Long ago health food junkies swore off fried foods thinking that the technique of cooking up their favorite cuts in vats of oil added loads of fat to their main courses. On the contrary, food – fried in the right way – will not only taste heavenly, but will lock out oil and leave your meat moist and flavorful. Here are three tips to making the perfect batch of fried chicken.
Tip Number One: Get a good meat thermometer
Great fried food starts with great frying oil. It’s important to maintain an even oil temperature during the cooking process so that your first leg comes out just as good as the last. The chefs at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) recommend that you get an accurate instant-read thermometer (with a high upper range) to monitor the temperature of your oil. Maintaining a temperature between 250°-300°F during cooking will keep the moisture in your food. Lucky for you, the Super-Fast Thermapen is super accurate – even at a range of up to 572°F.
Tip Number Two: Keep your oil hot
When frying up a batch “like mama used to make”, we recommend getting your oil up to 350°F before you even think about taking that first chicken leg for a dip. Hot oil is important because that’s what’s going to keep your chicken from absorbing the grease and turning into a oily mess.
Here’s the science. If the water in the food you’re frying is kept above the boiling point (212°F), the outward pressure of the escaping water vapor keeps the oil from soaking into the food. The key is to get the oil hot enough at the start (350°F) and maintain a temperature (between 250°F and 300°F) during cooking. That will keep the moisture in and the oil out.
You’ll want to monitor the temperature as you remove pieces of chicken from the oil. Cooking chicken will absorb heat and reduce the temperature of your frying oil. Be patient and bring your fryer back to temp before you start another round. Again, a super-fast and accurate thermometer is key to monitoring this temperature.
Tip Number Three: Don’t forget to check the internal temperature of your chicken
The hottest oil in the world won’t mean a thing if your chicken is undercooked. Once you’ve achieved that perfect crisp mahogany crust, use your thermometer to spot check the chicken in the thickest parts of the cut. Make sure that you’ve reached an internal temperature of 165°F before they’re ready to eat.
Try removing the chicken from the oil just prior to reaching 165°F so you can let the residual heat take it up to 165°F during the resting period. ATK even recommends that you hold your crispy chicken in a 200°F oven while the rest of the batch finishes up cooking.
Food for Thought
Super-Fast Thermapens aren’t the only thermometers that can be used to monitor your hot oil. Clip-on candy thermometers and deep-fryer thermometers can also be used to help you keep track of your temperatures. However, with those models, you’re limited in what you’re able to do when you have to cover your pot or skillet.
The Thermapen will read the oil temperature in only 3 seconds so you can get your lid back on and your hand back out of the way quickly. With its probe fully deployed, you’ll also have plenty of reach so you can keep your hand out of the way from the occasional snap and crackle. Its fast and accurate readings will allow you to temp the oil and return the lid as fast as possible drastically reducing the splatter and mess.