When my dear grandmother was alive and I would come home to visit, it did not matter if it was 2:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon—I would walk in the door and she would be standing at the stove frying chicken for me. Yes, clearly I was spoiled absolutely rotten. But also I think it’s pretty clear how I feel about the subject: there are few foods in this world I love as much as I love as Southern Fried Chicken. ￼
Last meal request? Fried Chicken.
Tired and grumpy? Fried Chicken.
Homesick and missing Mama? Fried Chicken.
Celebrating a momentous occasion? Fried Chicken.
Wait, what? Where’d Lighten Up, Y’all go?
Well, here’s the deal and I even write about it in the headnote for Oven Fried Chicken on a Stick in Lighten Up, Y’all. Oven fried chicken is NOT Fried Chicken. It’s a good substitute, but we all know that a Broadway understudy is really, really good, but just not quite the star that everyone wants to see.
Fried Chicken is so loved in the South it’s become a caricature, a cartoon. But, to define Southern Food by only Fried Chicken is a gross oversimplification. Especially when there’s fast food fried chicken, gas station fried chicken, and grocery store fried chicken, none of which can hold a candle to real honest-to-goodness homemade skillet fried chicken. So, I save my calories for incredible fried chicken, not mediocre fried chicken. Southern Fried Chicken is serious business. And, if you thought there was only one Southern classic, I would simply remind you that there are as many Southern Fried Chicken recipes as there are Southern grandmothers.
As if I didn’t love her enough, my dear and wonderful friend Rebecca Lang has written an entire book that celebrates and glorifies my favorite Southern recipe, Fried Chicken: Recipes for the Crispy, Crunchy, Comfort-Food Classic. Rebecca is one of my absolute favorite people on this planet. She is smart, beautiful, kind, talented, sweet, sassy, a great cook, and a positively brilliant cookbook author. Her latest book goes straight to my heart! A whole book dedicated to Fried Chicken!
She covers all the Southern favorites such as Buttermilk-Soaked Fried Chicken, Fried Chicken Smothered in Gravy, and Nashville-style Tennessee Hot Chicken. Yet she goes beyond Southern Fried Chicken and explores international fried chicken—fried chicken from Saigon, China, Brazil, Mexico, and Korea. She’s even created a Gluten Free Fried Chicken!
The photography is mouthwateringly beautiful and these recipes are guaranteed to work. She’s a diligent and expert recipe tester and cooked through a whole hen house to make sure these recipes are the best they can be. This is the end-all, be-all book if you want to know how to fry chicken.
This blog post, as Rebecca’s lovely book, celebrates Fried Chicken. To tantalize your taste buds, I’m including Rebecca’s recipe for Chinese Lollipop Chicken and my recipe for my grandmother’s classic Southern Fried Chicken. And, at the end, I am sharing a short photo tutorial on “How to Cut Up a Chicken. I find it’s cheaper to buy a whole bird and break it down yourself.
Bon Appétit Y’all!
Southern Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
1 (4-pound) chicken, cut into 9 pieces (see below)
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cups canola oil
Season the chicken generously with salt and pepper. Set aside. Place the flour in a shallow plate and season with cayenne, salt, and pepper. Set aside. Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels. Heat the oil in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat until the temperature measures 375°F on a deep-fat thermometer.
Meanwhile, to fry the chicken, starting with the dark meat (since it takes longer to cook) and working one piece at a time, dredge the chicken in the seasoned flour, turning to coat. Shake to remove excess flour. Reserve any leftover seasoned flour for the gravy.
One piece at a time, slip the chicken into the hot fat without crowding; the fat should not quite cover the chicken. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature at 375°F. At this stage, a splatter guard (a wire cover laid over the pan) may prove useful to contain the hot grease. The guard lets the steam escape, while allowing the chicken to brown nicely.
Fry the pieces, turning them once or twice, until the coating is a rich, golden brown on all sides, 10 to 14 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium-low and cover the skillet. Continue cooking until the chicken is cooked all the way through and the juices run clear when pricked with a knife, an additional 10 to 15 minutes. (An instant-read thermometer inserted into a thigh should register 170°F.) Remove the pieces and drain on the prepared baking sheet. (Do not hold the chicken in a warm oven; it will get soggy.) Enjoy immediately.
1⁄2 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 pounds chicken drumettes Peanut oil, for frying
Cilantro, chopped, for serving
Reprinted with permission from Fried Chicken, by Rebecca Lang, copyright © 2015, published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photographs copyright © 2015 by John Lee. For more information about Rebecca, please visit www.rebeccalangcooks.com
How to Cut Up a Chicken
Order Lighten Up, Y’all and I’ll send you a signed bookplate!
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photography by Virginia Willis
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