One of America’s Favorites – Fried Chicken

May 27, 2019 at 6:02 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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Fried Chicken – A chicken breast, wing, leg and thigh fried

Fried chicken (also referred to as Southern fried chicken for the variant in the United States) is a dish consisting of chicken pieces usually from broiler chickens which have been floured or battered and then pan-fried, deep fried, or pressure fried. The breading adds a crisp coating or crust to the exterior of the chicken. What separates fried chicken from other fried forms of chicken is that generally the chicken is cut at the joints, and the bones and skin are left intact. Crisp well-seasoned skin, rendered of excess fat, is a hallmark of well made fried chicken.

The first dish known to have been deep fried was fritters, which were popular in the European Middle Ages. However, it was the Scottish who were the first Europeans to deep fry their chicken in fat (though without seasoning). Meanwhile, a number of West African peoples had traditions of seasoned fried chicken (though battering and cooking the chicken in palm oil). Scottish frying techniques and West African seasoning techniques were combined by enslaved Africans and African-Americans in the American South.

When being cooked, fried chicken is often divided into smaller pieces. The chicken is then generally covered in a batter, often consisting of ingredients such as eggs or milk, and a thickener such as flour. This is used to create a crust on the exterior of the meat. In addition, seasoning is often added at this stage. Once the chicken is ready to be cooked, it is placed in a deep fryer, frying pan or pressure cooker (depending on the method used) and fried in lard or a type of oil.

Paschal’s fried chicken, Atlanta, Georgia

Fried chicken has been described as being “crunchy” and “juicy”, as well as “crispy”. In addition, the dish has also been called “spicy” and “salty”. Occasionally, fried chicken is also topped with a chili like paprika, or hot sauce to give it a spicy taste. This is especially common in fast food restaurants and chains such as KFC. The dish is traditionally served with mashed potato, gravy, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw and biscuits.

The dish is renowned for being greasy, especially when coming from fast food outlets. It has even been reported that some of those who enjoy eating the food limit themselves to eating it only a certain number of times a year, to keep their fat intake reasonably low. Out of the various parts of the animal used in fried chicken, the wings generally tend to contain the most fat, with almost 40 grams (0.088 lb) of fat for every 100 grams (0.22 lb). However, the average whole fried chicken contains only around 12% fat, or 12 grams (0.026 lb) per every 100 grams (0.22 lb). As well as this, 100 grams (0.22 lb) grams of fried chicken generally contains around 240 calories of energy.

One of the main causes of the large amounts of fat which can be found in fried chicken is the oil which is used to cook it.

Generally, chickens are not fried whole; instead, the chicken is divided into its constituent pieces. The two white meat sections are the breast and the wing from the front of the chicken, while the dark meat sections are the thigh and leg or “drumstick” from the rear of the chicken. These pieces are usually subdivided into the wings, the breasts (the wishbone is often cut out first in home cooking), the legs, and the thighs. The ribs are sometimes left on the breast, but commercially they and the back are usually discarded. Chicken fingers, which are boneless pieces of chicken breast cut into long strips, are also commonly used.

To prepare the chicken pieces for frying, they may be coated in a batter of flour and liquid (and seasonings) mixed together. The batter can contain ingredients like eggs, milk, and leavening. Alternatively, they may be dredged in flour or a similar dry substance, to coat the meat and to develop a crust. Seasonings such as salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, or ranch dressing mix can be mixed in with the flour. Either process may be preceded by marination or by dipping in buttermilk, the acidity of which acts as a eat tenderizer. As the pieces of chicken cook, some of the moisture that exudes from the chicken is absorbed by the coating of flour and browns along with the flour, creating a flavorful crust. According to Nathan Bailey’s 1736 cookbook, Dictionarium Domesticum, for example, the chicken can be covered in a marinade that consists of the juice of two large fresh lemons, malt vinegar, bay leaves, salt, pepper, ground cloves, and green onions; it then must be settled in the marinade for three hours before being dipped in the batter that consists of all-purpose flour, white wine, three egg yolks and salt, and then slowly submerged in a deep pot of either oil, lard, or clarified butter over an open fire. It can then be topped with fresh, dried parsley dipped in the same frying oil.

Traditionally, lard is used to fry the chicken, but corn oil, peanut oil, canola oil, or vegetable oil are also frequently used (although clarified butter may be used as well like in colonial times. The flavor of olive oil is generally considered too strong to be used for traditional fried chicken, and its low smoke point makes it unsuitable for use. There are three main techniques for frying chickens: pan frying, deep frying and broasting.

Frying chicken upper wings in corn oil

Pan frying (or shallow frying) requires a frying pan of sturdy construction and a source of fat that does not fully immerse the chicken. The chicken pieces are prepared as above, then fried. Generally the fat is heated to a temperature hot enough to seal (without browning, at this point) the outside of the chicken pieces. Once the pieces have been added to the hot fat and sealed, the temperature is reduced. There is debate as to how often to turn the chicken pieces, with one camp arguing for often turning and even browning, and the other camp pushing for letting the pieces render skin side down and only turning when absolutely necessary. Once the chicken pieces are close to being done the temperature is raised and the pieces are browned to the desired color (some cooks add small amounts of butter at this point to enhance browning). The moisture from the chicken that sticks and browns on the bottom of the pan become the fonds required to make gravy.

Deep frying requires a deep fryer or other device in which the chicken pieces can be completely submerged in hot fat. The process of deep frying is basically placing food fully in oil and then cooking it at a very high temperature. The pieces are prepared as described above. The fat is heated in the deep fryer to the desired temperature. The pieces are added to the fat and a constant temperature is maintained throughout the cooking process.

Broasting uses a pressure cooker to accelerate the process. The moisture inside the chicken becomes steam and increases the pressure in the cooker, lowering the cooking temperature needed. The steam also cooks the chicken through, but still allows the pieces to be moist and tender while maintaining a crisp coating. Fat is heated in a pressure cooker. Chicken pieces are prepared as described above and then placed in the hot fat. The lid is placed on the pressure cooker, and the chicken pieces are thus fried under pressure.

The derivative phrases “country fried” and “chicken fried” often refer to other foods prepared in the manner of fried chicken. Usually, this means a boneless, tenderized piece of meat that has been floured or battered and cooked in any of the methods described. Chicken fried steak is a common dish of that variety. Such dishes are often served with gravy.

Fried chicken

Variants
* Barberton chicken, also known as Serbian Fried Chicken, is a version created by Serbian immigrants in Barberton, Ohio, that has been popularized throughout that state.
* Chicken Maryland, a form of pan-fried chicken, often marinated in buttermilk, served with cream gravy and native to the state of Maryland. The recipe spread beyond the United States to the haute cuisine of Auguste Escoffier and, after heavy modification, found a place in the cuisines of Britain and Australia. The dish is made when a pan of chicken pieces and fat, as for pan frying, is placed in the oven to cook, for a majority of the overall cooking time, basically “fried in the oven”.
* Popcorn chicken, also known as chicken bites or other similar terms, are small morsels of boneless chicken, battered and fried, resulting in small pieces that resemble popcorn.
* Chicken and waffles, a combination platter of foods traditionally served at breakfast and dinner in one meal, common to soul food restaurants in the American South and beyond.
* Hot chicken: common in the Nashville, Tennessee area, a pan-fried variant of fried chicken coated with lard and cayenne pepper paste.
* Fried chicken sandwiches: a bun, biscuit or doughnut which is filled with fried chicken and assorted toppings, popular in Washington, D.C.

 

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