My mom used to make oven fried chicken a lot. I remember coming home on Sundays from church, and we were likely to have one of three dishes: Pot roast, meatloaf, or oven fried chicken. Mashed potatoes on the side, no matter what. When I was little, my parents didn’t cook many dishes that were outside of those classic American staples, but they cooked each one of them well. I loved my Mom’s oven fried chicken, but I tried to make it recently and I felt like it could use a few modern improvements (no offense, Mom, I love you!)
Here’s what needed to be better:
The skin: I wanted a crispier skin! I wanted it to be more like “actual” fried chicken. (my unsuccessful trial of Mom’s recipe came out less than crispy… )
The flavor: I wanted more spices! My palette is a bit more complex from my 6 year old self these days, and I wanted to cater to my tastes now.
The texture: I wanted juicy chicken, all cooked through but not dried out.
So how do we solve these issues? My mom’s classic recipe involved cooking the chicken with butter and in a pyrex dish – the glass casserole kind with 2″ sides. I know from roasting vegetables and browning other meats in the oven, that you need a dish with low sides to get a good crust. Otherwise the meat will actually steam rather than brown because the liquids coming off the meat will hang around the meat too much. You want the steam to lift, and be evaporated, so that the skin can brown without overcooking the meat in the process.
I also made sure to put the chicken on the pan skin side down for 20 minutes, then flip it and cook it skin side up for the remaining 20 minutes. Some recipes for oven fried chicken that I came across didn’t specify this, but my mom had this little trick down. One last change I made to make absolutely sure I had a crispier skin was to increase the oven temperature. I cooked my chicken at 425 to my moms 400. I also made sure my oven was preheated for longer then 10 minutes- this seems to be an issue for my gas oven, and ever since I’ve allowed for longer preheating time I’ve had much better results.
The fat used in cooking was another change. In the traditional recipe, you take a cube of butter and melt it in the pan, then add the chicken skin side up. The idea is that the butter will aide in browning, and probably insure against the skin sticking when you go to flip it halfway through. I know from going through a browned butter and pasta phase years ago, that the milk solids in the butter will actually burn if it’s cooked too long which is not something I wanted to chance. So I turned to olive oil. I could have also used safflower oil, vegetable oil or even clarified butter. But olive oil was right there on my counter, so that’s what I reached for. I didn’t choose coconut oil, because I can taste it on the final product, and I wasn’t going for a coconut flavor here.
Fixing the flavor by adding more spices seemed easy enough. I added extra spices to the flour mixture that mom usually dredged her chicken in, as well as salt and pepper.
Now on to the texture. I was shooting for juicy chicken-this is the holy grail, amiright? We ALL want this when we eat chicken. My mom always used mixed chicken parts. Probably because we all liked different parts or because that’s what was on sale at the store. I have learned that it’s difficult to cook chicken to a perfectly juicy state when you are dealing with different parts that are different sizes and will cook at different rates. So in my version, I chose one part that never disappoints on the level of juicy: thighs. Bone-in, skin-on thighs are an excellent choice for this. The bone keeps things from being overcooked, and the dark meat is more cook-friendly and won’t dry out if you leave it in the oven a few minutes past the cooking time because you were doing dishes/cooking potatoes/chasing a toddler. You could certainly try this recipe with another cut, but use all the same cut of chicken for best results.
So, here’s my tips (synthesized) for a better oven fried chicken:
- Use olive oil, not butter (or another kind of neutral fat).
- Use all the same cut/piece of the chicken. I highly recommend thighs.
- Cook the chicken skin side down for 20 minutes, flip, then cook it skin side up until done.
- Use a HOT oven. 425 and make sure it’s preheated.
- Season the flour with spices and salt and pepper for a savory finished product.
So how did my little recipe revamp turn out? DELISH. I got rave reviews and a now I have a new favorite family dinner. Here’s the recipe!
- 6-8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons Hungarian Paprika
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 425.
- Combine the flour, spices and salt and pepper in a medium bowl that is big enough to dredge the chicken.
- Working with one piece of chicken at a time, add to the flour bowl to coat completely with flour. Set all the chicken aside on a large plate or work surface.
- Drizzle olive oil on a low-sided baking sheet and set in the pre-heated oven for 1 minute to warm. Carefully remove and set on a heat proof surface.
- Add all the chicken to the sheet pan, skin side down, about 1-2 inches of space between each piece. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 20 minutes until done, when the juices run clear and the skin is golden brown. Serve with salad and potatoes for a winner winner chicken dinner.