There are, by my count, at least seven levels of fried chicken. The worst of them is good; the best, which I waited forty-four years to find, led to what can only be called an out-of-body experience. Let’s start at …
Crisp, golden skin is one of the best things about a roasted chicken. It can be made even better by cooking the chicken under a heavy weight, most often a brick. The weight of the brick makes the chicken skin render its fat more completely than it usually would, making the skin extra thin and crisp. The technique is not difficult, though it does require a little preparation.
- Kitchen gloves
- Whole fryer, approximately 3 lbs.
- Sharp knife or kitchen shears
- Cutting board
- Cast-iron skillet
- Two large bricks
- Heavy duty aluminum foil
- Meat thermometer
- Thin metal spatula
Put on the gloves, if you will be using them. Cut the backbone from the chicken with a sharp knife, or a pair of kitchen shears. Grasp the chicken firmly in both hands and open it like a book. Use the tip of a knife to cut out the keel bone, which separates the two halves of the breast.
Separate the two halves of the chicken, if desired, or leave it whole and butterflied. Trim off the wingtips, which tend to burn in cooking. Some cooks cut away the tips of the drumsticks for the same reason. Carefully slide the tip of your knife under the ribs, and free them from the meat underneath with long, careful strokes.
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Set a heavy cast-iron skillet on the stove top, and heat it to medium-high. If you do not have a skillet large enough to hold the entire chicken, use two smaller ones. Season the chicken according to your chosen recipe. Wrap the two bricks in several layers of heavy aluminum foil.
Oil the hot skillet lightly to promote browning, and place the chicken in the skillet skin-side down. Weigh down each half of the chicken immediately with a wrapped brick. Turn the burner down to medium.
Cook the chicken on the stove top for 10 to 15 minutes, until the skin is golden brown when you lift the edge and the chicken is about halfway cooked. Do not move or turn the chicken, as this will tear the skin. Transfer the pan to your preheated oven, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the chicken reads 165 degrees when tested with a meat thermometer.
Carefully slide the chicken from the skillet to a serving platter, using a thin metal spatula to peel the chicken from the skillet without tearing the skin. Cover loosely with aluminum foil, and allow the chicken to rest for five minutes before serving.
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