Fried chicken is nearly universally loved. And with so many great recipes, there are heated debates about which seasonings to use, the role of buttermilk, how long to let the chicken rest before frying, and single- vs. double-dipping. But home cooks too often deprive themselves of the joys of crispy, juicy, home-fried chicken for one reason: fear.
The Scary Truth About Deep-Frying
It’s not as if the fear is completely irrational. After all, unless you own an electric deep-fryer, you’re cooking on the stovetop, with 1/2 to 1-1/2 inches of oil—known for its tendency to spatter—heated to 350° and higher (Pssstt be sure to use a deep fry thermometer for accuracy). Plus, there’s an added concern: The vast majority of house fires start in the kitchen, and grease fires are notoriously bad. So as much as we love fried chicken, it’s understandable that some might hesitate to fill a skillet with oil, light the burner and stand back.
Luckily, the answer is simple. Forget the skillet, and don’t even think about using any other shallow cooking pan. Our Test Kitchen experts recommend grabbing a pot instead. The key to fright-free deep-frying is using a pot with high sides. A cast-iron Dutch oven is the perfect vessel. Something like this great Lodge 5-qt can be picked up for less than $40. It’ll give you plenty of room for a generous layer of oil while keeping the spattering mess to a minimum, and in the unlikely event of a fire, it’s a split-second’s work to set the pot lid on top to starve the fire of oxygen.
More Tips for Success
Hot oil is crucial to a successful fry. If the oil isn’t hot enough, the coating will get soggy. Work with a few pieces of chicken at a time to ensure the oil temperature doesn’t drop too much. Once you’ve removed the cooked chicken, wait for the oil to come all the way back up to temperature before adding the next batch.
Now that you’re no longer afraid of the process, you can reap the rewards that home deep-frying brings to our favorite comfort food. And if you still can’t overcome your fear of frying, there are many great recipes for oven-fried chicken, which has a beauty all its own!