[Edit 11/13/14: This seems to be one of my most popular posts, and I always worry that it is misleading when people see the title (and hence why it has gone somewhat viral on pinterest). This chicken is not solely baked though. There is no magic trick to create a perfect replica of fried chicken solely in the oven. Some frying is necessary. But I still love this recipe because finishing the fried chicken in the oven drains off some of the excess oil. I just want to be clear from the very beginning that frying in oil is still involved.]
Something about summer demands fried food. It doesn’t really make sense when you think about it, because why would you want to stand over a pot of 350 degree oil in the middle of summer? But it is what it is, and I am not going to argue against it. When I was growing up my mother used to fry okra and other garden vegetables. We used to have fried chicken at church picnics and pot-luck dinners. Fried food is a taste of summer and community and family to me.
Up until now I have never actually made fried chicken (aside from fried chicken fingers, which, to me, is a completely different food). I think I’ve generally avoided the whole ordeal because 1) uhm, hello, ridiculously unhealthy and 2) the thought of frying a large piece of chicken in a large pot of oil was frankly terrifying (will the chicken cook all the way through? will I start a kitchen fire?).
And then Ina Garten came to the rescue with her oven fried chicken. (Yes, I will trust a Northerner (who is Jewish at that) to give me my fried chicken recipe, as long as that person is Ina Garten.) So many oven fried chicken recipes call for breading the chicken and baking it in the oven (sometimes in some butter). But to me, that just sounds like breaded chicken baked in the oven. But in this recipe you actually do fry the chicken, only long enough to form that signature crispy brown crust, and then you place it in the oven to let it finish cooking, during which process much of the excess oil drains away. But you are still left with a piece of meat that has actually been fried.
I made a couple of changes to the recipe. First of all, use whatever chicken you have (the original recipe calls for a chicken, cut into eight pieces). I love dark meat, so I used drumsticks and thighs. Secondly, the recipe called for a tablespoon of salt in the breading. A whole tablespoon. I felt that it was a ridiculously high amount when I poured it into the flour, and it turns out I was right. Gerrit and I were craving large glasses of water for the rest of the evening. So in the recipe I’ve reduced that amount by half, which I think should do the trick. The recipe also calls for a tablespoon of pepper, and I, being someone who never peppers my food, thought it would be too much. But on that point I was wrong.
Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Ina Garten
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Other: 8 hours
8 pieces of chicken
3 cups buttermilk*
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pepper
vegetable oil (for frying)
1. Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl and pour the buttermilk over them. Cover the bowl in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight (or at least 8 hours).
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Pour oil into a large heavy-bottomed stock pot. The oil should be one inch deep. Over medium-high heat, heat the oil until it reaches 360 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy/deep fry thermometer.
4. While the oil is heating, combine flour, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Take the chicken out of buttermilk, and coat each piece with flour.
5. Working in batches, place several pieces of chicken into the heated oil and fry until lightly golden brown (about 3 minutes on each side). When batch is done, remove chicken from the oil and place on a metal baking rack on top of a sheet pan. Allow oil to return to 360 degrees before frying the next batch.
6. When all of the chicken has been fried and placed onto the baking rack, place the sheet pan into the oven and bake until chicken is done, about 30 minutes.
*More buttermilk may be needed, depending on the size of the chicken pieces. Just make sure you have plenty for the chicken to soak in.