Whether you’re making dinner or planning a picnic, fried chicken is a delicious idea.
It’s crispy, it’s juicy, it’s yummy, and it goes great with all sorts of tasty sides – mashed potatoes, biscuits, corn on the cob, potato salad, and so many more.
There’s actually quite a bit to know about frying chicken. It’s not too hard once you learn how to fry chicken, but there are a lot of different ways to do it, and quite a few little tricks to learn to be able to make the perfect fried chicken for you.
In this two-part article, I’ll show you how to fry chicken. In Part I, we’ll talk about the preparation steps – what parts of the chicken to use, brining, and breading. In Part II, we’ll talk about how to cook fried chicken, and how to make an awesome gravy to go with it.
Selecting the Chicken
The first thing to learn about how to fry chicken is knowing how to pick the chicken. There are a couple of things you can do.
Pick a whole chicken. You can get a 3 or 4 pound fryer or roaster, and that’ll be just about the right size for frying. This is a great option if your family likes all the parts of a chicken! If you do pick a whole chicken, here are a few things to consider.
You’ll have to cut up the chicken yourself. Split it into 2 legs, 2 thighs, 2 wings, 2 backs, and 2 breasts. If the chicken is really big, the breast can be split into 4 pieces.
You’ll have to be pretty careful when you fry the chicken, because white meat cooks quite a bit faster.
If you get 2 chickens, you can fry a batch of white meat and a batch of dark meat. It’s easier, and you’ll have plenty of leftovers (or not, if you’re serving a crowd!)
If no one wants the backs or wings, you can save them to make an awesome stock instead of frying them.
Buy pre-cut parts. You can also buy, say, a package of drumsticks and fry those up. There are advantages and disadvantages, of course.
If everyone in your family likes the same part of the chicken, you can avoid waste this way.
When frying chicken, all the pieces should be about the same size. If they’re from the same size chicken, you’re fine, but if you buy a package of parts, that’s not necessarily the case. Just be careful when you pick them! They should look like they came from a 3-4 lb chicken.
Generally, a whole chicken is more fresh than a package of drumsticks or breasts, because you cut it up yourself.
Whether you decide to cut up a whole chicken yourself, or buy parts, I’d recommend you get something with skin on. It provides a base for the breading, and makes the chicken crispier.
It’s true that it’s not as healthy, but we’re talking about frying chicken. It’s not that great for you to start with. So if you’re going to splurge, do it right!
Brining the Chicken
Alright, now for the next step: brining. Brining chicken means soaking it in a solution of salty water for a few hours. It’s a completely optional step, especially if you’re short on time, but if you want to learn how to fry chicken and get exceptional results, brining is a good trick to know.
- Brining makes the chicken taste better. The salt in the water seeps into the chicken and enhances its flavor.
- Brining also makes the chicken even juicier and prevents it from drying out when you cook it.
- If you add some ice to the brine, it’ll also help keep the chicken’s skin taut and that’ll make the chicken even crispier!
If you’re interested in brining, it’s very easy to do. It takes about 3 minutes to set up, and about an hour of wait time. You can learn all about it in our article on brining chicken.
I’d recommend brining if you have the time. Personally, I find it makes a huge difference when you’re frying chicken, and it’s really worth a try!
Breading the Chicken
One of the most important steps of learning how to fry chicken is learning how to bread the chicken. If you have no idea how to bread chicken, the best thing to do is to have a look at our two part chicken breading article. It’ll give you all the basics.
That article will actually tell you almost everything you need to know about breading chicken. But since we’re learning how to fry chicken, I want to emphasize a few points.
- Generally, if you’re frying chicken, you should use a flour breading. You can use any method: 1, 1-2, or 1-2-3, but the last coat should be flour. Breadcrumbs and those sorts of breading tend to burn too fast in oil, and are better suited to oven-fried chicken.
- Flour doesn’t usually make as thick a coating. If you like thick breading, you can repeat the dipping step and coat it twice.
- If you’re going to deep-fry rather than pan-fry, you can make a batter to coat the chicken. Instead of soaking and then dredging, you can slowly add flour to the liquid… just add enough so that the liquid is thick enough to coat the chicken and stick to it.
- The most popular liquids for frying chicken seem to be buttermilk and an egg wash, but really, you can use anything you like. Just try different things and see what you like best!
- You can add a bit of baking powder to your flour coating to make it crispier and puffier. About 1 tsp of baking powder per half cup of flour can make a real difference.
- You can also replace some of the flour with cornstarch to make a crispier chicken. You can replace any amount you like, but using about 1 part cornstarch to 3 parts flour is a good start.
And… that’s it for Part I! Preparing chicken for frying really isn’t hard… but it can be a bit time consuming, especially if you decide to marinate it.
Now it’s time for Part II of How To Fry Chicken: Deep Fried and Southern Fried Chicken.