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~ Crispy Outside, Tender Inside, Oven-Fried Chicken ~

IMG_9389The best oven-fried chicken has a crispy-crunchy outer coating encasing the juicy-tender meat. It's succulent.  That said, to proclaim oven-fried chicken is as good as, rivals, or is better than traditional skillet- or deep-fried chicken is not something I'm willing to do.  Truth told, it's neither better nor worse.  It's different.  Two different cooking methods produce two different results.  Both qualify for fried-chicken status and both are marvelous, but, they're two different birds.

Skillet- or deep-fried chicken vs. oven-fried chicken:

IMG_9395Two different birds indeed.  Immersing traditional fried chicken in hot-oil (or shortening or lard) in a skillet or in a deep-fryer crisps the outer skin while cooking the inner meat, in a relatively short period of time.  That said, the dry, high, oven heat fries chicken by cooking the inner meat while the outer skin gently crisps, in a relatively long period of time.  The coating ingredients for traditional fried chicken are mostly limited to a dry dredge in seasoned flour, sometimes followed by a wet dip in a flour-based batter and a second dry dredge.  There are a variety of coating ingredients for oven-fried chicken, ranging from crushed cornflakes and crackers to toasted breadcrumbs.  Lastly, traditional fried chicken is limited to corn, peanut or vegetable oil (or shortening or lard), and requires a lot of it.  Butter and flavored olive oils, which are not suitable for preparing traditional fried chicken, can be used to add additional flavor to oven-fried chicken.

Oven-fried requires less oil.  Traditional fried requires more oil. 

IMG_9398The method for oven-frying chicken is always the same.  Dip the chicken pieces in a liquid prior to dredging it in a seasoned flour or the desired crunchy coating -- the wet coat helps the dry coat adhere to the chicken.  The liquid can be or contain beaten eggs, melted butter, or a drizzly milk-and-flour based batter.  As for seasonings, most recipes incorporate garlic and onion powder, an herb or combination of herbs, salt, and some form of pepper.  As each chicken piece receives its dry coat, it is placed a rack in a pan to allow the hot oven air to circulate around it on all sides -- as a group, for the same reason, the chicken pieces should be placed slightly-to-well-apart.

Oil = Crispy.  Oven-fried is crispy.  Traditional-fried is crispier.  

IMG_9403My mother-in-law Phyllis made great oven-fried chicken.  She kept it simple too.  As little mess as possible.  She painted the chicken with some melted butter, sprinkled the chicken pieces with a super-flavorful flour and dry spice blend and popped it in a hot oven for 70-75 minutes.  While the chicken was in the oven, her hands were free to make a salad or a couple of hot side dishes. Was it as crispy as traditional fried chicken?  No it was not, nor was anyone expecting it to be. Was it crispy?  Yes it was, plus, it had a lot more flavor than traditional Southern fried chicken.  

IMG_93364  bone-in chicken leg-thigh quarters, or, 4 legs and 4 thighs, or, 6 chicken breasts

1  cup all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2  teaspoons garlic powder

1 1/2  teaspoons onion powder

1 1/2  teaspoons poultry seasoning

1  tablespoon sea salt

1  teaspoon coarse-grind black pepper

1/2  teaspoon white pepper

1/4  teaspoon cayenne pepper

1  stick salted butter

1  large egg

IMG_9326 IMG_9326 IMG_9326~ Step 1.  To make the dry-spice blend, in a 2-cup bowl, stir together the flour, cornstarch and spices: garlic powder, onion powder, poultry seasoning, sea salt, black pepper, white pepper and cayenne pepper.  Set aside.

IMG_9340 IMG_9340 IMG_9416 IMG_9416 IMG_9416 IMG_9416 IMG_9416~Step 2.  In a 1-cup measuring container, melt butter in microwave and set aside to cool for 5-10 minutes.  In a small bowl, use a fork to which the egg, then whisk the beaten egg into the butter mixture.  If you have a container with wide holes on the top (the type used to shake cheese onto a pizza), transfer flour mixture to it, as it makes coating the chicken a breeze.  Ready a pastry brush.  Insert a wire rack into bottom of a large, disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan.

IMG_9351 IMG_9351 IMG_9351~ Step 4.  Working one piece of chicken at a time, use the pastry brush to paint surface on all sides with butter-egg mixture, then, sprinkle all sides with a light coating of the flour mix (chicken should not be packed with coating) -- I like to pick each piece up in my fingertips and shake the excess off.

IMG_9359 IMG_9359~ Step 5.  As you work, arrange the chicken pieces well-apart on the rack in the pan.  When all chicken pieces have been placed on the rack, allow to rest about 30 minutes, to allow the flour to absorb excess moisture.  Do not skip this rest.

IMG_9368 IMG_9368~ Step 6.  Oven-fry chicken pieces on center rack of preheated 375º oven for 70-75 minutes.  Avoid opening the oven door.  Chicken will be deep golden, and skin will feel crisped when touched. Remove from oven and serve immediately.

Tender & juicy w/a thin & crispy edible skin:

IMG_9413Crispy Outside, Tender Inside, Oven-Fried Chicken:  Recipe yields 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List: 2-cup bowl; spoon; 1-cup measuring container; pastry brush; wire cooling rack; large disposable aluminum roasting pan or 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan

6a0120a8551282970b01a3fcb142e9970bCook's Note: I refer to my recipe for Southern fried chicken and waffles as "Yankee-style" because I've never eaten chicken and waffles on the same plate below the Mason-Dixon line. I've traveled through many Southern states, and eaten a few meals in Tennesee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi and Louisiana.  I have eaten some fine fried chicken, but, I do not recall the option of a waffle with it or underneath it.  My great Aunt (a South Carolina gal) repeatedly drawled "there is no such thing as this dish in the South" every time she served it to us Yankees here in PA.  Try my  ~ Yankee-Style Souther-Fried Chicken & Waffles ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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