Fried Chicken > Can you cook fried chicken in a cast iron skillet

Can You Cook Fried Chicken in a Cast Iron Skillet?

Cast iron skillets have been treasured kitchen staples for generations when it comes to frying up deliciously crispy fried chicken. But is using cast iron the best cooking method for fried chicken? Absolutely! When cared for properly, a cast iron skillet makes the perfect vessel for frying chicken with an evenly crispy crust and juicy, tender meat.

Can You Cook Fried Chicken in a Cast Iron Skillet?

Yes, cast iron skillets are extremely well-suited for cooking crispy, flavorful fried chicken. The thick, heavy material of cast iron distributes heat evenly across the pan’s surface area. This prevents hot spots that could burn the fried coating before the interior of the chicken is cooked through.

Cast iron also retains heat remarkably well once preheated. The temperature stays consistent and high enough to achieve a crunchy, browned exterior while cooking the chicken thoroughly on the inside. This heat retention also enables moving the skillet seamlessly from stovetop to oven for finishing or keeping fried chicken warm.

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The nonstick properties of a properly seasoned cast iron skillet are another major benefit for fried chicken. As the pan is used over time, thin layers of oil are baked into the pores of the metal, creating a natural nonstick surface. This allows frying the chicken with less added oil for a healthier result without sticking or burning.

Fried chicken comes out exceptionally crisp and full of flavor when cooked in preheated cast iron. The heavy pan does an unmatched job of producing the signature crunch of a fried exterior while locking in hot juices and spices. With proper preheating and oil temperature control, juicy, golden fried chicken can be successfully cooked through in a heavy cast iron skillet. It’s a classic pair!

Why Cast Iron is Ideal for Fried Chicken

What makes cast iron so uniquely suited for fried chicken? Here are some of the major benefits:

    • Even heating – The thick, heavy material distributes oil temperature evenly across the pan’s surface. This prevents hot spots that could burn the coating.
    • Heat retention – Once brought up to temperature, cast iron maintains consistent heat well. This allows the exterior to crisp while the inside cooks through without overdoing it.
    • Natural seasoning – A well-seasoned cast iron pan develops a natural nonstick finish. This means you can use less oil for frying chicken without sticking.
    • Oven-safe versatility – Cast iron makes the perfect pan for starting fried chicken on the stovetop and finishing in the oven.
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Seasoning is Critical

For the best fried chicken results, properly seasoning a cast iron skillet before use is a must. The seasoning process creates a natural nonstick coating by baking thin layers of oil into the pores of the metal. Follow these tips for seasoning new cast iron:

    • Coat with thin oil layer – Cover the entire surface with a high smoke point oil like grapeseed or refined coconut oil.
    • Bake upside-down – Place the oiled pan upside down on a baking sheet in a 350°F oven for at least an hour.
    • Repeat 2-3 times – Repeat the oiling and baking process until the pan develops a slick, shiny patina.
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Without proper seasoning, chicken is likely to stick to the pan’s surface during frying. So be sure to season properly!

Making Crispy Fried Chicken on the Stovetop with Cast Iron

Step-by-Step Frying Instructions

Follow these steps for perfectly fried chicken in your cast iron skillet every time:

    1. Heat the Oil – Pour 1/2 inch of frying oil like peanut or vegetable oil into your cast iron skillet. Heat the oil slowly over medium heat until it reaches 325-350°F. Use a deep fry thermometer to monitor the temperature.
    2. Prepare the Chicken – Rinse chicken pieces and pat them completely dry with paper towels. Season them generously all over with salt, pepper, and any additional spices like paprika, garlic powder, or cayenne.
    3. Fry the Chicken – Carefully add the chicken pieces to the hot oil skin-side down. Don’t overcrowd the pan – work in batches if needed. Fry for 5-7 minutes per side, adjusting heat as needed to maintain oil temperature. Frying times can vary based on thickness, but allow 5-7 minutes per side for bone-in chicken to fully cook through on the stovetop.
    4. Check Internal Temp – The chicken is done when it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. Use a meat thermometer to be sure.
    5. Let Sit Before Serving – Once fried, let the chicken rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes before eating for maximum juiciness!

Maintaining the proper oil temperature is critical throughout frying. If oil overheats, the coating can burn before the inside fully cooks.

Cleanup and Cast Iron Care

While extremely durable, cast iron does require some special care after cooking:

    • Wipe out any excess oil residue with a paper towel rather than washing. Avoid soap which can strip away seasoning.
    • Re-season occasionally by oiling and baking the pan to maintain the nonstick patina.
    • Never allow cast iron to air dry fully. Lightly oil after washing and storing.
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Treat your cast iron skillet right, and it will be frying up deliciously crispy chicken for years to come!

FAQs
Is Cast Iron Good for Deep Frying?

Absolutely! Because it retains heat so well, cast iron is perfect for deep frying chicken with an even, crispy crust. The natural nonstick seasoning also prevents food from sticking during frying.

What Size Cast Iron Skillet Should I Use for Fried Chicken?

For frying chicken, a 10 or 12-inch cast iron skillet is ideal. Anything smaller doesn’t allow enough room for the chicken to cook evenly. Skillets larger than 12 inches take longer to heat up properly.

What Cooking Oil is Best for Frying in Cast Iron Pans?

For high heat frying, peanut oil and vegetable oil work best in cast iron. Their high smoke points prevent burning. Lard or shortening are also good options. Avoid oils that start smoking at lower temperatures.

Can I Fry Foods Other Than Chicken in My Cast Iron Skillet?

Absolutely! A well-seasoned cast iron pan provides the perfect nonstick surface for frying up everything from French fries to doughnuts. Just be sure to maintain oil temperatures and avoid ingredients that could cause sticking.

With its even heating and crunchy crust producing abilities, cast iron is every fried chicken lover’s go-to cookware. As long as you season and care for it properly, a cast iron skillet will provide perfect homemade fried chicken for years on end. So grab your cast iron pan, thermometer, and frying oil and enjoy!

 

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