July 26, 2016

Digging into the Varieties of Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is a true American classic. As you make your way through courses at an accredited online culinary institute, you’re likely to try out at least a few different ways of making this beloved dish. First, you should get to know some of the styles that draw loyal customers across the country:

Classic country fried chicken
Your journey into preparing fried chicken dishes will likely start here, with the old-school approach to the dish popularized throughout the American South. As Thrillist noted, country-fried chicken is both exceptionally addictive and deeply tied to a long, complex cultural heritage. Its flavor and texture come from the way the chef coats the breasts, wings, thighs and legs in flour and seasonings like cayenne pepper and paprika, resulting in satisfyingly crispy crust.

“Flour gives fried chicken a crispy crust.”

While that crust can be formed by dredging the meat in dry flour, it’s common to use a batter with components such as milk and egg. At establishments like San Francisco’s Frisco Fried or the decades-old Willie Mae’s Scotch House in New Orleans, the precise contents of that batter are often a closely guarded secret. What everyone knows is that this stripped-down approach can have highly moist and flavorful results.

Opting for buttermilk
Many fried chicken gurus swear by the importance of marinating the meat in buttermilk to contribute greater flavor and a pleasantly buttery aftertaste. This can, however, be a time-consuming process. Chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson provided a recipe to GQ that called for first brining the chicken for an hour and a half before immersing it in a mixture of buttermilk, hot sauce, black pepper, celery salt and chili powder for another two hours.

This style is commonly pan-fried, rather than fully immersed in grease. The chef gets the chicken nice and juicy by covering the skillet and allowing it to fill with steam. This leads to a final product that boasts a crispy top with a gravy-soaked bottom. However, methods differ widely. For instance, Beasley’s in Raleigh, North Carolina uses pressure fryers for extra-crackly results and then tops the chicken with honey.

Turn up the heat with hot chicken
Nashville is known for this special breed of fried chicken that steps up the spice level, matching the flavorful meat with a crispy crust. The chicken is traditionally delivered atop a piece of white bread, which soaks up the juices so diners don’t miss out on any of that fiery taste. As Serious Eats discussed, the restaurant credited with originating this variety is Prince’s Hot Chicken, an establishment in operation since the 1940s – though it changed locations in 1988. Local legend has it that the chicken was first prepared by the wife of patriarch Thornton Prince as a punishment for his questionable behavior.

While Prince’s remains a major destination for visitors to Tennessee, numerous other purveyors of this signature style have thrown their hat into the ring over the years. Among of the most notable is Hatie B.’s, which now has two Nashville locations and another in Birmingham, Alabama. There customers can select among five heat levels as well as sides like pimento macaroni and cheese and black eyed pea salad.

Fried chicken wings are delicious and perfect for snacking.Fried chicken wings are delicious and perfect for snacking.

Break off a wing
Chicken becomes the perfect snack food when you serve up a plate of wings. While many Americans are accustomed to Buffalo wings, Korean-style wings bring extra crunchiness as well as great flavor to the table. The New York Times offered a recipe that involved coating the chicken in a mixture of Korean red chili paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, honey, sesame oil, ginger and garlic.

This approach to chicken wings has been a major hit at restaurants like Chicago’s Crisp. Customers choose between a sweet traditional sauce, a spicy and smoky barbecue or a Buffalo-style sauce at three levels of heat. They can also opt to order a half or full chicken, hand-battered and glazed in their preferred sauce.

Fried chicken has passionate fans for all its many. As you develop your own recipe in culinary academy, you can draw on any of these traditions while trying out a personalized blend of spices and finding your preferred cooking techniques. Discover what works for you, and be sure you make plenty to share.