To say that I really like fried hen is an understatement.
If it’s on a menu at a restaurant, I’ll in all probability order it. I make it at house far more typically than I in all probability ought to, contemplating the truth that my kitchen doesn’t have a hood and it makes the residence odor like a quick meals joint.
I even made positive summer time cross-country highway journey I took a number of years in the past went via the southern a part of the US, despite the fact that it was loopy sizzling…as a result of I wished Southern fried hen.
SWEET TEA + FRIED CHICKEN = BFF
Throughout my highway journey, I didn’t anticipate to fall in love with candy tea, a pre-sweetened iced tea that’s served in all places. The truth is, it’s so widespread that if you need unsweetened iced tea or sizzling tea, you must specify that!
I additionally observed that Southerners appear to be utilizing candy tea as a brine for hen, starting from tailgate sweet-tea brined grilled hen to James Beard Award-nominated chef John Fleer making the fried hen model.
Regardless of the legendary nature of each fried hen and candy teas in Southern cooking, candy tea as a brine doesn’t appear to have a protracted historical past. In keeping with Virginia Willis, the James Beard Award-winning writer of Secrets and techniques of the Southern Desk: A Meals Lover’s Tour of the World South, “Candy tea fried hen is a brand new South chef-driven dish.”
What’s Candy Tea?
Candy tea (or simply “tea” should you reside within the South), is historically served as a black tea sweetened with cane sugar, although there are variations of it with honey, agave, and even synthetic sweeteners. It’s sometimes served chilly.
Tea has a protracted historical past within the South; South Carolina was the primary place within the U.S. to commercially develop tea. And though there are tons of theories on why candy tea grew to become so widespread within the South, the very fact is most people who reside there drink candy tea prefer it’s water.
Why Brine With Candy Tea?
Candy tea additionally occurs to be the right brine for hen—it infuses taste into the meat, provides moisture, and makes a juicier completed product. Because of this brining normally is advisable for Thanksgiving turkey, lean cuts of pork, and hen, as it’s a simple technique to make the lean meat juicier and extra tender.
The sugar within the candy tea brings out the sweetness of the hen meat, whereas the tannins within the black tea assist tenderize the hen, just like the motion of the tannins in wine. Don’t be too involved in regards to the brine turning the hen into meat sweet, although! It provides a delicate sweetness that works properly with the salty pores and skin.
I additionally add salt to the candy tea brine, to assist create an additional juicy fried hen. Salt is essential because it denatures the protein of the meat. Mainly, this implies the meat muscle unwinds and relaxes, permitting extra water and liquid to penetrate. Extra water means extra juicy meat after cooking!
What’s the Finest Tea to Use for a Brine?
Although Julia Little one typically is quoted as saying that it is best to cook dinner with wine that you’d drink out of hand, don’t hassle utilizing the flowery costly tea for this recipe! The tea can have each sugar and salt added to it. Three issues to remember:
- Select a basic: Lipton’s yellow label tea is what I opted for. You’ll be able to substitute a generic grocery retailer orange pekoe or black tea instead.
- Experiment: If you wish to get fancy, you’ll be able to actually experiment with completely different flavored teas as properly, so long as it’s inexperienced, black, or white!
- Keep away from natural teas: Natural teas (i.e. not inexperienced, white, or black tea) don’t have the tannins that assist tenderize the hen. It can nonetheless be tasty, however the black tea helps tenderize the hen in the same means that mildly acidic buttermilk does by breaking down the protein, permitting for a juicier fried hen.
The Finest Rooster for Fried Rooster
I favor to make use of darkish meat (thighs and legs) for fried hen. They are usually cheaper cuts with extra taste and are inherently juicier. However you may make your fried hen out of breasts or wings should you favor, or a mixture of all cuts.
The brine will assist preserve the breast from drying out. Simply ensure that to regulate the cooking time barely, cooking the breasts a further two minutes per aspect, whereas wings (that are smaller) will fry extra rapidly, so scale back the cook dinner time by one minute.
How Lengthy to Brine with Candy Tea?
A buttermilk brine solely wants an hour minimal to work, however candy tea is a special scenario.
It is advisable to brine this hen at the least in a single day (eight hours) for the flavour to return via, or as much as 24 hours. The longer you brine the hen, the sweeter and extra “tea” taste the hen can have.
A 12-hour brine is perfect: It produces a noticeable sweetness and delicate tea taste however nothing too sturdy. However your style could fluctuate.
The Finest Pan for Deep Frying
Traditional Southern fried hen is cooked up in a forged iron skillet. However you don’t want that to make nice fried hen (although some would in all probability disagree). I used a nonstick, 11-inch extensive sauté pan with straight sides however you too can use a Dutch oven.
I additionally solely use a shallow quantity of oil within the pan, about 1 1/2-inches deep. This permits me to make use of much less oil (which implies much less oil to eliminate). I pan fry the hen, ensuring all the perimeters are crispy golden brown, then end the hen off within the oven. This additionally has the added bonus of creating positive all of the hen elements are warmed via on the similar time and don’t dry out.