Fried chicken is near and dear to many Americans’ hearts, making this Sunday’s National Fried Chicken Day an extra-important food holiday.
Many families have their own special recipe, but for those looking to enter the at-home fried chicken arena or simply up their game, we spoke with fried chicken authority Michael Solomonov for tips and tricks to make the best possible version.
Solomonov, executive chef at Philadelphia’s Federal Donuts, which specializes in fried chicken, said that fried chicken is “all about the crust,” and we have to agree. Read on for how to achieve that, plus an incredibly juicy interior.
Get in touch with your dark side. Solomonov believes that dark meat is the way to go. “It’s more moist and has more flavor,” he said. If you insist on white, though, make sure to cook the meat separately. “They have different cooking times; dark meat takes longer,” Solomonov explained. “White meat is super high in protein and low in fat and will overcook in a jiffy.”
Get salty. Before you even get to the cooking, though, pre-salt your chicken overnight to draw out the moisture. “A lot of water creates steam. Plus, pre-seasoning gives you an opportunity to add spices and herbs to your liking,” Solomonov said. “Instead of just putting in the crust or batter, you can season the actual meat overnight. Whether it’s paprika, onion powder or garlic powder, the seasoning actually gets into the meat and makes a more layered flavor instead of a blast of spice at the end.”
Create your extra-crunchy crust. Now that your meat is full of flavor, it’s time to add the best part. Solomonov is a fan of including cornstarch with the flour and not using eggs. “Cornstarch makes it nice and crispy,” he explained. “We want the batter to be quite light, so no eggs because they make it too chewy.” He also urges you to keep the skin on the chicken as well. “We want that to be part of the experience – you’ve got crispy skin, which is toothsome and has density, so you don’t need a heavy batter,” he said.
Double cook for double flavor. Once your chicken is battered up, it’s time to cook. Use vegetable or canola oil since they have higher smoke points, and get your oil to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cook the chicken for 12 to 13 minutes, until it’s golden.
Here’s the crucial step: you’ve still got one more cooking step to go. The first fry is to cook the actual chicken, and this second part is to really crisp the crust. “Cooking at a gentle heat for chicken maintains the integrity of meat. The two cooking application gives you a nice, roasted, dark, caramelized exterior and a moist interior,” Solomonov said. “Fried chicken, in my opinion, is about the crust – but that’s no reason to overcook a perfectly good chicken.”
For the second part, you can either fry again at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or bake in a 400 degree oven for approximately 12 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
Dig in! At this point, your chicken is good to go. Since you seasoned so well before cooking, there’s no need to salt. At his Philadelphia restaurant, Solomonov serves his fried chicken with sweet honey donuts that have an almost biscuit-like texture, and he recommends waffles, biscuits and donuts as the ultimate fried chicken sides.
For Solomonov’s step-by-step recipe, click here.