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The Fried Chicken Debate: Deep Fried or Pan Fried?


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#1 jhlurie

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Posted 07 June 2003 - 01:27 PM

Since we didn't settle anything here, in a local thread which meandered onto the topic, I figured I'd break this out into its own topic for everyone to partipate in, assuming of course people other than the three or four of us already involved care at all.

The issue: People speak of Fried Chicken, and these days most automatically assume they are referring to Deep Fried. But in many cases it used to be done in a more time consuming, and many would claim, more inconsistent fashion--in a pan. The end product can be quite different, so strictly speaking this may be more of an apples vs. oranges comparison, but that doesn't make it ineligible for debate.

Pan Fried Chicken, at its best, features a unique kind of crust which forms against the side of the pan. At its worst, Pan Fried Chicken faces a much greater possibility than Deep Fried of being messed up--cooked unevenly, oily, dry or even raw in portions.

Deep Fried is more of a science. You stick it in a basket, lower it into oil for a scant few minutes and as long as you keep it in approximately the right amount of time, and you've changed the oil at the right intervals, its consistent.

Pan Fried is more of an art. It takes 20 to 25 minutes. Somebody has to watch it, flip it, manipulate the oil around, judge the chicken. It takes time, skill and work. And if you mess it up, you can really mess it up. But you can also get that great crust, and you can season it a lot better than the deep fried.

Is Pan Fried worth the trouble? If you walk into a restaurant which do you expect? Is consistency the key or excellence? Do you know any really excellent specimens of each type?
Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

#2 Fat Guy

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Posted 07 June 2003 - 01:46 PM

I'm strongly in favor of shallow-frying, because I prefer the crunchy crust that only shallow-frying can produce. Very few, if any, restaurants do it this way, which is why homemade is almost always better than restaurant. Though I'll eat deep-fried and enjoy it, I just can't acknowledge it as real fried chicken, or, rather, as real Southern fried chicken.
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#3 elyse

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Posted 07 June 2003 - 01:56 PM

Can you make both for me and then I'll judge?

#4 fifi

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Posted 07 June 2003 - 02:18 PM

I will weigh in on this one because a couple of years ago, an article in Martha Stewart Living reminded me of the best fried chicken on the planet. It was almost a duplicate of the way my great aunt would fry chicken when I was a kid. My sister says it is a duplicate, even down to the Tabasco.

http://www.marthaste...true&resultNo=2

When we remember back about Aunt Minnie's technique, we are not real sure if it is what you would call pan fried or deep fried. She used a cast iron dutch oven with more shortening than you would use for pan frying in a frying pan (even one with deep sides like the Lodge pan) but not so much as for deep frying. After several tries, we finally duplicated Aunt Minnie's chicken with attention to a few details:

Pick a smallish chicken, not more than 3 pounds. I buy smaller chickens and cut them up myself. The pre-cut pieces we get here seem to come from BIG chickens. I usually just fry the legs, thighs and breast and use the rest for stock. We aren't big wing fans. If the breasts are too big, whack them in half.

The buttermilk marinade is crucial. Overnight is necessary. If you go for the 2 hours like an option in Martha's recipe it really doesn't get that clingy film that you need to form the perfect crust.

Take it out of the fridge a bit before you flour it to take some of the chill off.

Use the paper bag routine, one piece at a time. For some reason, any other method doesn't get the right amount of flour into the buttermilk film.

Don't let the coated chicken sit around too long before frying. The crust will get tough.

Don't use vegetable oil. Use Crisco. It makes all the difference. Aunt Minnie would sometimes use half Crisco and half lard if she could get some fresh from the butcher. I make my own lard but never have had enough on hand to try that. I do add the bacon grease as Martha suggests but maybe use a bit more than she advises.

Use enough shortening to just cover the pieces when you put them in. This is why I am not sure if this is classic pan frying or deep frying. It looks like somewhere in between to me.

