Even if you don’t have a turkey fryer tucked away in the garage, long neglected since the fried turkey craze faded, you still can make deep-fried whole chicken. Because the cooking time is so much shorter than in the oven, the meat stays moist. Golden brown crispy skin is an added bonus. Peanut oil is a good choice for deep frying because it’s flavorless and has a high smoke point.
Deep Frying Chicken
Before you deep fry a whole chicken, measure the amount of peanut oil you’ll need. Place the chicken in the turkey fryer and measure how many cups of water it takes to cover the chicken. Cup for cup, that’s how much oil you need. Dry the chicken and the fryer completely after measuring.
Make a rub for the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Sprinkle the rub over all sides of the chicken and let it stand at room temperature for an hour. While the chicken is resting, pour the appropriate amount of oil in the deep fryer and heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Carefully lower the chicken into the hot oil. Pull it back out if there’s any danger the oil will overflow; let the oil cool and remove the excess. Spilled oil will ignite.
Cook for about 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature measured at the thigh is 165F. Carefully remove the chicken from the oil and drain on a wire rack set on a baking sheet.
Whole Fried Chicken Wings
Fried chicken wings, a game-time favorite, are high on the list of party hosts’ deep fryer recipes. The easiest way to prepare them is to deep fry them, unseasoned and without batter, at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165F. Toss the cooked wings in sauce made from hot sauce and melted butter, if desired.
For battered wings, make a dredge of flour and your favorite dry seasonings. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, seasonings and a couple of tablespoons of flour. Dip the wings in the egg mixture and then the seasoned flour. Fry at 350F for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 165F.
There are countless variations of seasonings for chicken wings. Try lemon pepper, poultry seasoning, garlic and onion powder, salt and cayenne pepper singly or as a blend.
Cutting Up a Whole Chicken
Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle, cut it into six pieces. Lay the chicken on its back and pull one leg away from the breast. Using a sharp knife, cut the skin between the breast and the leg; then bend the leg backwards until the thighbone releases from its socket. Slice the leg off and repeat with the other leg.
Pull the wing away from the body, and cut through the joint between the wing and the body. Repeat with the other wing.
Insert your knife sideways in the cavity between the breast and back of the chicken. Cut along the ribs and through the shoulder joints until the breast is free of the backbone. Save the backbone for chicken stock.
Place the breast skin-side down and cut it in half along the breastbone. The legs and wings can be separated into two pieces by slicing through the joints.
Deep-Fried Chicken Cooking Tips
Thoroughly dry the chicken before putting it in the hot oil. If the chicken is wet, the oil will spatter when the chicken is added.
If you don’t have a turkey fryer with a stand and propane flame, you can use a large pasta pot with a basket insert on top of the stove. If a whole chicken doesn’t fit comfortably in the pot, cut it in half from front to back.
Use your favorite chicken seasoning blend, or buy a prepared blend like jerk seasoning, herbs de Provence or a Cajun spice blend.
Brine the chicken before cooking. Either use a kitchen injector to add flavor to the thickest parts of the bird, or make a sweet and salty solution; pour it over the chicken in a bowl or zip-top bag and set in the refrigerator overnight to marinate in the briny solution.
Native New Yorker Meg Jernigan stayed in Washington, D.C. after attending the George Washington University, and worked in the tourism industry with the National Park Service for many years. She’s a dedicated foodie with an extensive cookbook collection and years of experience in the kitchen. Jernigan’s recipes have been published online and in magazines like Southern Living.