May 20, 2010

Fried chicken: A beautiful thing (Noelle Carter, 5/13/10, Los Angeles Times)

For frying, there's nothing better than lard. Maybe it's the flavor, maybe there's something to the way the fat reacts with the crust, but lard is a magical frying medium. (And there's a little hint of pork in every bite.)

You can also use a neutral, refined oil with a high smoking point, such as canola or vegetable; peanut oil is often preferred for its high smoking point. If you'd like, flavor the fat before adding the chicken by frying an onion, or some ham or bacon.

Chicken can be either pan-fried, or deep-fried. Unless I'm going for a thick, light crust where I need enough oil to keep the chicken suspended, I prefer to pan-fry. It dirties less oil, and it's easy to monitor all of the pieces frying at once. Use a good, heavy skillet to evenly distribute the heat (and I swear by cast iron the same way I swear by lard).

To pan-fry, melt enough fat in a skillet to come a good half to three-fourths inch up the side of the pan, and heat the fat to the right temperature, generally between 300 and 350 degrees. Too low, and the oil will soak into the crust rather than fry it; too high, and the crust might burn before your chicken is done. Use a thermometer to keep the heat at a consistent temperature, and make sure you've got a good, heavy skillet to evenly distribute the heat.

Fry the pieces until the crust is crisp and golden-brown and the meat is tender, anywhere from six to 10 minutes a side depending on the size of the piece (remember, white meat cooks more quickly than dark). Some recipes call for covering the pan with a lid while frying; although this helps retain heat and maybe cooks the pieces a little faster, I find it makes for a crust that's less crisp.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 20, 2010 3:47 PM
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