Southern Style Fried Chicken

Southern of course, refers to the American South. You know, pictures of a bygone era with cotton plantations, big houses a la Tara, and Twelve Oaks in Gone with the Wind That era is gone but the southern way of cooking fried chicken has made its mark. There are many versions of southern-style fried chicken. Some require precooking, either in water or in milk or buttermilk. Some require that the chicken be dipped in buttermilk before dredging in flour, some recipes include beaten eggs while others simply require that the seasoned chicken be dredged in flour before frying. The common denominator is the coating. Southern style fried chicken is coated either with flour or batter and it is the crisp crust that distinguishes it from other fried chicken dishes.

I don’t like the idea of precooking because the natural chicken flavors and juices will go into the cooking liquid. I don’t like the addition of eggs as they make the coating too thick and bread-like. I just like the chicken to be well seasoned and the coating light and crisp. This is my version.

Inspired by a reader’s comment about mixing flour and cornmeal to make the coating, I have to admit that the result is delicious. I used to make the coating by dredging the seasoned chicken in flour, dipping it in beaten eggs then coating it with breadcrumbs. That’s a thing of the past now. I tell you, the inclusion of eggs in the preparation of the coating makes it soggy as soon as the fried chicken starts to cool. Ditch the eggs and the fried chicken’s coating stays crisp even after 30 minutes.

Wash the chicken wings and pat dry with kitchen towels. Place in a large resealable plastic bag (I recommend a Ziploc bag with expandable bottom). Add the salt, pepper, cayenne powder, and garlic. Seal the bag. Shake the bag to distribute the seasonings. Massage the chicken wings through the plastic to work the seasonings into the meat. Place the fridge for at least two hours, turning the bag over and massaging the chicken every 30 minutes.

Heat the oil. Medium-high works best for me the chicken gets cooked through while the coating does not get too brown. Open the plastic bag and dump the flour and cornmeal inside. Reseal and shake thoroughly to make sure that every crevice of each piece of chicken is coated.

When the oil starts to smoke (smoking profusely means it is too hot), deep fry the chicken wings. Work in batches so as not to overcrowd the pan and so that the temperature of the oil does not drop. Leave them alone for five minutes or so. If you start moving them around too soon, the coating will slide off the chicken. This will happen too if the oil is not hot enough. When the underside is nicely browned, turn them over and cook for another five minutes or so. Chicken wings don’t take too long to cook.

If you cook your fried chicken correctly, the coating will not be shiny at all and very little oil will drip off the chicken as you lift them off the frying pan. To make sure that you get rid of the little excess oil, drain on paper towels before serving. Now, if you want something different Did you know that Southern-style fried chicken is the base dish for making buffalo wings? That’s what I’ll be posting next.