Don't crowd the pan. You need to keep the temperature up as much as possible. The heavy pot, shortening to chicken ratio, and the smaller size of the pieces help you out here. A burner with a lot of BTUs is a good thing. (For a lot of chicken I use a propane burner and a REALLY BIG deep fry pan thing.) Watch that thermometer as you add the pieces one at a time. The smaller size pieces also allow the chicken to cook through without the crust getting too dark. You will turn the pieces once during cooking.

Pour off most of the shortening and make your milk gravy with the brown bits in the bottom of the pot.

Perfect chicken is the result and it is NOT greasy. I am not sure why but we did try this with oil one time and it was terrible even though we did maintain the temperature.

Technique is the whole trick. I can't imagine trying this on a production basis in a restaurant.

But is it pan fried or deep fried? Ah... That is the question.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#5 Ruth

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Posted 08 June 2003 - 10:01 AM

It's what you use for the frying. I used a mixture of lard and duck fat to pan fry some chicken legs and thighs last night (I never fry the breasts). I brined them and coated them with flour seasoned with salt, peppr and Spanish smoked paprika. They emerged crisp, flavorful and virtually greaseless.
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#6 jhlurie

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 08:06 PM

It's what you use for the frying. I used a mixture of lard and duck fat to pan fry some chicken legs and thighs last night (I never fry the breasts). I brined them  and coated them with flour seasoned with salt, peppr and Spanish smoked paprika. They emerged crisp, flavorful and virtually greaseless.

Maybe you've got the answer to the whole debate hidden in there. Everything except the breasts come out better in a pan. For the breasts, go dunk it in a deep fryer.

Yeah. Real practical. :wink:
Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

#7 tommy

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:18 PM

i fried the whole bird (in 1/8 ths) tonite in a cast iron pan for the first time ever. yes, i'im quite pleased with the results. Popeye's can go #%(* themselves. this is where it's at. i got that dark brown crusty part on the parts too. love it.

although, i'm told the whole house "smells like Burger King." with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps this wasn't such a hot idea.

#8 snowangel

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:21 PM

ialthough, i'm told the whole house "smells like Burger King."  with the benefit of hindsight, perhaps this wasn't such a hot idea.

Time for incense or a tuner. :biggrin:

Nothing like those morning-after olfactory reminders of what one ate.
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#9 Fat Guy

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:22 PM

A Dutch oven and a splatter screen will help next time. What kind of oil did you use, T?
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#10 tommy

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 10:37 PM

A Dutch oven and a splatter screen will help next time. What kind of oil did you use, T?

can i plead the 5th? wanted to use peanut, but used vegetable.

not sure if that splatter thing is going to help, though. i mean, the shit didn't splatter up to my second floor, did it? :blink:

#11 Dave the Cook

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Posted 09 June 2003 - 11:53 PM

Use vegetable shortening for pan frying -- solves the odor problem and gives you a crust almost as crisp and rich as lard -- better than any commonly available oil, anyway.

Shortening is the most refined fat most people can buy.

I disagree about the Dutch oven. A regular-height cast iron pan lets moisture evaporate better. But do get a spatter screen -- not so much for odor control as for easier clean-up.

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#12 Stone

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 12:47 AM

However Popeye's does it. That's the best.

#13 jhlurie

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 08:03 AM

However Popeye's does it.  That's the best.

Okay Stone, I'll admit Popeye's isn't bad, but "the best"? That's a real statement.

I'm pretty sure there is no way they are Pan Frying at Popeye's though.


On another topic: Mmmmmmmmmm shortening. And the lard/duck fat idea doesn't sound bad either.
Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

#14 Stone

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 09:12 AM

However Popeye's does it.  That's the best.

Okay Stone, I'll admit Popeye's isn't bad, but "the best"? That's a real statement.

After I wrote that, I realized that I can't remember the last time I had fried chicken that didn't come from Popeyes, KFC (blah) or Roy Rogers.

#15 Dave the Cook

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 09:20 AM

However Popeye's does it.  That's the best.

