- golden coating, but it still needs to go in the oven.
When all the chicken is fried, put it on a pan to bake. Something with a rack to let the moisture that comes out of the chicken drain off works best. It keeps the crust nice and crunchy. I use the broiling pan that came with my stove.
You could also use an oven-proof cooling rack on top of a cookie sheet.
Bake the chicken in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Thirty minutes for chicken legs, forty if you cook thicker pieces. I flip the chicken over at the 15 minute mark, and turn the pan around to ensure even baking.
Then just take the chicken out of the oven, and thrill your family with crispy, fully cooked, golden-brown fried chicken!
They’ll love you forever.