Fried chicken is a dish consisting of chicken pieces usually from broiler chickens which have been floured or battered and then pan-fried, deep-fried, or pressure fried. The breading adds a crisp coating or crust to the exterior. What separates fried chicken from other fried forms of chicken is that generally the chicken is cut at the joints, and the bones and skin are left intact.
Crisp well-seasoned skin, rendered of excess fat, is a hallmark of well made fried chicken. The biggest secret though is the temperature of the oil. Maintaining the correct temperature is the key to perfectly fried chicken.
For the fried chicken brine
- 1 quart (4 cups) cold water
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces
For the fried chicken batter
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 2 to 5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1 3/4 cups cold water
- 3 quarts (12 cups) peanut or vegetable oil, for frying
Make the fried chicken brine
- In a large bowl, whisk or stir together the water, salt, and sugar until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.
- While the chicken is brining, in a large bowl, whisk or stir together the flour, cornstarch, black pepper, paprika, cayenne, baking powder, salt, and water until smooth.
- Cover and refrigerate the batter while the chicken is brining.
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other deep-sided pot over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F (176°C). Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour the brine from the chicken down the sink and pat the chicken pieces completely dry with paper towels. Whisk the batter to recombine.
- Place half the chicken pieces in the batter and turn to coat. Remove the chicken from the batter, allowing any excess to drip back into the bowl, and carefully place it in the oil.
- Fry the chicken and keep your attention on the oil temperature, adjusting the heat as necessary to maintain the oil between 300°F and 325°F (149°C and 163°C).
- Cook the fried chicken until deep golden brown and the white meat registers 160°F (71°C) or 175°F (79°C) for dark meat, 12 to 25 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken pieces and the exact temperature of your oil.
- Place the fried chicken on the wire rack to drain. Bring the oil back to 350°F (176°C) and repeat with the remaining chicken.