The best pieces of chicken for frying are the wings, drumsticks, thighs, and breasts. You can buy them already butchered or you can purchase a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. Either way, choose only the freshest chicken. Also, to make the wings fit better in your frying skillet or pot, cut the tips off the wings at the last joint.
To fry chicken, a deep skillet works well as does a deep fat fryer. If using a skillet, make sure it is large, deep and very heavy (consider a cast-iron skillet). The heat will hold better and will result in crispier fried chicken. To note, a deep fryer uses more oil but can end up being less messy because the oil will splash less.
Many fried chicken enthusiasts soak chicken in buttermilk, overnight, or in brine for an hour or so before frying. Soaking chicken in buttermilk helps keep the chicken moist and juicy and adds an extra layer of flavor. A brine, typically made of salt and water, should only be done for an hour or so and then rinsed off so the chicken does not end up tasting too salty. If in a hurry, you can still fry delicious chicken without soaking.
Beer batter is a classic choice for fried chicken, as is buttermilk and seasoned flour and breadcrumbs. You can also add other flavors like garlic, paprika, Parmesan cheese, sesame seeds, cornflakes, and herbs and spices. To coat chicken, set up a dredging system of wet batter and dry ingredients and keep one hand dry and one hand wet. Or alternatively, use the paper bag method, getting chicken wet and then shaking the coating onto the chicken pieces which can result in a more even coating.
Before frying, let the battered and coated chicken dry for a few minutes; wet chicken will cause the oil to splatter more. Heat about 1/2- to 3/4-inch (for skillet frying) of melted shortening, lard or canola oil to between 350 to 360 degrees F. For a deep fryer, follow the manufacturer's directions. When fat is hot, carefully layer the chicken in batches in the oil, skin side down. Cook and flip with tongs to ensure both sides of the chicken are evenly cooked and crispy. When the chicken is golden brown, transfer to a rack set over paper towels or brown paper bags, which will help maintain the crispiness. If time allows, fry the chicken for a few minutes ahead of time and then finish off in the oven for 10 minutes before you are serving. If you are not serving the chicken right away, leave it uncovered to keep it crispy.
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