Fried Chicken is a religion in the South. It’s a religion for a lot of people outside of the South, too, but here it’s the kind of thing we talk about with the reverence we usually save for Sunday sermons, SEC football, who gets nana’s pearls, and the importance of monogramming everything.
All of this is to say, Bon Appetit might do a cover story on it, but even when it’s turned into BA poetry, they still can’t come close to talking about fried chicken the way Southerners do, and they might cook it up in New York and they might serve it someplace in Paris, but the best fried chicken is the kind of thing you’ll only find in someone’s oil-splattered kitchen where the secret ingredients have been passed down by the generations and are so guarded they might even go to the grave.
Really, it’s that serious.
I’m not going to tell you there’s much of a secret to fried chicken, because there really isn’t, so long as you’ve got flour, chicken, and peanut oil involved. I also like some garlic power, onion powder, cayenne, and paprika, but that’s just me. I think you can go with buttermilk or without; I think you can add cornmeal or not; I think you can double-dredge or just once, depending on your fancy. Fried chicken, I really think, is the kind of thing you should be able to whip up when there’s some chicken in your fridge and you’re hungry, not just when you’ve made a special trip to the store for that bottle of buttermilk you’ll let die in the back of your fridge.*
I like things spicy, so if you don’t, break down the spices accordingly. My grandmother swore by putting a little honey and brown sugar in her fried chicken, and if a little sweetness is your cup of tea, you’ll have to experiment with it one day. Frankly, it was delicious.
All arguments aside, here are the basics of a moist and crunchy fried chicken:
- Chicken, however much or little as you’d like. If you’re using breasts, split them in half.
- 1 egg
- At least 1 tbs of of milk for every piece of chicken you have (buttermilk is great, so is heavy cream)
- 1 cup or more of bread flour (bread flour is key here; T55 is also fabulous)
- 1 sheet of crushed matzoh (stale is fine)
- 3 parts cayenne pepper
- 2 parts paprika
- 1 part garlic powder
- 1 part onion powder
- Salt and fresh pepper to taste
- Peanut oil
* On that note, it’s actually not a bad idea to invest in powdered buttermilk. It’s not what you want to break out when your in-laws and out-laws come to town for the holidays, but it’s certainly good enough for a Tuesday evening meal. And unless you’re a super taster, you probably will never notice the difference.