10 Things You Didn't Know About Fried Chicken

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Fried Chicken

Fried chicken, when cooked properly, is one of the most delicious foods on earth. We tracked down ten interesting facts about this staple's origins and history, as well as a few handy tips on how to make the perfect batch in your very own kitchen. 

Fried Chicken Was Invented by the Scottish

It was actually the Scottish who were the first to deep-fry chicken in fat (the rest of the world usually baked or boiled it), and they brought the dish with them to America.

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Before WWII, It Was a Special Occasion Dish

Up until the early 1900s, fried chicken was a dish that was usually reserved for special occasions and holidays, due to the relative scarcity of spring chickens and the need for such a high volume of fat. The lengthy preparation time also meant that it was rarely, if ever, found on restaurant menus.

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Slavery and Segregation were Essential to its Rise in Popularity

Slaves were generally allowed to keep chickens, so frying them up on special occasions during the antebellum years became relatively commonplace. And because many restaurants were closed to blacks due to segregation, fried chicken became a go-to dish due to the fact that it traveled well in an era before refrigeration.

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Not all Chickens are Suitable for Frying

Today, just about all of the chickens you'll find at your supermarket or butcher shop are broilers, which have been bred specifically to be suitable for all types of cooking, including frying. Because older birds are tougher and require long cooking at low temperatures, in the early days only young chickens (cockerels or pullets) were suitable for the high heat and fast cooking time of fried chicken. The fact that these were only available in spring and summer made the dish even more of a luxury item.

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There Are Variants Around the World

Fried chicken may be most closely associated with America, but in reality you can find variations around the world. In Korea, it's fried twice and dunked in a sweet and spicy sauce; in Japan it's cut into small pieces and fried in a style similar to tempura (and is called karaage); in Thailand it's given a powerful marinade and served alongside sticky rice; and in Senegal it's coated in peanut flour.

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Nashville-Style Hot Chicken May Be The Unhealthiest of All

Nashville-style fried chicken, which is legendary for being very spicy, is definitely having a moment right now, with even KFC jumping on the bandwagon. But you may want to think twice before indulging: After the chicken comes into the fryer, it's dunked right into a vat of chile-infused oil, kicking up the calorie count to stratospheric levels.

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There are Three Primary Frying Methods

When it comes to frying chicken, there are three primary methods: deep-frying, which will fry the chicken evenly and is the easiest method; pressure-frying (or "broasting"), which takes less time than traditional deep-frying and generally results in a juicier bird; and pan-frying in a cast-iron skillet, which is the most old-fashioned technique and is regarded as the best due to ample browning and a higher level of control.

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The Pressure Fryer Was the Secret to KFC’s Success

Colonel Harland Sanders was adamant that his chicken be pan-fried while operating his first restaurant, but he was also unhappy with the fact that the traditional method took more than half an hour, far too long for a conventional restaurant. Sanders purchased one of the first commercial pressure cookers ever produced in 1939 and converted it into a pressure fryer (a very dangerous move, in hindsight), and found that the resulting chicken was just as good as his pan-fried chicken, and cooked in half the time. Not only did this development set the stage for KFC's success, it also played a big role in taking fried chicken out of the home kitchen and into the restaurant.

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A Buttermilk Brine is Essential

According to The Food Lab, brining the chicken in a spiced and salted buttermilk mixture will tenderize the chicken while also keeping it moist. Don't skip this step!

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There’s a Secret to Getting That “Craggy” Crust Every Time

Ever notice how Chick-Fil-A's chicken seems to have that crunchy, craggy crust while KFC's Original Recipe generally doesn't? If you're making fried chicken at home and want to make sure that your chicken has those coveted crags, just mix a couple spoonfulls of that buttermilk mixture into the dry breading mix, and let those extra little clumps of batter work their magic.

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