Alex Guarnaschelli Blogs: Everything You Need to Know About Buying Chicken—Plus My Favorite Fried Chicken Recipe

Alex Guarnaschelli Fish

Alex Guarnaschelli is an Iron Chef, Food Network celebrity chef, author of Old-School Comfort Food and the executive chef at New York City’s Butter restaurants. Read her blog every Tuesday to get her professional cooking tips, family-favorite recipes and personal stories of working in front of the camera and behind the kitchen doors. Follow her on Twitter at @guarnaschelli.

People are always asking me a new way to spruce up their chicken recipes or find something new to do. But sometimes the newest thing is a classic you haven’t made in a while.

I can’t remember the last time I fried a batch of chicken and yet it’s so good. It’s also delicious left over, even though I don’t often find much of this makes it to the fridge for the next day.

There are also so many different chickens you can buy. I just went to the supermarket to buy a chicken. I wanted to roast it in the oven and call it a night. I grabbed the first one I saw, marked “fresh,” and headed for the register. I stopped. The one lying next to mine looked better somehow. I put down the first and picked up the second. It was marked “natural.” Hmmm. All of the language can be confusing.

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“Fresh” is used to describe a chicken that has never been frozen but does not indicate anything else about the quality of the chicken. “Natural” means it does not contain any artificial or chemical ingredients and has only been processed minimally before reaching your table. “Range-fed” and “free range” command a higher price tag because the poultry is raised in a stress-free and antibiotic-free environment. Hey, I say a happier chicken is always a tastier chicken. Organic chickens are raised humanely and without antibiotics; they are also fed organic feed and are raised with sustainability in mind.

As far as what you should look for when buying a chicken, check the sell by date to make sure it has not passed. If it fits your budget, organic and free-range are always a good bet. Kosher chickens, which are pre-salted, are also tender and delicious.

I love a whole roasted chicken simply stuffed with a few lemon slices and fresh thyme but I also have such great memories of my mother tossing chicken in flour in a paper bag and frying it super crispy. My fried chicken recipe goes great with a salad of romaine tossed with lemon and olive oil or some simply roasted broccoli.

Alex Guarnaschelli’s Fried Chicken

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. salt
1 ½ tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 ½ lbs. chicken parts
2 (16-oz.) containers shortening
Lemon wedges

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

2. Prepare the chicken: In a large paper bag, combine the flour, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Shake to combine. Add the chicken parts and shake them in the bag to coat with the flour mixture. Arrange the chicken parts on a baking sheet with a fitted rack and allow them to “dry” at room temperature for 20 minutes.

3. Fry the chicken: Melt the shortening over low heat in a 12-in. cast iron skillet. You want about ¾-in. shortening for frying. Prepare a baking sheet fitted with a kitchen towel to drain the chicken. To test the temperature of the oil, put a piece of the chicken on a slotted spoon and submerge in the oil. The shortening should bubble vigorously. Using metal tongs, lower the chicken, skin side down, in a single layer, into the oil. Do not overcrowd the pan. Better to fry in two batches with more room between the pieces. Fry the chicken for 10 minutes on the first side then carefully turn them in the oil and fry on their second side for 10 to 12 additional minutes. Note: Adjust the oil as you cook, lowering or increasing heat as needed.

4. Finish the chicken: Remove the chicken from the oil and drain on the kitchen towel. Season immediately with salt. As the chicken finishes frying, keep it warm in the oven or even cook an additional few minutes if not completely cooked in the center. Serve with lemon wedges. You’ll be surprised what a squeeze of lemon juice will do for the flavor of this dish.

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