After I attended the Portland Food Adventure’s In the Kitchen with Sarah Schafer, my husband asked that I attempt fried chicken. Chef Sarah uses a deep fryer and I was loathe to buy one at first. Instead, I got a deep heavy aluminum skillet that I could also use in the oven for restaurant-finished steak.
However, the skillet could only be heated on medium to medium-low on the stovetop. It took all of half time for the Super Bowl for it to heat the oil to temp. And then when I put the buttermilk-soaked, flour-and-cornstarch coated chicken into the oil, the temp dropped precipitously and never came back up fully. It took a lot longer than the 20 minutes promised to cook the chicken. It turned out tasty, but it was obvious I needed a deep fryer to do it right.
My buddy Elizabeth Rose suggested QVC’s Emeril by T-fal FR702D001 1.8-Liter Deep Fryer with Integrated Oil Filtration System, Silver. I ordered it and it arrived on Friday.
The features that sold me were that it comes apart for cleaning in the dishwasher and it has an automatic oil filtration system. I hated having to discard the oil after using the skillet. With the Emeril deep fryer, it drains into an oil storage box you can then refrigerate until the next use.
I unboxed the Emeril fryer and sent the parts through the dishwasher, other than the heating unit itself. I bought a whole fryer cut-up and I froze the back and gizzards for making stock someday. I soaked the chicken in buttermilk with thyme and salt for 24 hours, using a gallon zip-lock bag.
I reassembled the fryer and plugged it in. It has a safety cord that is attached with magnets, loose enough so if it gets knocked off the counter, it disconnects so you have less risk of fire or burns.
The oil came up to temp in just a few minutes. I set it at 356 as the booklet seemed to recommend for chicken drumsticks. But I think that was a little too high for the canola oil I used, and I got a little char on my chicken.
I seasoned my chicken pieces with a mixture of salt, cayenne pepper, garlic salt and cumin. I seasoned those for Rich with only garlic salt. I dredged them in a mixture of 2:1 flour to cornstarch as recommended by Chef Sarah.
I fried up a breast and then turned it down a notch the wings and drumsticks. Only one breast fit into the basket, but both wings and both drumsticks went into the same batch. I used a digital meat thermometer to ensure I had the breast fully cooked inside.
Next, Rich bought frozen crinkle fries from Costco and I filled the fry basket half full as recommended. They cooked up crisp in 3 minutes as promised.
I drained all of the fried foods on a cooling grate over an aluminum pan. Very little oil dripped off, and the food was not greasy to the touch at all. Even 30 minutes after finishing cooking the breast, Rich reported it was still plenty hot inside when he ate it. So, no worries if you have to cook in batches.
The result – delicious. Even with the coating a bit overcooked, the chicken was moist inside and the skin and coating very flavorful. I overfilled the basket for the second batch of fries, which was definitely a mistake as they took longer to cook and didn’t crisp up well until I removed half of them.
I then unplugged the fryer while we ate. For the oil filtration, you allow it to cool for at least two hours, then flip the switch to filter. However, I discovered that I had the fryer bowl backward so it didn’t drain. After some trial and error and consulting the internets (the instruction book wasn’t helpful), I realized the error, turned it around, and it drained in about 15 minutes. One user said she uses the dregs for gravy. As mine was a bit charred, I discarded them. But when I make my next batch at lower temp, I will definitely save them for gravy.
Best of all, it all cleans up in the dishwasher and my oil is ready for reuse. That makes it easy to do a batch of fries for Rich even when I’m not interested in making anything else fried.
See it on Amazon.com: Emeril by T-fal FR702D001 1.8-Liter Deep Fryer with Integrated Oil Filtration System, Silver