When you fry chicken, the goal is to be organized, thereby containing the mess as much as possible. This recipe allows for that.
The buttermilk marinade is key, especially for pastured chickens, which benefit from tenderizing and the slight tang the milk imparts. Other good things to have on hand: food-safe disposable gloves; a very large bowl for coating the chicken with flour; a thermometer to monitor the temperature of the oil and chicken pieces; and a wire rack for draining the just-cooked pieces of chicken (instead of draining them on a paper towels).
A crucial point: Any flour that falls off while the chicken is frying will burn and make the oil bitter. Unless you’re willing to strain the oil and clean the pan before a second batch goes in, use a pan large enough to fry an entire batch at once, say 14 inches in diameter and 2 1/2 inches deep.
Make Ahead: Soak the chicken for several hours in advance if using a factory-produced chicken and overnight if using a pastured bird. Fry the chicken a few hours in advance if you wish, and serve at room temperature. Do not hold the fried chicken pieces in a warm oven; never cover the pieces unless they are completely cooled.
Servings: 4 - 6
- One 4-pound chicken, preferably pastured, wingtips and giblets removed
- 14 ounces low-fat buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons adobo seasoning, such as Badia brand (available in the Latin aisle of larger grocery stores)
- 3 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 10 cups vegetable, canola or peanut oil, for frying
- 3 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning after frying
Use a very sharp chef’s knife to cut the chicken into pieces; 12 is good if the bird is large: 2 wingettes (the flat, 2-boned part of the wing), 2 wing drumettes (cut wide to include a good inch of breast meat), 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs and, the 2 bone-in breast halves cut in half widthwise to make 4 pieces. (If the bird is smaller, cut the breast into its 2 halves or into 3 pieces, 1 that takes in the entire wishbone end and the other 2 by splitting the breastbone.)
Place the pieces in a large, nonreactive bowl and coat them well with the buttermilk, adobo seasoning and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight (see headnote), stirring occasionally.
To fry the chicken, remove it from the refrigerator an hour before frying. Have ready a rimmed baking sheet with a wire cooling rack set over it. Position a very large skillet (14 inches wide, 2 1/2 inches deep) over 2 burners on the same side of the stove top, both set at medium-high heat. Make sure the front burner’s flame does not protrude beyond the front edge of the skillet. Pour the oil into the skillet and heat it to 350 degrees.
While the oil is heating, whisk together the flour, salt and the remaining 2 teaspoons of pepper in a large bowl.
If you are using food-safe gloves, put them on. Using one hand as your “wet” hand, transfer a few pieces of chicken from the brine to the flour. Use your other hand to coat the pieces with flour, grabbing, turning and squeezing them lightly several times to ensure a good coating of flour on all sides. As the pieces are coated, gently shake excess flour back into the bowl and place them on the wire rack. Work quickly to coat all of the pieces. Discard the buttermilk mixture and any remaining flour.
Once the oil temperature reaches 350 degrees, place the pieces in the skillet, skin side down. Start with the thighs, because they take the longest time to cook, arranging them in the middle of the skillet; then arrange the 4 breast pieces, the 2 drumsticks, the 2 drumettes and the 2 wingettes around them, in that order.
Fry the chicken undisturbed for 9 to 10 minutes, until golden. Turn the pieces over and fry for 8 to 10 minutes, except for the wingettes, which can come out a minute or two after turning. Start to monitor the pieces a few minutes after you’ve turned them over. The oil will be coming back up to temperature at this point, so keep turning the pieces, if necessary, to keep them from becoming overly browned.
When the white meat pieces reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees and the dark meat pieces 170, transfer them to the wire rack set over the baking sheet. (Either clean the one used already or use a different one, to avoid cross-contamination.) Season the pieces with a little more salt immediately after removing them from the fryer.
Allow the pieces to rest at least 10 minutes before serving.
From Sourced columnist David Hagedorn.
Tested by David Hagedorn.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.