Southern Fried Chicken


The hard part is controlling the temperature of the frying oil. It has too be just hot enough to cook the chicken thoroughly, without being so hot that the outside burns. If the oil is far too hot, you can end up with burnt outside and raw middle - the worst of both worlds.

The magic ingredient, then, is the thermometer. A deep fry/candy thermometer is the tool that has been used for the longest time. Now, they actually make instant read thermometers that go up to the required 375F degrees, and these are much easier to use.

The right skillet makes keeping the correct temperature possible. Cast iron in particular works very well. Iron is a poor conductor of heat, meaning that it takes a long time to heat up, and cools very slowly. Once you've got the right temperature, it holds it steady.

The rest is easy. The chicken, cut into parts, is brined overnight in seasoned whole milk. The seasoned flour mixture goes into a paper bag,  and you shake the pieces in the bag to coat. You fry for six minutes covered, turn, and cook 6 minutes uncovered. Just watch the temperature!

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole Chicken, cut into 8 parts
  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Kosher Salt
  • 4 cups Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Paprika
  • 1/4 cup finely ground Black Pepper
  • 1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper, or more if you like it hotter
  • Oil for Frying - Peanut oil mixed with a lighter oil (like Canola) works best.

Directions:

Day 1
  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix 1/4 cup salt and the paprika with the quart of milk until the salt is dissolved.
  2. Rinse cut chicken parts in cold water. Remove any excess fat and excess skin.
  3. Put the chicken into the milk. Agitate so that the milk coats all of the pieces. Soak overnight in the refrigerator. Agitate every time you visit the refrigerator.
  4. Put an empty plate into the refrigerator as well (optional, but easy).

Day 2
  1. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator at least an hour before you start cooking. You want to chicken to be at room temperature. This will allow the chicken to cook faster than it would if it had to be heated an extra 40F degrees. That time is often the difference between crisp, well cooked chicken and burnt, raw chicken.
  2. Heat about two inches of cooking oil in a heavy bottom skillet, preferably cast iron, over a medium-high heat until the oil reaches 375F degrees.
  3. Take a dry, brown paper grocery bag and put it inside two plastic grocery bags. You really don't want to coat your kitchen with flour.
  4. Put the flour, the remaining 1/4 cup of salt, the black pepper and the Cayenne pepper into the brown bag. Roll the top closed and shake to mix ingredients.
  5. Take four pieces of chicken, (preferably one wing, one thigh, one leg and one breast just to keep things even, ) and one at a time take from the milk, shake off any excess milk, and drop into the paper bag. Roll the top of the bag closed. Shake well.
  6. Remove the now coated chicken from the bag to the cold plate. For some reason, the coating doesn't stick as often to a cold plate as it will to a warm one.
  7. Repeat with the second half of the chicken.
  8. Put chicken, skin side down, into the hot oil, trying not to let the pieces remain in contact with one another. The temperature of the oil will drop when the chicken is put in, but should recover to about 325F degrees in a few minutes for cooking.
  9. Let cook for six minutes, covered. Keep an eye on the oil temperature. It should be kept at a steady 325F degrees.
  10. Turn the pieces with a set of tongs. Let cook for an additional six minutes, uncovered.
  11. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels.
  12. Serve with a nicely chilled Rosé.

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