You will need:
- Nonstick deep skillet, I used cast-iron. A 10" Lodge Logic pan is perfect; I have a 12" one and it may be a trifle large for this purpose.
- Tongs. The longer and sturdier the better.
- Splash shield, basically a handled pan cover that has metal screen in it. Oil will go everywhere anyway; this mitigates the violence of that process.
- Paper towels. You will need a lot of these. If you don't like waste, this is not your recipe.
- Paper plates - optional, strongly encouraged. I have been using these large oval platters that come in a shrink wrapped 24 pack under the brand name 'Chinet'.
- Heat source. So far I have used the large burner on an electric stove and the large burner on my fancy gas stove. Side burner on my outdoor grill is next, largely because outdoors is a place where oil is less annoying.
- Gallon sized ziploc bags. Non-optional.
- Large nonreactive bowl.
And the ingredients:
- Chicken. I have been getting regular old bone-in drumsticks and thighs in packs at the supermarket. I advise this, but you can also cut up your own chicken if you like. (Smaller is better.) 4-6 drumsticks and 4 thighs makes 4 servings, I find, and that's if you're a hungry dude like I am. Try to find drumsticks that are still mostly covered with skin.
- Oil. You will need a lot of this. So far I have been using a 75-25 or 50-50 mix of:
- canola oil for lightness and
- peanut oil for richness.
- Flour, all purpose. I like to get a 2 lb bag and store it in a ziploc.
- Dredge spices. These are added each to 1 cup of flour, which is enough for 4-6 drumsticks and 4 thighs. Here's today's:
- salt: 1 tbsp
- pepper, finely ground: 1 tbsp
- paprika: 1 tbsp
- cayenne: 1 tbsp
- mustard powder: 1 tbsp
- onion powder: 1/2 tsp
- garlic powder: 1/4 tsp
- salt: 1 tbsp
- Brine chicken as long as 24 hours in the refrigerator in salty water in the non-reactive bowl. The chicken should be covered with water.
- If you do not know about salty water, 1 tbsp salt per quart is somewhat salty. It can be saltier. Dissolve the salt before refrigerating.
- Place dredge in gallon size ziploc bag.
- Remove chicken from brine; rinse, pat dry.
- Place two pieces of chicken at a time in dredge bag. Seal bag.
- Shake well. Ensure all surface is fully coated.
- Remove chicken pieces, and lay on plastic cutting board. You don't want them sitting there too long; your plan is line 'em up and fry 'em.
- Meanwhile heat oil: 50% canola, 50% peanut, to make minimum 1 cm in bottom of pan, until hot. (0.5 cm is not enough.) You want this oil pretty hot. It should not be smoking but close; water dropped into it should disappear immediately with a frightful hiss. 8 is about right on my super gas stove; full power was good on the electric.
- Gently place chicken into oil with tongs. The oil looks so serene, you will try it with your hand the first time no matter what I tell you. Don't. Splashes are dangerous and messy, use a glove or long sleeve. Fill up the pan with chicken parts.
- The prettiest part of each piece, i.e. the skin side of the thigh, should be facing downward to start.
- Use splash guard.
- Fry 6 minutes. The chicken should have cooled the oil substantially. Don't let it heat back up to where it was; that was just to put a quick non-stick crisp on the skin. Turn it down one or two notches during these 6 minutes; it should simmer gently, not angrily. You are now cooking the inside chicken with time; previously, you were shocking the skin into crispness with hot oil. In my opinion if the skin darkens beyond golden brown your oil has been too hot.
- Turn over with tong. The top side is not cooked yet; turn it over and immerse it in hot oil. If you like to live dangerously you can turn the heat up to max for the 30 seconds before you flip, so that you again shock the skin when it first sees the oil.
- Fry another 5-7 minutes, turn. This turn is not just a 'flip over'; you should look at the chicken, which should be golden brown, and see what bits of it need a little more goldening, and make those bits go to where the hottest part of the oil is. Basically fuss over it with tongs like an old grandma at this point.
- Fry another 5-7 minutes. A total time of 23 minutes is pushing it and you will dry the insides out a bit (a lot if you're using breasts.) A total time of 15 minutes is barely enough and the thigh bone will still be a little pink.
- Drain on 2 paper towels atop paper plates.
- Let cool 3-5 minutes.
- Serve hot with mashed potatoes, biscuits, and/or green beans steamed soggy (or, better, out of a can.)
- Clean your cast iron pan this way: once cool, pour the oil out, then run very hot water on it to get the rest of the oil and the dredge out. Pat dry with paper towel.
If your pan was properly seasoned, cleaning will take 30 seconds and require no mechanical agitation, and now your pan is super excellently seasoned: cast iron loves frying.
So this recipe above was pretty good. This particular dredge has too much non-flour stuff into it - the oil got messy after the first set of parts - so I would recommend picking some, but not all of those ingredients. The garlic powder was super noticeable; paprika appeared to be a waste of time. Cayenne lent just a tiny hair of bite. The salt amount is correct. I think it may have been even better the first time I did it, where the dredge was just 1 cup flour, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp black pepper, and 1 tbsp mustard powder. Mustard powder was my own idea but I believe its bitterness is important in this recipe as a counterpart to the light caramelization of the skin.
Apparently the Colonel uses MSG and winter savory in his dredge. I will be trying again and will report back.
Addendum: It probably doesn't need to be said, but hot oil is dangerous. This recipe is not for a kitchen with toddlers in it, and not for a chef with inebriants in him. Handle hot oil with extreme caution and keep the splash guard between the fan and your face at all times.