Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken (& A General Fried Chicken How-To)

This recipe is part of my 30 Day Grocery Budget Diary. To see all the posts of this series in reverse chron order, click HERE.

The enzymes and mild acid in yogurt help the seasoning to penetrate the meat while keeping it moist and tender. Similar to using buttermilk, but less liquid involved, so less wasted seasoning. (Plus it's handier for people like me who always have yogurt on hand but not always buttermilk.)

I've provided fairly detailed step by step instructions for first timers, so bear with us if you're a seasoned pro. First timers, these instructions look long and complicated, but they just look that way because I've included tips and techniques you should know about deep frying and not because it's all that hard to do.

Yogurt Brined Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
Time: About 60 minutes total active time

- 3.5 to 4 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Large whole breasts should be quartered (and also not mistaken for half breasts. If you're not that familiar with a chicken's anatomy, a half breast looks like one angel's wing. Large half breasts should be halved.)

For the brine:

- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 3 to 3.5 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the dredge:

- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 2.5 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons dried sage
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1.5 teaspoons garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

- vegetable or peanut oil for frying
- tongs for turning chicken safely

1) Mix all brine ingredients in a large bowl and stir or whisk until all the salt and sugar have been dissolved.

2) In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken with yogurt brine and gently toss and massage everything together until the brine is evenly distributed throughout. It's a good idea to check each individual piece of chicken to ensure it's been thoroughly coated.

3) Refrigerate the chicken and let it marinate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

4) 45 minutes before frying, take the chicken out of the fridge and let it come up in temperature. While it's doing that, prepare the dredge by combining all dredge ingredients in a large mixing bowl or casserole dish and stirring or whisking several times to evenly distribute all the seasonings. 

5) 10 to 15 minutes before frying, fill your large pot or pan (I like to use my wok, but you can use a Dutch or French oven, or a deep-ish cast iron skillet) to about 2/3 capacity with frying oil and preheat the oil over medium high heat to 350F to 365F. If you don't have a thermometer, you'll know the oil is ready for frying as soon as a good pinch of flour dropped in sizzles gently but immediately. 

If your oil gets to that heat before you're ready to fry, turn the heat down just a little until you're ready to fry, and then bring it back up 3 to 4 minutes before you start frying. (But remember to check again with a pinch of flour. If the flour takes time to sizzle, your oil's not hot enough, and if your oil's not hot enough, it won't properly sear the chicken and will begin to absorb into your dredge and chicken before it starts cooking, leaving you with unappetizingly greasy chicken. OTOH, if you let your oil get too hot, you'll burn your crust before the chicken's cooked through.)

Also, remember that the shallower your pot or pan, the shallower the oil, and the less time it'll take to heat up.

4) Line a sheet pan or large platter with a brown paper bag or a double layer of paper towels and set it on the counter next to the stove.

5) Working in batches of 3 to 4 pieces, coat the chicken completely with the dredge, shake off the excess, and gently slide the chicken into your oil. And again, if that flour doesn't begin to gently and immediately sizzle upon hitting that oil, resist the urge to let it fry anyway, and let the oil come up in temp before you put the chicken in.

I like to put similarly sized/same type pieces in together, largest ones first. That way, a) each batch finishes cooking at roughly the same time and b) the larger pieces that have been fried first will retain heat longer while the smaller pieces are finishing up.

Generally speaking, I find that thighs take longest - 15 to 18 minutes total, 7.5 to 9 minutes per side, and drums, whole wings, and breast pieces take 12 to 15 minutes total, 6 to 7.5 minutes per side.

Don't forget to flip midway! :)

6) When it's time to take the chicken out, using your tongs, gently shake off excess oil, and set it on your lined sheet pan or platter.

And that's it! Looks like a lot, but it's pretty simple.

A few more tips:

- A splatter screen is a great thing for keeping the greasy messes to a minimum.

- After your first successful batch of fried chicken, you'll find that the frying time actually gives you quite a lot of downtime during which to work on your side dishes. But if it's your first time making fried chicken, and you're nervous about it, get your side dishes out of the way before you start frying (or buy them).

- If your oil's getting too hot, you can turn the heat down just a little bit, wait a couple of minutes to let the oil temp adjust, and start frying again.

- If the sizzle slows down, that probably means your oil needs to be a little bit hotter. Turn it up just a bit. You don't want your chicken to take too much less or more than the times suggested above. You want to maintain a gentle, active, and steady sizzle as you deep fry. No slow bubbles, but no crazy hot oil splattering, either.

- You can reuse frying oil at least 3 or 4 times before discarding. Remember to let it cool completely before putting it back into a container. Letting it cool is good for at least a couple of things: 1) SAFETY and 2) the dregs sink to the bottom, so instead of wasting your life filtering the oil, you can just pour the mostly clear stuff back in and leave the dregs at the bottom.

- A flexible rubber spatula is great for squeegee-ing the last of the cloudy oil and frying dregs into a junkmail lined plastic bag for disposal.

It's 3-ish AM as I write this because the dog has woken me up midsleep yet again. If I've missed anything or you have any questions, feel free to ask. :)

Happy Frying!




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