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Old 07-17-2008, 08:08 AM   #1
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Pan fry chicken

I have a few questions as a cook that knows very little :) I did a search but nothing came up unless I overlooked it.

I want to try some kind of pan fried chicken but Im unsure of how to go about it. I do not have a oil/candy thermometer so I have a hard time heating oil in a pan on my stove. Is there any safe way to go about doing that without a thermometer? I know that once an oil hits the 'smoke point' that its pretty much toast. Are there any visual precursors to indicate ive gone to high?

Also, how can I tell if the chicken is cooking properly? I do not want to be sticking my probe thermometer in the chicken every 5 min to see what the temp is. But I also do not want a dark outside with a cold/pink inside. Any general timing rules I can follow? Would it be easier for boneless or bone-in chicken?

I know these are very simplistic questions but I think it will start me in the right direction. Several more to come, so you've been warned

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Old 07-17-2008, 08:36 AM   #2
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things to keep in mind:

1) use a high sided heavy pan even though you are only going to put about 2" of oil in the pan; a cast iron dutch oven for example, as cast iron retains heat and the high sides keeps splatters under control a bit. a splatter screen is also helpful.

2) the oil gets currents and eddies as it heats ...look for these and test with a little ball of bread...does it sizzle or just get wet. If it sizzles you are hot.

3) have chicken rested at room temp so you don't chill your oil too much, also do a few pieces at a time, don't crowd your pan.


4) let the chicken cook on side 1, then turn once and let it cook. There should be sizzle around the sides of the chix. steam will escape from the parts sticking out.

5) chicken on the bone takes longer to cook but generally has more flavor and is more moist. either way, marinate your chicken for several hours or overnight. a brine or buttermilk and hot sauce are good standards. Cut big pieces like breasts in half. (also fryers are 3-4 lb chix not 7 lb chix, so the pieces are smaller. Timing is approximate but open pan frying is about 15-20 min depending on size and temps.

6) dredge - egg- dredge (and season your flour or crumb mix)

have a warm oven ready to receive your cooked chix (on a draining rack )

For safety: have a lid ready to cover a flaming pot if need be. When you are frying, the pot is your only concern. Don't go prep a salad. Once things get hot they cook and a few seconds makes the difference between great and good and ok and burned.

It seems daunting but: home cooks have been doing this for thousands of years even on very primitive equipment. It just takes determination to do it and do it again and again and each time you will learn what works for you and your equipment until it becomes second nature. Enjoy the experience and some wonderful chicken!
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Old 07-17-2008, 08:37 AM   #3
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It really is best to get a thermometer...maintaing proper oil temperature is critical. Also, I would recommend a cast iron pan for this, as it has the ability to maintain the oil temperature better with less fluctuation.
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:03 AM   #4
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I'll get the ball rolling, unless someone beats me to it

I don't have a candy thermometer either. When the oil starts to turn clear and is "runnier", it is ready. Also, if you wet your finger and allow ONE DROP to hit the oil, if it pops and sizzles, it is ready.
I have a gas stove and have never fried chicken on high, usually around med or a bit higher to start with.

Can you cook a hamburger? Do you know how the rising blood/juice will begin to turn clear near the end? Same thing with chicken. No need to take the temp every five minutes until it gets close to being done.

I don't pan fry chicken a lot, so follow a recipe each time. It always comes out just like I like it. I use bone-in thighs.

Coat the chicken pieces with seasoned flour
Place in heated oil for 15 minutes, turning to brown
reduce heat to low and cover pan. Cook for 25 minutes.
Take cover off and cook for 5-10 minutes more.

Works for me
I suggest you pick up a Better Homes & Gardens red and white checked cook book. Excellent book for recipes and other info.
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:05 AM   #5
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oops. I didn't know he/she wanted deep fried chicken. I thought just pan fried....
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:11 AM   #6
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Kind of a spin-off question... is there a large difference in timing between white/dark meat? My wife likes dark meat, Im a fan of white.
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:37 AM   #7
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Another quick way to check oil temp is to insert the end of a wooden spoon. When the oil is hot enough, the wood will sizzle a little.
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Old 07-17-2008, 09:50 AM   #8
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mostly great info here so far. I would suggest NOT to put any water into the fat to "test" the temp. If you don't have a thermometer, toss a small cube of bread into the fat. It will not pop and burn anyone, but will sizzle and fry and let you know the fat is ready for your chicken.

No one has mentioned the breading or batter. After your chicken has sat in the buttermilk, drain it and dry it off, then flour your chicken, and dip ot into egg and then crumbs. You could use panko, or even crushed corn flakes and you'll get a nice crunchy crust. Don't turn the pieces over and over in the fat. The bottom of the pan will release the meat when it's ready to be turned. You can tell with your tongs when and if it's "time!"

The denser pieces (such as the thighs, legs and wishbone) will take longer to cook than the thinner ones, so put them into the pan first.

What time is dinner?
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Old 07-17-2008, 10:16 AM   #9
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I think Robo did a great job. So articulate. And easy step by step. Thanks Robo.

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Old 07-17-2008, 10:23 AM   #10
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I use an electric skillet to fry chicken, but you can do the same thing in a regular skillet, cooking on med/high. Everyone says I make the best fried chicken they've ever eaten.

Mamma Connie's Fried Chicken

Season chicken pieces liberally with salt and pepper. Prepare a shallow pan of flour (3-4 cups), well-seasoned with more salt and pepper. Prepare a shallow bowl of beaten eggs (about 3) thinned with milk or water to the consistency of heavy cream.
Pour canola oil into an electric skillet to the depth of 1-1/4" and preheat to 375 degrees. When light goes off, indicating temperature has been reached, coat chicken pieces one at a time, first in flour, then in egg mixture, then in flour again, and add to hot oil.
DO NOT TURN chicken until first side is golden brown. Then turn, and put lid on ker-slaunch-wise, so chicken will continue browning, but also steam a little. When browned on both sides, remove and let drain in a single layer on paper towels. If it's going to stand for any length of time, remove from paper towels. Don't worry...it will be done.
Turn down heat and pour most of the grease out of skillet, leaving about a quarter cup and all the little brown bits in pan. Stir in about 1/2 cups of flour remaining from coating, a little at a time, till a smooth roux is formed. Slowly stir in milk (about 2-3 cups, mixture should be thin), smoothing out any lumps, then turn heat back up to 350 degrees. Cook, stirring, till gravy is of desired consistancy. Taste, re-season with salt and pepper and about 1 tsp sugar.

This chicken will be tender but not greasy, because you've cooked it at a high enough temperature and haven't turned it over and over.
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