Recently, a Facebook friend asked this question in a group I belong to: Does anybody have a good oven-fried chicken recipe? My hand went up immediately. I do, I do! I have been asked to share this recipe on the blog, so that it can be pinned to Pinterest. How cool is that?
I have been oven-frying chicken for decades, and it is crispy and tender and delicious. Not too long ago, I watched an old Good Eats with Alton Brown, and he fried chicken on the stovetop in a cast iron skillet filled with hot shortening. Boy, that looked good, and I have a big cast iron skillet I can hardly lift, and a can of shortening I hardly ever use. I thought I’d give it a try. What a mess! Grease splatters everywhere! And frankly, while the chicken was okay, I didn’t really think it was as good as my oven-fried chicken. Back to doing it my way.
The basic coating recipe came from the Betty Crocker cookbook my mom gave me when I got married in 1981, but the method is my own. At some point, after oven-frying chicken in oil and butter as the original recipe called for, I realized there sure was an awful lot of fat in the pan after the chicken came out, way more than I’d put in to start with. Oh, yeah, Jeanie, chicken skin is full of fat! Well, I thought, if chicken skin is full of fat, and it renders out during the cooking process, why am I adding all this other fat? I tried cooking the chicken without adding fat, and glory be, it works every time. There’s only one trick: the chicken must have skin. Skinless breasts or thighs will not work in this recipe. I could call this recipe No Mess, Lower-fat Oven-fried Chicken because the only fat in the dish (other than a spritz of cooking spray or a thin swipe of shortening or oil) comes from the skin on the chicken, which renders as it cooks. But let’s just go with Oven-fried Chicken. I’m all for simpler when it works.
2-3 lbs. cut up chicken pieces
Basic coating mix:
1/2 cup flour (I have substituted brown rice flour since I went gluten-free, and it works well in this recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon pepper
You may also add any other herbs or spices you would normally add to your fried chicken breading. I sometimes use a blackened seasoning or Cajun seasoning mix instead of the salt above, and/or I’ll add poultry seasoning (ground sage, thyme, and parsley), or I’ll substitute hot smoked paprika for plain, or whatever takes my fancy at the moment. You can also add a teaspoon of sugar to the coating mix. I think this makes the coating brown a little darker as it oven-fries in its own fat (see last photo below). You can also reduce the flour by two tablespoons and add two tablespoons of cornmeal for an even crunchier breading, although the flour produces a light, crispy coating. Using plain flour cuts carbs as well; no need to use bread crumbs which add carbs.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Put coating mix in a paper or plastic bag, shake it well to mix, and add no more than 2 pieces of chicken at a time, shaking to bread the chicken. If you want a thicker breading on your chicken, dip it in milk first, shaking off excess before putting it in the bag. If you like to marinate your chicken in buttermilk before frying, that works too; just drain off the excess buttermilk before you coat the chicken pieces. I never do either one. I just put the chicken straight from the package into the breading mix. If I have any leftover breading mix, I seal up the bag and stash it in the freezer for next time.
Lightly spritz a 13X9 inch pan with cooking spray (or swipe a tiny bit of oil or shortening over it with a napkin or paper towel), and place your coated chicken pieces into the pan, skin side down. This allows the fat to render out of the skin, making it crispy and delicious.
Bake for 30 minutes at 425 degrees; turn pieces over. Don’t worry if the skin side of the chicken doesn’t look that brown or crisp at this point. It will be after the next cooking period.
Bake for another 30 minutes, and prepare to be amazed. The chicken will be browned with a light, crispy breading on the skin. Take it out of the pan, and drain skin side up on paper towels.
This is how much fat rendered out of 3 chicken thighs. It was about 2 tablespoons.
You can use the pan drippings and browned breading bits to make gravy, if you wish. In our family, (oven) fried chicken gravy has always been made like this:
Scrape the chicken pan to get off the browned bits. Drain two tablespoons of fat and the browned bits into a skillet or medium-sized sauté pan. Heat on medium-high heat until sizzling. Add two tablespoons of flour (I have used brown rice flour) and cook and stir for a minute or two until flour browns slightly. Stir or whisk in 1 ½ – 2 cups of milk (depending on how thick you want your gravy) and bring to low boil, stirring constantly to prevent lumping or sticking. You can thin the gravy down after it cooks a couple of minutes by adding more milk, if it’s too thick. You can also cook it down if it’s too thin for your tastes. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, and taste for seasoning, adding more if needed. Serve over mashed potatoes.
Oh yeah, baby—no-mess, oven-fried chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. That’s comfort food made easy.