Crispy fried chicken is major comfort food, right? I love biting into that crunchy breading!
Sometimes, what I crave as much as the fried chicken are the dipping sauces to go along with it. I like my honey mustard from time to time, as well as classic buttermilk ranch dressing.
In Ireland, a dish we had often were Goujons. They were basically just chicken strips, but they were served with Thai Sweet Chili sauce that just made the meal so much more exciting. Since our trip to Ireland a year ago, I have had a constant stock of Thai Sweet Chili sauce in my fridge for any dipping needs.
I wanted to try out some other sauces with my fried chicken so I made a few on the same day that I tested a few different fried chicken recipes, and David and I had all this goodness for dinner with a side of mashed potatoes. Not a single vegetable to be found. Scroll to the bottom for some of my dipping sauce recipes. In the meantime, let’s talk about frying up some golden, crunchy, deliciously breaded chicken.
There are a few rules when it comes to making perfect fried chicken.
1. Take the bird outta the fridge.
Remove your chicken from the fridge 1 hour before frying. If you use cold chicken, it will bring down the temperature of your oil and extend the cooking time. The most common result is undercooked chicken, and that is not something anybody wants ever. So don’t do it! Let the chicken sit on the counter along with your other ingredients for about 1 hour. 1.5 hours is okay, too.
2. Brine Baby Brine! Or Not…
Some people are die-hard briners. They cannot fathom cooking or eating a bird that has not been brined. I do enjoy a good brine on the Thanksgiving turkey, and sometimes pork chops, but it is not a crucial step for me when it comes to fried chicken.
The point of brining is to add moisture to the bird so it doesn’t dry out as easily. I have found that chicken in a traditional brine (salt water) retains a ton of water. Causing it to splatter a bit during cooking and also I would argue that the water sort of dilutes the overall flavor.
If you must brine, which is fine, do a buttermilk brine. Season your chicken breasts with kosher salt and black pepper, place in a bowl, and cover with buttermilk. Let them sleep in the fridge overnight. Another option is to do a “dry brine”. This means you season and coat your chicken in spices and let it sit in the fridge overnight.
3. Heat it Up, and Regulate that Shiz!
You must use oil that is the correct temperature. Too cold and your chicken with just swim in oil, soaking it all up, and take way too long to cook. Too hot and you’ll end up with burnt breading around undercooked chicken. Bad combo.
Use a candy or deep-fry thermometer to make sure your oil is always between 325F and 350F. The temperature will drop after you add a few pieces of chicken, so turn up your flame if necessary. Remember to keep an eye on the thermometer and lower that flame back down when needed.
4. Air it Out!
Instead of placing your cooked chicken on a paper towel to soak up excess oil (Really? How much of a difference is that drop of oil going to make… you’re eating FRIED chicken!) Set a cooling rack on top of a sheet tray and allow your chicken to cool on that. This allows air to flow all around your cooling chicken. Setting the hot birds on a towel will create steam, which creates soggy breading. Nobody wants soggy breading.
When I dip, you dip, we dip…
Perfect dipping sauces are just as important as perfect fried chicken. Right? Right. I know. Here are some ideas for you:
Ranch Dressing. Who doesn’t love to dip every food in ranch?? You absolutely can pick up your favorite bottled brand from the store, or powdered mix, or hit up your local pizza joint for their thinmazingness. You can also make your own Peppery Ranch Dip.
Cilantro Lime Dip. Finely mince 1 small bunch cilantro and 1 garlic clove. Toss them in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and juice from 1 lime. Whisk in some olive oil and serve!
Peanut Sauce. This is that favorite satay sauce that you eat with a little side of chicken at some Asian joints. It will seem to separate as you’re mixing, but use that elbow grease and keep stirring until it is perfectly smooth and creamy. 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, 1 teaspoon rice vinegar, 1 teaspoon honey, juice from 1/2 lime. Whisk, whisk, whisk, and add water 1 tablespoon at time as needed to reach desired consistency. You can also throw this all in the food processor and whizz it up.
Buffalo Sauce. I put that $#!% on everything! Whisk together 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, 1/2 cup unsalted melted butter, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.
Thai Sweet Chili Sauce. Open your favorite bottle and pour into a serving dish!
So what is the exact recipe for crispy fried chicken?
I have my favorite, and I think you should make it. I also think you should play around with the seasonings and figure out which you like best. You can also let the chicken cool completely, and then store it in the fridge to eat cold later. Like maybe on a picnic or something.
Perfect crispy fried chicken to dip into your favorite sauce!
- 4 pounds chicken pieces (any type will do)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons water
- peanut, safflower, or other high-heat oil
- Allow the chicken to sit at room temperature for 1 hour so you're not working with cold chicken.
- Place a large, rimmed sheet tray on the counter or in a warm oven. Line with paper towels, and place a cooling rack on top of the paper towels. This is where you will drain your cooked chicken.
- In a large bowl or shallow dish, whisk together the flour, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and baking powder.
- In a separate large bowl or shallow dish, whisk together the eggs and water.
- In a large cast iron skillet, pour enough oil to come about halfway up the side of the skillet. Heat the oil to 350F. Check and maintain the temperature with a deep-fry or candy thermometer.
- Using a paper towel, pat the chicken dry, and then dredge in the flour mixture. Dip into the egg mixture, and then back into the flour mixture to ensure a thick and even coating.
- Gently place the coated chicken into the hot oil, and cook until the breading is golden brown and the chicken registers 165F on a meat thermometer. Turn the chicken 1 or 2 times during cooking to ensure the coating is evenly browned. The time will vary depending on the size of your chicken pieces. A large, bone-in, chicken breast will take about 10-15 minutes. A smaller, boneless, chicken tender will take about 7-10 minutes. Cook a test piece of chicken first, and then cut open with a sharp knife to ensure there is no pink juice or meat.
- Remove the cooked chicken from the oil, and place on the prepared cooling rack to rest 10 minutes before serving.