I’ve written about fried chicken a lot because, well, it’s pretty high up on the list of best possible things to eat, period. Given that it’s one of the best possible things to eat, it’s imperative that we make fried chicken as often as possible. We can’t know when we shall leave this mortal coil; therefore: the more fried chicken you eat, the better your life will have been. It’s in your hands.

Here, I not only give the recipe, but I demonstrate how I personally prefer to cook this infinitely variable preparation. The technique is pan-frying, which I use for chicken and pork chops. Unlike deep-frying, the items are not completely submerged. Ideally the oil level will come halfway up what you’re cooking (I have slightly more oil than I need in the video).

I think the secret to this chicken is finishing them in a moderate oven, which allows the thighs and drumsticks to become tender while keeping the exterior crisp.

For more technique videos, visit this page on the Le Creuset site. To enter the Potluck drawing, go here.

If you fail to make enough fried chicken during this all-too-brief time on earth, there’s only one person to blame. Plan to make fried chicken this week!

Fried Chicken

Brine

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed with the flat side of a knife
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 5 or 6 branches of rosemary, each 4 or 5 inches/10 or 12 centimeters long
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 whole chicken

Seasoning

  • 3 cups/385 grams all-purpose/plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 cups/480 milliliters buttermilk
  • Oil for pan-frying (about 2 1/2 cups)
  1. Make the brine: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic in the oil until translucent, a few minutes. Add the salt after the onion and garlic have cooked for 30 seconds or so. Add the rosemary and cook to heat it, 30 seconds or so. Add the water and the lemon, squeezing the juice from the wedges into the water and removing any seeds. Bring the water to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and allow the brine to cool. Refrigerate it until it’s chilled.
  2. Cut up the chicken: Remove the legs from the chicken where the thigh connects to the carcass. Separate the leg and the thigh by cutting at the line of fat on the underside of the leg between the two.
  3. Remove the wing tips and reserve for stock. Remove the wings at the joint where they connect to the carcass. Remove the breast and breastbone from the back of the chicken, slicing along the rib cage and through the joints connecting the breast to the back.
  4. Cut the breast in half widthwise, and set the triangular piece with the other chicken pieces. Halve the remaining breast piece lengthwise through the keel bone. You should have 9 pieces for frying (the wing tips, neck, back, and gizzard will give you 3 cups of stock; you can freeze them for later use).
  5. Place the chicken pieces in a large, sturdy plastic bag. Set the bag in a large bowl for support. Pour the cooled brine and aromatics into the bag. Seal the bag so that you remove as much air as possible and the chicken is submerged in the brine. Refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours, agitating the bag occasionally to redistribute the brine and the chicken.
  6. Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold water, pat dry, and set on a rack or on paper towels. The chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before you cook it, or it can be cooked immediately. Ideally, it should be refrigerated, uncovered, for a day to dry out the skin, but usually I can’t wait to start cooking it.
  7. Preheat your oven to 300°F/150°C.
  8. Combine the flour, pepper, paprika, sea salt, cayenne, and baking powder in a bowl. Whisk to distribute the ingredients. Pour the buttermilk into another bowl. Set a rack on a baking sheet. Dredge the chicken in the flour, shake off the excess, and set the dusted pieces on the rack. Dip the pieces in the buttermilk, then dredge them in the flour and return them to the rack.
  9. Heat the oil in a high-sided skillet to 350°F/180°C. Add as many chicken pieces as you can without crowding the pan (ideally all the dark meat). Cook the drumsticks and thighs, turning the pieces occasionally, until they are cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes depending on their size. Remove to the rack and put the rack in the oven to finish cooking while you cook the remaining pieces. Put the remaining pieces on the rack and let them cook a little longer while you get the rest of the dinner going.
  10. This can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance, in which case reduce oven temperature to 200°F/95°C.

Serves 4 to 6

 

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© 2013 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2013 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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18 Wonderful responses to “Le Creuset Technique: Pan Frying”

  • Amy Viny

    Love this Michael. Great instruction beautifully produced–what FoodTv should be! What is you favorite oil to fry in?

    • ruhlman

      right now it’s schmaltz! but preference for deep frying is peanut. though i usually use cheap veg oil

  • joeinvegas

    Thank you for the details on how to cut up the bird, and the clear frying instructions. You’ve got me wanting to try it!

  • Jared

    I have pan fried two chickens recently with similar brines and spices, always great. I didn’t finish it in the oven I’ll have to give that a go. The lemon makes the dish for me.

