How To: Cook Oven-Fried Chicken
Although there are a variety of ways to beautifully prepare chicken, none to me is as easy, as satisfying, and as homely as oven-fried chicken. I had the great fortune of being raised by a mother who specialized in it. She preferred to use whole chickens cut up by the butcher, and her technique is more intensive than my own. Mine is a stripped down version that can be endlessly expanded upon.
Step One: Ingredients
This recipe requires chicken pieces: the aforementioned cut-up whole chicken (use the livers and the heart too, you baby), breasts, legs, wings, thighs. This is chef’s choice. I prefer thighs, in that they’re cheap, moist, easily acquired in larger batches, fatty but not too-fatty (and easily trimmed). In this case, I went with boneless, because that’s what was in my freezer. Bone-in pieces are fine too. Please also note that I went with the Value Pack, although you could conceivably go with your locally-sourced, free-range, eight-times-as-expensive stuff too.
Step Two: Everything Else, Including Melted Butter
That’s a bowl with 3/4 cup of flour, 2 tablespoons of paprika, a generous grinding of black pepper (two teaspoons, maybe), and a less generous grind of salt (less say a teaspoon). Everything goes into whatever you’re willing to use for dredging the chicken – my do-everything steel bowl in my case, but a plastic freezer bag would work perfectly. Mix thoroughly. The paprika will turn the white flour a darker hue.
Please note that any spices will work here. Fan of garlic? Add garlic powder. Prefer heat? Add red pepper. Prefer lots of heat? Add cayenne.
The only other necessary ingredient is butter. In the case of this package of thighs, a full-stick melted slowly on the oven for later use proved more than sufficient. I used the leftover butter for quickly-cooked green beans.
Step Three: Dredge The Chicken While An Oven Gets To/Near 400
Start your oven preheating. Lower temperatures work too but take longer. I’ve found that an oven at 400 (or, on a Fast Bake setting, 375), can finish a package of chicken thighs in less than an hour. This is ideal if the point is eating quickly.
While waiting for the preheat cycle to complete, take each piece of chicken and cover it on one side and then the other in the flour/paprika/pepper/salt mixture. Cover thoroughly. Use both hands and get that mix into the available crevices. There’s a sink nearby. You can wash-up when you’re done. Spread the pieces on a cookie sheet. Worried about your cookie sheet sticking? Use a splash of your melted butter on the sheet beforehand. In the end, you’ll have a cookie sheet that looks like this:
Step Four: Use Melted Butter To Paint The Chicken Pieces
Again as with the flour, each of these pieces should be totally covered in the melted butter. A brush of some sort proves most useful here. Ideally, the pieces look like they’re soaked, and ideally, you start to wonder if you haven’t just taken the flour/paprika/pepper/salt mixture off of the chicken. You haven’t, by the way.
Step Five: Into The Oven For 22 Minutes And 30 Seconds Then Flip
After 22 minutes and 30 seconds, the chicken in the oven will be a light, golden brown color. When the chicken is flipped, it will likely appear to be a darker color on the side that has been touching the cookie sheet. This isn’t a problem.
Step Six: Into The Oven For 22 Minutes and 30 Seconds More, Then Serve
After another 22 minutes and 30 seconds, remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for a few minutes. Then put on a plate, put the plate on the table, and let the eating commence. Serve with literally anything.
Feeling frisky? Make double the amount you think you’ll need for one night’s worth of food, and have the leftovers the next day. Cold oven-fried chicken might – might – be better than warm oven-fried chicken. A piece of cold oven-fried chicken and a drink on ice makes for a delightful lunch.