Fried chicken is an odd sort of bird.
By that I mean few foods are as intensely personal yet as openly debated. Think about it. There are just so many darn ways to indulge a craving for fried bird. Brined with herbs or bathed in buttermilk. Dredged in cornmeal or flour or even nothing at all (the horror!). Fried in lard or bacon drippings or both. Served with a puddle of honey, a drizzle of ginger-and-garlic-inflected soy vinaigrette, or nothing but napkins (or, for the slightly OCD, wet-naps).
There’s a tactic to accommodate each and every craving this Fourth of July, whether your curiosity is driven by personal preference or a mad scientist-like, braggartly penchant for making your kitchen a playground. Each of you seems to think your version is proper. And, in a very real way, it is.
With that in mind, we’ve winnowed our chosen takes on the classic to the five approaches outlined below. Just five, you ask? Well, not so fast. If you do the math, these few recipes make up an exponential number of techniques both traditional and nonconformist. Take a gander. Whether you make your bird by the book or cobble something together on your own on the Fourth, I think you’ll find something that trips your fancy below. And don’t forget to let us know in the comments below how it goes.—Renee Schettler Rossi
Fourth of July Fried Chicken Recipes
Cajun Fried Chicken
Props to the person who came up with ingeniously hacking each piece of breast in half, making 10 pieces in place of the usual eight, ensuring a more consistent size and, hence, the ability to cook the pieces more quickly and evenly. The rest of the recipe is less unconventional—yet no less genius. The chicken is marinated in salt, black and cayenne peppers, garlic powder, and hot sauce, then bathed in buttermilk before being dredged in seasoned flour and fried in lard, vegetable shortening, or bacon drippings until lovely.
Crispy Fried Chicken
An unexpected and intriguing, and certainly not conventional, take on fried chicken from Padma Lakshmi in which chicken is left overnight in a brew of salt and milk—sort of brine meets marinade—before being dredged in a crazy, crunchy concoction of smashed cereal and crushed saltines, flour, cayenne, and salt. Then it’s rolled in beaten egg, dredged in that crazy crunchy flour mixture again, and fried, low and slow, in vegetable oil and—dare we say it?—butter.
Momofuku’s Fried Chicken
This is fried chicken David Chang style, minus the potty-mouth and the traditional coating. Chicken parts are brined in a sugar and salt solution, then steamed (yes, steamed), refrigerated overnight, and finally fried in grapeseed oil and dazzled, er, drizzled with a gingery, garlicky, soy sauce vinaigrette of sorts. (Did we mention this fried chicken is gluten-free, provided you choose your soy sauce carefully?)
Northern Fried Chicken
Matzoh meal. That’s the trick to this extra-crisp, extra-fast coating. The chicken is neither brined nor marinated, just rolled in egg whites, matzoh, and an optional seasoning blend of paprika and cayenne and dried garlic. Then it’s fried in oil. Did you even have time to blink? Definitely the best of the bunch for last-minute cravings.
Sydney Meers’ Fried Chicken
Fried chicken, Southern style—or at least, one Southerner’s style. We trust Sydney not just because he runs a quaint restaurant by the name of Stove but because he learned how to fry chicken at his grandmother’s side. His chicken is brined but for an hour in a salt, bay leaf, and fresh rosemary solution, dredged in a flour-cornmeal-salt-pepper-cayenne situation, then fried in a mere half inch of lard or bacon drippings until, well, pretty much perfect. But you can be the judge of that.