To me, fried chicken has always been synonymous with boating. For reasons I can’t explain, fried chicken is the perfect boat/beach food. That and cookies (my favorite corny stepmom moment was when she pulled out a package of cookies and said “Chips A’hoy, get it?” It was perfect).
Anyway, everytime we went to the beach or out on the boat, fried chicken from Bojangles or somewhere else came with us. And it always made me so happy. Something about the salty chicken washed down with cold soda and spray from the ocean epitomized summer for me.
As for making it on my own, that’s a different story. I’ve watched other people make it, and I myself have made lightly breaded, lightly fried chicken, but never what most people would consider authentic fried chicken. So, this was an adventure.
I based my recipe on Paula Deen‘s recipe, which she credits to her Grandma Paul. Now, I know people who say they don’t like Paula Deen. Granted, most of them are from above the Mason-Dixon line. But I adore this woman. My friend Chris and I read her autobiography It Ain’t All About the Cookin’ last summer and I was sold. I can’t say that I feel compelled to experiment with her non-southern dishes, I absolutely adore her when she sticks to her agoraphobic, comfort food roots.
As for the merits of this particular PD recipe. It was an easy, to the point recipe to follow. When I’m making a new food, I like to vet the recipe by comparing it with other similar recipes, just to make sure the author isn’t way off base about something. Paula Deen was way off base with this recipe’s cook time. She suggested 10 minutes fry time for white meat, 14 for dark. I chose to fry just drumsticks, my favorite part, which is considered dark meat. Everywhere else I looked suggested 10 plus minutes per side, so I ended up frying them for about 25 minutes. I also double dipped the chicken, mostly because my favorite part of fried chicken is the fried part, and it’s so much crispier if it’s double dipped.
I had five drumsticks, so I fried them in two batches. I tried two different methods of frying, in order to test the merits of each. With the first batch, I flipped them every two minutes. The second batch I fried for 8 minutes on each side, plus a few minutes on a one minute rotation to even out the cooking. I found that the first method produced a much more evenly cooked piece of chicken, so I recommend that.
Other than that, expect to get oil all over your stove top. Expect to get popped a few times. And expect delicious flavor.
1/3 cup water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
5 drumsticks (or the amount of chicken of your choice)
Peanut oil for frying
Salt, pepper, and red pepper for seasoning
According to Paula’s grandmother, your chicken should stand, seasoned, in the refrigerator for at least two hours. So begin by seasoning your chicken and putting it in the fridge to hang. When it’s time for cookin’, go ahead and pour your oil into a cast iron pan. The ideal temperature for your oil is 350*. I have a twelve inch cast iron pan, and I poured 32 ounces of peanut oil into it. Your oil should be about an inch deep, so depending on the size of your pan, the amount of oil will vary.
Whisk the eggs with the water. Mix the pepper, the red pepper, and the flour together, and place in a shallow bowl. The best way to bread your chicken is a factory line setting. I had the plate with the chicken, the egg mixture, the flour, and a plate waiting at the end. When it was time to double dip, I rinsed off the first plate and switched them. So, dip your chicken in the egg, dip them in the flour, and repeat.
Once your oil is the right temperature, gently place the chicken in with tongs. Gently mostly so you don’t make such a mess of your floor and stove. Set your timer for twenty minutes, and flip the chicken every two minutes. The chicken should get very crispy and should appear a little more brown everytime you flip it. If at twenty minutes it hasn’t reached that golden brown color that chicken should be, keep going, flipping every one minute.
Gently remove from oil, let cool slightly, and serve.
*A note on what to do with your oil. I’ve spent enough time watching my father fry things in peanut oil and cook in cast iron pans to know that there are some things that get better with age and use. Both your pan and your oil will gain flavor and seasoning from this experience. So if you’re going to fry again, keep your oil. If you’re not, put your oil back into it’s container and throw it away, or try and find an oil recycling program in your area. If you pour it down your sink the only person you’ll be hurting is yourself… the plumbing bill will outweigh any time saved by dumping it.