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I'm trying to develop my own "secret" fried recipe, something that is similar to Popeye's or Church's. I'm a LONG ways from getting there. Here's what I did in my last experiment:

  1. Chicken was marinated in buttermilk with Cajun spices and Tabasco sauce for 24 hours
  2. I used a deep fryer and canola oil. 175C.
  3. Prior to "dressing" the chicken, I let the excess buttermilk brine drip off the chicken. I then seasoned it with Cajun seasoning
  4. I made a batter using an egg, self rising flour, milk, baking powder
  5. I also tried using just plain flour for breading

Results:

  1. Using the batter, the chicken came out looking burned and too smooth (didn't have that crunchy look). It burned too much that I couldn't finish cooking the chicken.
  2. Using the flour, the chicken came out with a thin crust, somewhat crispy, but also too burnt.
  3. Dipping the chicken in the batter AND then flour gave a bulky & crunchy look. However, again, the result looked too burnt.

Modifications:

I then changed the the breading. I used bread flour and corn starch. I dipped the chicken in the batter again, then used the new breading. The bread flour was a bit lighter. And the corn starch was even more lighter. But they were still burn looking (just lighter shades). I also dropped the temperature to 160C.

Results:

Burnt chicken whose crust wasn't really sticking to the skin/meat.

Questions:

Any suggestions on what I can do to improve? I'm guessing something in the batter is causing the burnt coat. What flour should I use? What can I do to make the coat stick to the skin/meat? Any other suggestions on what to do?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 5 down vote accepted

160C sounds about right for cooking oil temp. I typically shallow fry on the stovetop for about 10-12 minutes for the thighs and then transfer them to a 175C oven to finish cooking (if needed) and then repeat with the breasts. I would stay away from "battering" if you are looking to replicate something like popeye's.

A few things I do to ensure a nice thick crunchy crust:

  1. Put your flour (seasoning or not thats up to you) in a very large zip top bag or paper bag will work too so that when you put the chicken in you can "tumble" it around to be coated like in a dryer. I find that this is cleaner and more effective in creating a crust.
  2. pull out the dredged chicken, redip it in the buttermilk and then throw it back in the bag to tumble.
  3. let the chicken rest on an elevated rack for 15-20 minutes (up to an hour ideally) to allow the dredge to set and adhere to the chicken well. This helps prevent the dreaded "skin falling off the meat" phenomenon.
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Do you know of any additives to help prevent the "skin falling off the meat" problem? –  CookingNewbie Dec 6 '12 at 0:35
    
are you referring to the skin of the chicken or the breading falling off the chicken? to adhere the skin to the meat you could use something called transglutaminase (meat glue) but that's probably above and beyond what is necessary for a typical fried chicken dinner. –  Brendan Dec 6 '12 at 0:41
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One trick to get the really awesome crunchy coating is to add some buttermilk to your flour mixture and mix it up briefly with your fingers. That way you are getting little balls of flour mixture sticking to the outside of your chicken that turn into the super crunchy layer when fried.

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I've heard this technique, also. However, the suggestion was to use water instead of buttermilk. What about crackers? Would that help? –  CookingNewbie Aug 11 '12 at 0:10
    
i think crackers would burn more easily. Something to also keep in mind is that water is flavorless so whenever you see someone adding water for moisture purposes you can always add some other liquid that can impart more flavor. –  Brendan Dec 5 '12 at 20:24
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Some of the more volatile organic compounds in stuff like Tabasco will burn very quickly. The fact that you still say that it looks burned when just using flour leads me to suspect that the temperature of the oil is staying too hot? Or perhaps the pieces are too big and need to be cooked for too long?

A simple coating for chicken is

4 part plain flour
1 part paprika
1 part black pepper
1 part fine salt

Try using that with small pieces of chopped up breast meat for some very tasty popcorn chicken

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I used a temperature controlled deep fryer. Alton Brown says not to season the flour as that might burn; he seasons the chicken and then dredges it. I was cooking drum sticks. The Tabasco was in the buttermilk brine -- would that still have burned since it was covered with breading/batter? –  CookingNewbie Aug 1 '12 at 14:33
    
if the tabasco was just in the brine then probably not. Does this chicken actually taste burnt or is it just a darker color? Also, lots of black pepper tastes great in the flour... –  aychedee Aug 1 '12 at 16:15
    
The chicken itself was OK (maybe a bit under cooked, was still very juicy). It's the crust that was the problem. The pepper won't burn in the fryer? –  CookingNewbie Aug 1 '12 at 16:22
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Most fried chicken (Church's and Popeyes) is NOT made in a pressure cooker. THAT is the provence of the greasy stuff known as KFC:-)

  1. Batter mix and chicken must be ice cold, oil temperature should be at 340 degrees.
  2. Dip 2 identical pieces of chicken in lots of flour and press hard on the pieces to coat.
  3. Rap the two pieces together gently to remove excess flour
  4. Dip in WATER "mixture" (more on that later) BRIEFLY, then place the two pieces back in flour and repeat #2 and 3.Do NOT use buttermilk or any other milk!!!!!!!!
  5. Place the two pieces in a deep fryer, NOT a skillet. Dark meat for 12-15 minutes, white for 10-12 minutes. 160-165 degrees internal temperature.
  6. Stir chicken every 3-4 minutes. First stir after 2 minutes. No sticking, even cooking.
  7. Drain on rack for a minute.

That should solve the texture and the color problem. No spices are in the flour. Both Church's and Popeyes use a secret marinade that is injected at the processing plant directly into the meat. In the water dipping mixture there is salt, MSG, and garlic and ?. Obviously both the marination and the mixture are a secret so the taste will need some experimenting. The flour is regular flour and contains no rising agents and the dipping mixture is as thin as water. The flour coating is very thin.

DO NOT OVERCROWD in the fryer!!!!!!! A 50 pound fryer (a block of shortening) can cook about 40 pieces, so if you use a 5 pound quantity of shortening (10% of a block) it stands to reason that you could only cook 4 pieces at a time in 5 pounds of shortening. Also, keep in mind that those large fryers have "cold zones", areas near the bottom that don't get hot and thus don't cook the crumbs which will burn the oil AND those fryers are filtered 2-3 times per day. The cold zones are created by having the burner coils or gas tubes halfway up the shortening, something you cannot duplicate on a stove. You might be able to do so with a dedicated fryer with movable coils, but I doubt you will find that. Also, there should be a wire screen in the bottom of the fryer as you do not want the chicken lying on the hot surface of the bottom or getting it contaminated with old crust that has fallen off. Tough job at home:-)

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+1 for don't overcrowd. But what size is a "piece"? Do you mean half a chicken, or some other size? –  rumtscho Feb 8 at 14:12
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In us parlance a piece is an eighth. A wing leg breast or thigh cut to our usual practices. –  SAJ14SAJ Feb 8 at 14:50
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I have usually failed in making a good fried chicken in the past because it always ends up boring and tasting like home made, and not in a good sense! A few days ago I was looking for recipe's to replicated KFC and came across a few, so far I have only tried one. It totally failed! It was an eggwash with buttermilk that you dipped in a plain flour and seasoning mixture, far too much salt by the way, it tasted quite horrible. I made this today, but I also had some genius idea to freeze the chicken and take it right out and fry it, that was pretty dumb of course, but I think the chicken would have failed anyway because it did not have a good texture.

However, a few days ago while looking for the KFC recipes I also came across a youtube video about Korean fried chicken called "Yangnyeom tongdak". I did not have the potato flour that was supposed to be added so I ended up replacing that with mostly rice flour which was anyway in the recipe and then some additional plain flour. Anyway, you put salt and pepper on the chicken at first, and then you obviously just throw the dry mix right over it with flour and baking powder, then an egg n top. I mixed the dry stuff together first because I just wanted to make sure it was all mixed to prevent any mistakes, then poured it over the seasoned chicken and an egg right on top. I then mixed it all together and it was pretty sticky and I was a bit sceptical because it did not seem to stick properly to the chicken, there were alot of empty "gaps" on the chicken where there was no batter and I tried just pressing some of the batter unto empty spaces. Overall it was not so much of a work actually, just that I was doubtful.

Anyway I ended up frying it according to instructions and the chicken turned out absolutely beautiful, it had a wonderful crunch and it looked perfect with little pieces of batter making it look extra crunchy and all. I made the sauce to it but you can skip that part and just eat the chicken as it is, and OMG that batter around the chicken became absolutely wonderful. I have never... I must say it beats KFC and all the chicken I ever tried and it did not taste homemade at all.

This is anyway the homepage where the recipe is: http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/yangnyeom-tongdak

As I wrote, just skip the sauce unless you want to try it, the sauce was also really tasty though I made it with less chili sauce.

I suppose you can pre-season it however you want, but my suggestion is that you try following the recipe the first time. I do not know how it tastes with the potato flour since I never tried that. But with the rice flour it was wonderful anyway.

I also read just today that it really is better to pre-season instead of seasoning the batter since the seasoning can obviouosly burn faster, and so I will be doing that in the future.

I made the korean chicken yesterday and the failed KFC today, so I am kind of spoiled now and put off by anything not korean chicken with rice flour batter. I am going to try out more recipes just to find out if it really is the secret to mix the flour and egg in that sticky way also, so I will see what happens.

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Welcome to the site! Thanks for the contribution, but I'm not really sure answers the original question - it sounds like you're making something different, not replicating KFC or Popeye's style fried chicken. While I can believe it's really good (and perhaps the OP would like it better), it doesn't seem like it answers the question as stated. –  Jefromi Apr 14 '13 at 21:04
    
This helps a lot. I'm not necessarily trying to copy KFC or Popeye's, but I am looking for something that can get me in the right direction of something "commercial" yumminess. Thanks. –  CookingNewbie Apr 14 '13 at 23:20
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Did you use old fry oil in your deep fryer?

Fry oil that's gone bad has too many surfactants, which results in the oil spending too much time in direct contact with the food, resulting in too much heat transfer. The result is similar to cooking the food at much too high a temperature: the outside will burn well before the center cooks. You'll also end up with very greasy food, since the increased contact time results in more oil soaking in.

Brand new fry oil sometimes has the opposite problem (that is, slower cooking, and crust not browning enough on the food being fried).

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Simple recipe for fried chicken with a tasty and moist inside with a crispy skin is: Defrost your chicken drumstick or thigh parts in a microwave both sides. Then put some salt, pepper and lemon juice on the thawed chicken parts. Put them inside your refrigerator to chill the skin before frying. Deep-fry in new oil over low fire to avoid burning. This leaves no mess and residue in your frying pan.

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Can you please cite your references? This is a very new approach to me. –  CookingNewbie Oct 31 '13 at 11:00
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Bisquick for the breading - add your spices to the Bisquick. Prior to using it I dip the chicken into a couple of raw beaten eggs then coat it in the breading.

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Perhaps the biggest difference between most commercial fried chicken and home-made fried chicken is the use of a pressure fryer. The chicken cooks faster, more evenly, remains juicier, and the coating/batter doesn't burn. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH A HOME PRESSURE COOKER- special equipment is required for safety.

Batter makes for a crispier exterior as does the addition of starch (corn starch etc). Another popular method of coating for a thicker, crispier exterior (though not as much as batter) is to dredge the chicken in your flour mixture, dip in eggwash, then dredge in flour once more.

Regarding what batter to use, all purpose flour is fine and can be amended with corn starch to alter the texture. At 160C / 320F your chicken should take about 12min to cook through deep frying depending on the cut and size. The exterior will be darker than pressure fried chicken but not burnt. I would suggest reducing the size of the chicken pieces you are using if your chicken is not cooking through before the exterior burns. Note that spices and herbs in the flour will generally burn before the flour so your seasonings are more important than the flour when it comes to burning.

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I know this is an old thread, but I wanted to put my two cents in :) I always parboil my chicken on the bone before frying. This means I put the pieces in boiling water and let them boil for about 15-20 minutes. Then when they are cool enough to handle, I bread them and fry them. I haven't had burnt chicken since I started doing this. Since they are almost cooked through after boiling, you don't have to fry very long, just enough to brown up the breading. I also let the breading rest on the chicken about 20 minutes, bread again, and fry.

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Boiling would dry out the meat. I would suggest poaching the chicken, instead. Haven't actually tried this approach, but might be worth a try. –  CookingNewbie Jun 23 at 1:58
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