Fried chicken is a dish in which chicken pieces from a broiler chicken are floured, battered in a variety of spices and ingredients and then deep fried. The actual ingredients, chicken size and even spices will vary but the main ingredient is chicken that is prepared by deep frying, pan frying or pressure frying. The breading or the batter ensures that the outside of the chicken is spicy and crisp while the interior remains as moist as possible. Generally, in the US, the skin is left intact and larger pieces are fried. In Asia, the dish is usually prepared with smaller pieces and without the skin.
History of Fried Chicken
There are so many versions of the dish that it can be difficult to enumerate all of them. Chicken fritters have been popular in the US, Asia, North America and Europe since medieval times. The same dish was referred to by many names like pollo fritto in Italy, Ga xao in Vietnam, etc. Scottish immigrants to the US were credited to bringing the dish over to the US. Later on the African American slaves in the US put their own spin on the dish adding local spices and herbs making it the very popular Southern chicken fry. But slaves could not afford the more expensive cuts of meat, and fried chicken recipes were special dishes that were made only on Sundays or special occasions. But by the 19th and 20th century, meal combinations like Chicken fry, grits and gravy or chitlins and gravy followed by watermelon became standard meals at popular restaurants like Sambo’s. There were many different ways of preparing the chicken too. Most cooks would prefer to dip the meat in batter and deep fry. Others would prefer to first fry the chicken and then drop them into batter and deep fry again. The process evolved over time to form the current modern variation of the chicken fry. Chicken fry also lasted far longer when it was prepared with a batter and for this reason it was preferred for airline meals too. Over the years, the dish became very popular all over the US leaving behind its African-American origin even though it is acknowledged to be a part of the soul-food culture in the US.
Ingredients and Popular Methods of Making Fried Chicken
The basic ingredient of fried chicken dishes is the chicken. Most restaurateurs prefer to custom order their chicken to ensure that the flavor and the taste remains the same. Previously, younger pullets or cockerels were bought to ensure that they fried faster. But the drawback was that younger chicks were available only in the spring. In the winter, older birds and tougher cuts were common. To cook the tougher birds, cooks would first soak and simmer the meat pieces in a broth and then allow them to dry and cool before they were batter fried. Other versions included pan fried chicken recipes as per which the chicken pieces were fried and then soaked and simmered in a special gray. But the advent of the broiler chicken changed all that. Broiler chickens were softer and available all year round. This meant that the dish could be prepared all year round and it could be deep fried much faster. Commercial chains like KFC prepared the chicken by using four main body parts that is the breast and the wing. The dark meat sections are not used for deep frying and the skin is kept intact. Marinating the meat is essential but the actual marinating ingredients will vary. Most southerners prefer to use Fried chicken recipes that suggest use of buttermilk, milk, sauces like Worchester, barbeque and pepper to flavor the meat. The meat is left to soak overnight and then it’s dipped in flour, followed by egg and flour again. Seasonings are usually added to the flour and they stick to the coating flavoring it. Common seasonings include garlic, paprika, salt, pepper, onion powder, cheese powder, ranch dressing, herbs and other materials. After the meat has been dredged and coated, it has to be deep fried immediately in hot oil. Most people use vegetable oil but peanut oil, corn oil and even canola oil is used to fry the meat. The actual process of frying the meat will also vary. Traditionally, the meat was prepared by pan frying or by deep frying completely in oil. But pressure deep frying or broasted chicken is now used in large chain restaurants to cook the chicken faster while retaining the essential taste of the dish. Broasting creates steam inside the chicken cooking it from the inside while reducing the temperature required for cooking the meat through. This also retains them moisture inside the meat ensuring that it’s softer and more flavorful.
Serving and Eating Suggestions for Fried chicken
Usually deep-fried chicken is served simply with bread, potato salad or a simple salad with sauces, dips or ketchup. But different methods of frying and unique regional variations mean that the fried chicken can be served with a huge range of accompaniments.
Fried Chicken Recipe Variations
In the US itself, there are over a thousand different regional variations like Maryland style pan fried chicken where the chicken is served with gravy made of butter, batter fried chicken that is combined in a flour based batter and so on. Fast food versions also exist like Buffalo wings which are batter fried and served with hot sauce and dips, while chicken fingers are served with dips and sandwiches. Chicken fries are served with hamburgers in fast-food chains like Burger King and KFC. The same chains also retail chicken nuggets which are smaller pieces of fried chicken. In Asia and the Far East, Fried chicken recipes are prepared with smaller pieces of meat without the skin but with additional spices and can be served with rice. For example, chicken karaage is served in Japan after being marinated and deep fried, chicken katsu is another Japanese version where the chicken is panko covered and deep fried. Korea creates a version where the chicken is flavored with soy sauce, fish sauce and garlic. In Hong Kong, the chicken is mixed with shrimp sauce and other ingredients to deep fry it. Toriten is a Japanese tempura style fried chicken that is popular too.
The exact nutritional value of the meal will depend on the ingredients that are used. It is recommended to check the nutritional label on the dish to ascertain the food value of each serving. As a general rule, a single serving of batter fried chicken with four ounces of batter contains about contain about 320 calories.