Alton Brown shows how to make the perfect pan-fried chicken.
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After a night’s soak the acid and sugars in the buttermilk have actually invaded the chicken meat, it’s just going to give it a nice tangy flavor. Now the buttermilk itself is from the kind of thick batter, that’s what viscosity buys you; you can’t pull that off with regular milk. This is a poultry shake and everybody ought to have one. My shake is two tablespoons each kosher salt and Hungarian paprika, two teaspoons of garlic powder and one teaspoon cayenne pepper. A dispensed shake with a buck fifty pizzeria shaker; by the way to keep this fresh in between shakings, piece of wax paper under the cap does the job, just don’t forget to take it out before you shake. Now, liberal seasoning is advised, not only are you seasoning the meat, but the crust that will soon be forming on top, so go for the gusto. Well, a quick dredge of all-purpose flour; now you can augment this with anything from cornmeal to cornflakes, but this is tradition for a reason; it’s good. Now a lot of cooks would season this flour but I don’t like to do that. I’ve got twp good reasons; one, you waste a lot of seasonings and two, spices like paprika burn. But stashing them under the crust, they’ll be protected. Now, this maybe the most important point, you want to get as much of the extra dredge off as possible and the excess will fall off in the pan and burn. That’s not good eats. A lot of recipes including this one recommend the post dredge respire to look the coating set; but I’ll give you more than a couple of minutes because set is exactly what this cousin of library paste will do. I can see by the little wisps of smoke starting to form on the surface of the shortening, this is ready to go, and indeed the thermometer confirms, temperature of 350 degrees. Now remember it’s got to low smoke point, in about 360 it’s going to start smoking heavily and that means that it’s chemically breaking down and that’s going to smell bad, that’s going to taste bad, so we’ve got to get this stuff in the pan, but we can’t just chuck it in really Neely, I mean cast iron is a righteous conductor but there’s still going to be a hot spot, right here, right in the center near where the burner is, but we can take advantage of this. Here’s how; take the faster cooking pieces, the breasts, we’re going to put them skin-side down, at ten o’clock and two o’clock, away from the hottest part of the pan. Now the drumsticks take a lot of time to cook but they’re small, so we put them at seven o’clock and five o’clock, that’s going to leave the hottest, part right here in the center available for the longest cooking pieces, the thighs, down right into the middle so they’re not touching anything. You want to cook this until its golden brown and delicious on side A, and you see a lot of moisture pushing up on side B, it’s going to take about twelve minutes depending on the size of the pieces. Twelve minutes is up and it all looks well. First, we have tail, tail little pools of moisture here and some of that is probably accumulated steam, for most of it pushed up from inside the meat. Then of course we’ve got the golden brown crust with the nice dark little areas that’s from sitting on the bottom of the pan. That stuff taste good. So roll everything right where it is. Now, since we’re about to introduce a whole new cold surface to the oil, we’re going to get a little bit of the temperature drop so before we leave we’re going to turn up the heat again to medium high just for a few minutes to help compensate, but remember the pan’s holding on to a huge amount of heat. So it’s going to do most of the work for you. Check in a couple of minutes. By the way, this little baby here is the best 15 dollars you will ever spend, unless cleaning every horizontal surface in the kitchen sounds fun, does the thing. Well another 12 minutes, a brush by hair and TV land and if we’ve controlled our fat temperature properly, side B should be just a little bit darker than side A, that’s because there’s more stuff running around of the shortening on the second pass. Most importantly, the insides should be done. Only one way to know for sure, or maybe three, fine. I usually don’t add the cake taking dark meat beyond 175 or light meat beyond 165, but I find that another 10 degrees makes a big difference in how the crust adheres to the meat post pan. And since fried chicken must (fry some more) yes, must be in with the fingers, slightly firmer meat will be a plus. Now let’s review, shall we? For perfect pan fried chickens start with a broiler/ fryer. Cut it up yourself, soak it overnight in low fat buttermilk, then drain it, season it liberally with a shake of your own design. Then dredge it in all purpose flour and fry it in cast iron skillet containing a mere third of an inch of shortening, maintain it at average temperature of 325 degrees. Turn it one time and one time only then drain it and eat it. I might add that there is no bad time for fried chicken.