Why You Should Never Use A Pot To Cook Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is a religion, and not only in the American South, where its just-right crispy, greasy goodness makes it a staple of Wednesday night church dinners, a daily menu item in small-town meat-and-three-vegetables restaurants, and a quick, satisfying meal from the drive-through windows of chicken joints found on nearly every street corner. 

The elevation of fried chicken to sacramental status comes also with the boosting of some high-powered acolytes, including author and cooking expert Padma Lakshmi, host of TV's "Top Chef." The BBC quotes Lakshmi as saying, "In a way that somebody else converts to Judaism or becomes a Hare Krishna, I belong to the church of fried chicken." Lakshmi's own recipe for fried chicken, with dried mango powder as a unique ingredient, reveals her reverential approach to preparing a batch of golden, crispy bird.

There are some people, in fact, who would pursue a lifelong committed relationship with fried chicken, presuming they could find a church to sanctify that union. National Today found in a recent tongue-in-cheek survey of 1,000 Americans that 16% of respondents "would marry" fried chicken. Another 50% of respondents to the survey, conducted in connection with National Fried Chicken Day on July 6, said they "love" fried chicken. If you're in these camps, you'll want to know this important cooking rule the next time you fry up a thigh or five.

There are rules for frying chicken

One reason that fried chicken may properly be considered a culinary sacrament is that there are sacrosanct rules for how — and how not — to prepare it. One of the biggest mistakes when making fried chicken is frying the meat in a deep pot (unless, of course, you're cooking for a very large group). For those instances in which a lot of fried chicken is being prepared, there are pot-based options ranging from a deep fryer to a Dutch oven to a pressure cooker, says The Soul Food Pot, a veritable Bible of techniques for preparing fried chicken.

If you're just making a couple of thighs and breasts, though, it's best to use a cast iron skillet with high sides and a lid, according to Southern Living. "A high-sided cast-iron skillet will give you the best crispy texture and also make it easier to turn the chicken in the pan as it cooks," the publication says. Meanwhile, the lid will help maintain a high temperature to fully cook the chicken and crisp up the coating. This advice checks out: Since a high and consistent oil temperature is so important when frying, a cast iron skillet is the ideal choice for fried chicken — this material famously retains heat for a smooth cooking process.