These days, it seems almost an oxymoron to fry a meat that has been considered one of the leaner sources of protein over the last few decades. However, we at Shady Grove Ranch don’t necessarily aim for a super-lean animal. We aim for healthy, and the way we do that is that we raise our animals on pasture using species-appropriate diets and practices, plus we allow enough time for the animals to fully finish out and get nice and plump. This results in meats that contain all the beneficial fatty acids and other fat-soluble nutrients that pasture-raised meats are famous for. Our soy-free chicken, we might add, is especially juicy and delicious!
So should you fry a chicken? We do, but only if we have lard (pork fat) or tallow (beef fat) for frying. These mostly-saturated fats are heat-stable, unlike vegetable oils, which contain unsaturated fatty acids that begin to break down at temperatures needed for frying.
Here is Jerica’s recipe for the most amazing fried chicken you will ever eat. Seriously.
1 Whole Pasture-Raised Chicken, cut up, with legs parted into drumsticks and thighs, wing “toes” removed, and breastmeat removed from ribs
1 cup all-purpose flour*
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp sugar (This is optional, but adds a delightful crisp and caramel flavor to the coating.)
1-2 inches deep lard or tallow in a heavy pan or deep fryer**
*Dredging the chicken is optional if you are on a flour-free diet. You can just fry the chicken plain, but be sure to season it right when you pull it out of the hot fat so the salt will stick to the skin. You may even consider marinating the chicken ahead of time if you do not use flour.
**Keeping the fat deep prevents a significant drop in temperature of your frying fat, which will result in crisper, browner chicken. If you need to skimp on the fat, you will need to compensate for the reduction in fat volume by cooking fewer pieces of chicken at a time.
Mix the dry ingredients in a plastic bag. Drop the pieces of chicken a few at a time into the bag, shaking the bag around to thoroughly coat the pieces with the flour mixture. Set on a cookie rack without pieces touching to allow to dry while the fat heats up.
Heat fat in heavy pan or fryer to 365 degrees F. Do not overheat, and do not add chicken before it reaches temperature. Carefully place the chicken pieces into the hot oil, taking care to give each piece some space. Overcrowding the fryer will cool the oil rapidly, and you will not have as nice and crispy a coating.
Fry, turning every few minutes, for about 15-20 minutes, until deep golden brown. You can check for doneness two ways: 1. Use a meat thermometer, and test the thigh and drumstick near the bone at the deepest point of the piece. Chicken is done at 180 degrees F. 2. If you don’t have a thermometer or can’t get an accurate reading, you can lift a thigh out of the fat and poke it with a fork. If the juices burst out and are still pinkish, keep going. When the juices begin to slow and are clear, the chicken is done. If the juices stop flowing completely, you may have overdone it a bit, but it will still be delicious.
**Boneless breastmeat is done at 165 degrees F and will finish cooking well before the leg pieces. These are treats for the chef!
Allow pieces to cool uncovered for a few minutes before serving. (Covering the pieces will cause them to become soggy.) Try to resist devouring the chicken while it’s still really hot. We know, it’s hard. But don’t burn your mouth!