Okay Stone, I'll admit Popeye's isn't bad, but "the best"? That's a real statement.

After I wrote that, I realized that I can't remember the last time I had fried chicken that didn't come from Popeyes, KFC (blah) or Roy Rogers.

So next weekend, leave the cover on the smoker and fry up some chicken instead.

Start a real-time thread and we'll walk you through it -- just leave the Maggi in the cabinet.

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Eat more chicken skin.


#16 Stone

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 09:26 AM

However Popeye's does it.  That's the best.

Okay Stone, I'll admit Popeye's isn't bad, but "the best"? That's a real statement.

After I wrote that, I realized that I can't remember the last time I had fried chicken that didn't come from Popeyes, KFC (blah) or Roy Rogers.

So next weekend, leave the cover on the smoker and fry up some chicken instead.

Start a real-time thread and we'll walk you through it -- just leave the Maggi in the cabinet.

Dude, fried chicken is very fattening.

#17 Dave the Cook

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 09:29 AM

However Popeye's does it.  That's the best.

Okay Stone, I'll admit Popeye's isn't bad, but "the best"? That's a real statement.

After I wrote that, I realized that I can't remember the last time I had fried chicken that didn't come from Popeyes, KFC (blah) or Roy Rogers.

So next weekend, leave the cover on the smoker and fry up some chicken instead.

Start a real-time thread and we'll walk you through it -- just leave the Maggi in the cabinet.

Dude, fried chicken is very fattening.

Man, what was I thinking? Smoked butt and ribs are so much better for you. :wink:

Edit: not to mention the beer.

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Eat more chicken skin.


#18 elyse

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 11:43 AM

I love Kentucky Fried Chicken. Sue me.

#19 jhlurie

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 12:41 PM

For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with liking KFC or Popeye's. For me, its just a matter of degree. Your mouth may be happy with KFC in it, but it might be VERY happy with Stroud's.

Or not. I'm not going to put down anyone for liking fast food chicken. It's those "best" labels I'll occasionally question, and maybe at most I'd ask if its really "like" more than "love" for some of those fast food choices.

Edited by jhlurie, 10 June 2003 - 12:44 PM.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

#20 maggiethecat

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 12:46 PM

Use vegetable shortening for pan frying -- solves the odor problem and gives you a crust almost as crisp and rich as lard -- better than any commonly available oil, anyway.

Absolutely spot-on on here. Added advantages: shortening is cheap and doesn't need refridgeration.

Is that because it is so, so very refined?

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#21 fifi

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Posted 10 June 2003 - 12:58 PM

It is because it is

HYDROGENATED

BAD BAD BAD


But I do use it for chicken. :wub:
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#22 Dana

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 09:29 AM

For the last 6-12 months, I had a very difficult time getting 3 lb chickens at my local supermarket. All are at least 4 lbs, and often more. To me, these aren't fryers at all. I don't like them so big. What's up with that? anyone know?
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#23 fifi

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 05:33 PM

I have had the same problem. That is why I quit buying the packages of thighs, legs, breast or whatever. Those things seem to come from chickens that might even be bigger than 4 pounds. I use large chickens for roasting (preferably more than 6 pounders) and I will swear that those chicken pieces are coming from those steroidal types. I have to really look for the smaller birds.

Oh... This thread made me really hungry for fried chicken. I couldn't come up with a good reason to smell up my current apartment-with-no-ventilation so I stopped at Popeye's. YUK!!! I was so dissappointed. My stomach was aching for the pan fried stuff. Oh well... maybe it was just not a very good store.
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#24 pjs

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 07:32 PM

fifi, you're in LA right? (The state, that is.) Don't you have a Church's in the neighborhood?

Agree with the 3 lb. limit for frying, sauteing AND roasting, but they do seem to be getting harder to find. I won't buy anything larger except for the stockpot.

I'd part with some serious cash for some fresh 20 oz. poussins to roast.

