Recipe for Rock-Star Fried Chicken

For the longest time, I've yearned to learn how to make fried chicken. My friend Linda's recipe turns out finger-lickin' fried chicken, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside, one skillet after another.

Fried Chicken bone

The trick to Rock-Star Fried Chicken starts with a thin coating of spicy mustard. After that, the brilliance is in the three-step cooking process: first, for browning and crisping, a fast fry on both sides; second, to cook the chicken, a slower fry at a lower temperature in a covered skillet; third, to recrisp the coating, a last few minutes uncovered at a fast fry at a higher temperature again.

“Then I crossed the empty street
Caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken ...”
- Johnny Cash in the Kris Kristopherson song 'Sunday Mornin' Comin' Down' (sound clip below)

In the food world of my childhood, a woman’s no cook, not a real cook anyway, until she masters a tender flaky pie crust, hot-from-the-oven homemade bread and picnic-worthy fried chicken. So here I am, a woman of a certain age, and only now tackling that fried chicken.

No question why it’s taken this long: sheer intimidation. There was no matching my grandmother’s fried chicken, even following her recipe step by careful step. My home ec-teacher mother tried and failed. If she failed, well, there was no way I could succeed.

But then this summer my friend Linda shared her favorite fried chicken recipe, one she's perfected over many years. The very first night I poured the oil into the inky black cast-iron skillet, I felt like a fried-chicken rock star, like I knew what I was doing, like I was guaranteed success.

That first batch of fried chicken? Dark and oh so crispy. Succulent, even.

There was no looking back. Gramma Kellogg, your legacy continues! I know how to cook great fried chicken!

ALANNA’s TIPS You know all those tips about how to keep a cast iron skillet well-seasoned? For a few years, I’ve coddled cast iron with a rub of warm olive oil after use. Forget that, the only seasoning a cast iron skillet needs? Cookin’ up some fried chicken on a real reg’lar Sunday basis. That said, my cast iron is going to be feeling mighty lonely. I've just switched to a ceramic stovetop and was much chagrined to read, "Cast iron may scratch and permanently damage a ceramic surface."
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ROCK-STAR FRIED CHICKEN RECIPE

For detailed tips about frying chicken, see How to Make Great Fried Chicken

Hands-on time: 10 minutes to start, 30 minutes to chill, then occasional attention while frying
Time to table: 1-1/2 hours
  • Chicken legs and/or chicken thighs, skins on
  • Spicy brown mustard
    COATING
    (enough for about 5 legs and 5 thighs)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup peanut oil per skillet

Rinse chicken pieces under running water and pat dry with paper towels. With your hands, lightly coat the pieces with mustard. Arrange in a single layer on a plate and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Turn on the stove’s vent fan. In a large cast iron skillet with a lid (or two smaller skillets), heat the oil on medium high until hot. While the oil heats, mix the flour, salt and pepper in a gallon-size freezer bag. Add the chicken and toss until coated.

Without crowding, use tongs to arrange the chicken pieces in the skillet, top-side down for thighs and any breasts. Without moving the pieces, cook for 10 minutes. Turn the pieces over and cook for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium to medium-low, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove cover, turn pieces over again, increase heat to medium high and cook for 5 minutes. Arrange on platter lined with paper towels.

Serve hot or keep warm in a 200F oven or refrigerate and serve cold.

NUTRITION ESTIMATE (How many calories in fried chicken? How many Weight Watchers points in fried chicken?) Per Drumstick/Thigh: 124/174 Calories; 9/14g Tot Fat; 2/3g Sat Fat; 35/47mg Cholesterol; 342/348mg Sodium; 1g Carb; 0g Fiber; 0g Sugar; 9/10g Protein; Weight Watchers 2/4 points This nutrition estimate for fried chicken assumes that 25% of the cooking oil is absorbed by the chicken, even though when it's cooked at the proper heat, before-and-after measurements yield the same amount of oil.


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Brilliant! I love it so much I'll make it but mine will have to be gluten free. I lived for 11 years in WV and if you couldn't make fried chicken, well folks wouldn't come to dinner. Even if you made a mean Boeuf Bourguignon they still wouldn't come. I love the three-step process too. Of course now you've made me hungry for fried chicken. That wasn't on my menu for tonight, but that might have to change. :-)
 
The Whole Gang ~ Is arrowroot gluten-free? It actually became my preference over flour (that's mentioned in How to Make Great Fried Chicken) but I left flour in the main recipe since it's so accessible for most cooks where arrowroot is not. The arrowroot fried chicken was especially crispy.

Thanks for your West Virginia story, I do so relate!
 
Alanna- Yes, arrowroot is gluten free. It's great on chicken. I use it all the time. I also use it to make a slurry to thicken sauces and gravies. Penzeys is a great way to get arrowroot. I'm lucky enough to have a store here but they have a great catalog and ship. Bob's Red Mill also sells arrowroot. You can find that in most stores.
 
looks great for being so healthy. its interesting how you estimated the nutritional information with the oil...i always have a hard time trying to figure that out!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna