I remember the first time I had fried chicken because IT WAS THE FIRST TIME I HAD FRIED CHICKEN. There’s a picture of it somewhere it an old family picture album – six year old Joy with a bucket of KFC fried chicken on a picnic blanket – little Joy never looking happier, most sincerely.
I come from a family of enthusiastic tofu eaters so fried chicken as a youth.. listen, we remember the best time of our lives… it’s as simple as that.
Homemade fried chicken is the offering today and while I don’t often make fried chicken at home, I’m here to make a case for it… and I’m here to make it gluten-free. Gluten-free for the sake of allergies and for the sake of crispness as rice flour and tapioca starch bring some welcome crunch to the table. Fried chicken for the sake of our everloving souls, you know?
Here’s the deal, friends! Here’s how we chicken! You’ll need:
• all sorts of bone-in skin-on chicken pieces (legs, thighs, and a breast)
• buttermilk as a marinade with sliced onions as an accompaniment
• gluten-free flours , these three in particular: white rice flour, potato starch and tapioca starch
• loads of spices like: onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, dried oregano and thyme, and chili powder
• vegetable oil for frying and a fry thermometer to keep an eye on our temperature
• a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the cooked chicken (super helpful!)
First marinate the chicken in buttermilk. Why buttermilk? The bit of acid and salt we’ll add to the marinade will act as a brine, adding moisture and flavor to the chicken. Plus, buttermilk has the thickness (like my thighs) and will help the flour coating adhere to the chicken.
Flavor, tenderness, and glue.
The gluten-free flour mixture! Here’s where we go in.
We’re using a mixture of mostly rice flour along with potato starch and tapioca starch.
These three flours and starches make for a delightfully crisp coating. Are there other flours you could use? I bet to heck there are! These are the three I’ve found work for me and this chicken.
To the flour gathering we’ll add a whole boatload of spices. We need to add as much flavor as we can. Why be shy? With all of these spices we’re adding herbs and heat, earthiness and intrigue.
A very good dose of salt to flavor the coating. Check.
A very good dose of granulated sugar to balance the spices and also help the dry ingredients fry to golden brown. Another check.
Whisk together to completely combine all of the ingredients.
Now the transfer from wet to dry.
Use a pair of tongs to take each piece of chicken out of the buttermilk marinade and flip them around the seasoned flour mixture. Each side, each bit of chicken – coat them well and place the coated chicken on a baking sheet.
Coat the onion moons too. We’ll fry those onion half-rings too. Why not?
Here’s a trick: allow the coated chicken to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes. The resting time will allow the coating to absorb the buttermilk and become tacky. The resulting tackiness will help the coating stick to the chicken and not come loose in the hot oil.
While the coated chicken rests, heat the oil to hot hot.
I use a relatively shallow pan to fry my chicken, bringing about 2 1/2 or 3 inches of vegetable oil to 365 degrees F. A fry thermometer helps keep the oil temperature in check because when it comes to frying meat, temperature is key.
The temperature of the oil will naturally drop as the chicken pieces (I did up to three at a time) are added to the oil. Try to bring the oil up the 350 degrees F as the chicken fries. Chicken fries for a good while – at least 10 minutes, more like 12 really.
To test the chicken’s doneness? Really the best way is to use a meat thermometer, insert it into the meat (without hitting the bone), and make sure that the internal temperature is 165 degrees F…
And the chicken is deeply golden brown.
And the onion strings are cooked to golden and crisp.
Make your boo a plate. Make yourself a plate.