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#25 fifi

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 08:02 PM

I'm in Houston. Our Church's here are spotty. I usually really like Popeye's. I think I was just remembering the last time I pan fried some chicken. Nothing compares.

A friend that I cook with tried some poussins not long ago. We didn't particularly like them. She cooked them perfectly. We just didn't find the flavor anything to write home about and they just seemed "fussy".
Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

#26 snowangel

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 08:32 PM

When I was young, and my grandparents lived on a farm in Nebraska, I spent most of every summer with them.

Sunday after church, grandma would put on a house dress, and I'd put on shorts and a gingham shirt, and we'd kill and clean a chicken.

She'd get out the flour, salt, pepper, a can of crisco, some lard (rendered by Dorothy, her sister-in-law; one farm down), and fry a chicken in the cast iron skillet she got from her mother who got it from her mother (which is now MINE :biggrin: ). I'd cut the potatoes and eggs and onions for yellow potato salad (made with miracle whip, yellow mustard and a splash of vinegar.

If it was late enough in the summer, we'd have a plate of sliced tomatoes, but we always had either fresh picked peas or green beans.

If the bugs weren't bad, we'd sit on the back stoop and eat. She always had ice cream (several different flavors) in the upright freezer in cake cones for dessert.

I just love summer.
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#27 maggiethecat

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 09:52 PM

I just love summer.

I just love this post. I'm amazed at how many other North Americans must have experienced some form of this memory.

Glencoe,Ontario. 1959

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#28 Fat Guy

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Posted 11 June 2003 - 10:02 PM

For the record, I don't think there's anything wrong with liking KFC or Popeye's.  For me, its just a matter of degree.  Your mouth may be happy with KFC in it, but it might be VERY happy with Stroud's.

Or not.  I'm not going to put down anyone for liking fast food chicken.  It's those "best" labels I'll occasionally question, and maybe at most I'd ask if its really "like" more than "love" for some of those fast food choices.

The fact of the matter is that Popeye's chicken is better than most fried chicken from independent establishments. It is the McDonald's fries of chicken: always good, technically proficient, and in general an improvement over the local standalone competition. That certainly doesn't make it the best, though -- a good shallow-fried homemade specimen will beat Popeye's anyday.

Note also that shallow-fried chicken is the only acceptable product when it comes to picnics and leftovers. Deep-fried needs to be eaten relatively soon after frying. Shallow-fried is excellent cold.
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#29 Varmint

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Posted 12 June 2003 - 05:05 AM

When I was young, and my grandparents lived on a farm in Nebraska, I spent most of every summer with them.

Sunday after church, grandma would put on a house dress, and I'd put on shorts and a gingham shirt, and we'd kill and clean a chicken.

She'd get out the flour, salt, pepper, a can of crisco, some lard (rendered by Dorothy, her sister-in-law; one farm down), and fry a chicken in the cast iron skillet she got from her mother who got it from her mother (which is now MINE  :biggrin: ).  I'd cut the potatoes and eggs and onions for yellow potato salad (made with miracle whip, yellow mustard and a splash of vinegar.

If it was late enough in the summer, we'd have a plate of sliced tomatoes, but we always had either fresh picked peas or green beans.

If the bugs weren't bad, we'd sit on the back stoop and eat.  She always had ice cream (several different flavors) in the upright freezer in cake cones for dessert.

I just love summer.

We're vacationing in the mountains of North Carolina in late July, and our house is about a mile from an organic farm that has free range chickens and eggs. It is my goal to have meals like that nearly every day. Thanks for those memories.
Dean McCord
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#30 tommy

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Posted 12 June 2003 - 06:30 AM

Note also that shallow-fried chicken is the only acceptable product when it comes to picnics and leftovers. Deep-fried needs to be eaten relatively soon after frying. Shallow-fried is excellent cold.

i really don't believe that. and i don't believe that you believe it either. popeye's, for example, is excellent cold, and 2 days later it still remains crispy. i can't imagine you can say much more about "shallow-fried", especially considering there are a thousand people making it a thousand different ways.