05 February 2013

Alton Brown's Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is hard to get right, at least in my experience.  I don't remember the first time I attempted Alton Brown's fried chicken, but the Good Eats episode that featured the recipe, "Fry Hard II: The Chicken", first aired on April 25, 2001.  I imagine that I tried to make it shortly after, since I was trying just about every new Alton Brown application back then.

The road to success was daunting, and it was the breading that gave me fits.  It was hard to get it just right, and I was inconsistent at best.  Sometimes it would be perfectly crispy, golden brown and delicious.  Other times, the breading would be soggy and greasy, or sometimes almost mealy with too much flour.

The chicken was always delicious, though; tender, juicy and flavorful.  The spices are just right, too.  One teaspoon of cayenne pepper may seem like a lot, but it adds just the right amount of heat.  It really is subtle, because the kids eat it up, too.  So, the struggles I had with the breading was made up for by the chicken itself.  But, when I got the breading right, it really sent it over the top. 

I don't know what led me to try it, but a couple years ago, I finally found the secret to the perfect breading.  A brown paper bag.  By putting the flour and chicken in a brown paper bag and shaking it up, it created a perfect coating of flour on the chicken.

Since I have adopted this method, I get perfect fried chicken every time.

Fried Chicken
Printable Recipe

1 broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
2 cups low fat buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Flour, for dredging
Vegetable shortening or oil, for frying

Marinate the chicken pieces in buttermilk and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.  Add enough shortening or oil to come 1/3-inch up the side of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Heat oil to 325 degrees.

Drain chicken in a colander or on wire rack. Combine salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Season chicken with this mixture liberally.

Add flour to large paper bag then add all the chicken.  Shake the bag to thoroughly coat the chicken.  Then remove the chicken from the bag and place skin side down into the pan. Put the thighs in the center of the pan, and breast and legs around the edge.

Cook the chicken until golden brown, approximately 10 to 12 minutes per side; the internal temperature should be right around 180 degrees.  Drain chicken on a rack over a sheet pan.

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