  • Alex

    Can’t seem to get to the Le Creuset Technique page from Canada, though the youtube videos work fine from the Le Creuset youtube page.

  • Peter

    While I love fried chicken, its got two knocks against it. First, obviously, are the added fat calories. But even more disruptive is disposing the large quantity of leftover oil that goes against my sustainability instincts.

  • Lisa

    I absolutely love my Le Creuset, but I’ve never used it for pan frying. I’ll have to try this pan frying technique with it. And I love the addition of lemon zest and rosemary at the end!

  • Lisa

    I used my dutch oven and it was great. I would make a few minor changes for my tastes but otherwise, loves it.

  • Signe Rousseau (@Dr_Rousseau)

    Made this last night, and while the chicken cooked beautifully and remained moist thanks to the brine, we got more of a shell of batter (with soggy skin underneath) rather than crispy skin. Any tips on how to avoid this? Also, the batter didn’t seem to expand at all, so what’s the role of the baking powder?

  • Cary Waterhouse

    Been looking for that ‘perfect’ fried chicken recipe forever, without luck. Until now. Not sure how much some ‘modifications’ played into this, but I will be making this recipe and this recipe ONLY whenever I crave fried chicken. I actually FORGOT about the chicken in the brine for an additional day and a half — so 2.5 days refrigerated in the brine. Rinsed it really well and let it sit uncovered in the refrigerator for an additional 2 days. I kept the oil (peanut) at about 320 for the entire frying time (about 10-11 min for a dark-golden) and finished in a 300 oven for ~20min. Amazing crunch, crispy skin, and juicy meat (not salty at all…)

  • Scott Johnston

    Can you reuse the cooking oil (after cooling and straining it)? If so how many times?

  • Shelley

    WOW, Im obsessed. With this Chicken and this blog. I am buying Ruhlman’s twenty ASAP.

    First of all, I will say this. IF YOU NEVER MAKE THIS FRIED CHICKEN, THEN AT LEAST USE THIS BRINE. It’s flippin unbelievable and will be my go to brine from now on. (spatchcocked game hens in this brine next). The only thing I added was one tablespoon of sugar.

    Second…WHO THE HECK can wait 24 hours for the brine and 24 hours for the drying? OMG, I tried. Brined for about 10 hours and then dried for about 8 hours. It could have used A LOT more drying time but even uncooked in the fridge it smelled of that delicious brine. I didnt care – I had to cook it.

    I used my VERY FAVORITE pan; the Le Creuset 6-3/4 qt wide round french oven…I now have 2 of them I love it so much….what a great pan for this type of frying.

    The coating was crunchy, chicken meat itself was SO moist and SO flavorful, and the technique was really good. I would have NEVER thought to finish this in the oven. But it made my timing SOOO easy to finish everything else (cream gravy, ricotta smashed fingerlings and sauteed veggies). My husband was moaning when he ate the chicken and he said….”as good as the sides are, just make the chicken next time! why put anything else in your stomach – it’s just taking up space that could be for chicken” LOL He has requested this chicken again this weekend, and I am happy to oblige…I love it when he loves his food.

    I never understood the concept of COLD FRIED (picnic) CHICKEN, but the cold chicken I ate today made me a BELIEVER.

    I am a very good cook….but fried chicken was NOT at the top of my list. IT IS NOW. Thanks Michael for breaking it down so we can all create the beat fried chicken we can.

  • Renee

    Tried this recipe with chicken wings last night. I used my cast iron (still don’t have a Le Crueset dutch oven) and the oil foamed/bubbled up each time I put in a piece of chicken (to the point of overflowing).

    Nothing a little ladling couldn’t help. The wings were FABULOUS! Thanks for the great recipe!

  • Tracy

    Fantastic! The best fried chicken I’ve ever had. And I made it with gluten free flour. Worked perfect. I did decrease the flour mix by half since gluten free flours are more expensive and it worked great, with just a little waste.
    For those who asked about reusing the oil, I’ve been reusing my oil with great results. I strain it into a container and it sits in the fridge until it’s time to use it again. It becomes semi-solid, but heats quickly.
    Thanks for the recipe!

  • Ben

    Peter
    While I love fried chicken, its got two knocks against it. First, obviously, are the added fat calories. But even more disruptive is disposing the large quantity of leftover oil that goes against my sustainability instincts.

    The oil can be filtered and reused a few times. As for disposal most restaurants have a barrel out back that holds their spent oil which eventually gets hauled away for recycling, it’s pretty easy to drive up and pour off a small quantity of oil. Around here a lot goes to the making of bio diesel.

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