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Fried Chicken Sandwiches Are Good, Actually

A treatise and a recipe

Operations Inside A Chick-fil-A Location As Restaurant Opens Manhattan Outpost In Northern Push
The hand of God on his most perfect creation

The other day, pit boss MNW had the following to say about fried chicken sandwiches.

Anywho, I would like to share with you perhaps my hottest food take: The chicken sandwich—particularly the fried chicken sandwich—is pointless and bad.

The chicken is already breaded. You know what you do not need to make it better? More bread, particularly shitty white bread—to say nothing of mayonnaise or a couple limp pickles. It does not matter if the chicken sandwich is spicy, if Popeye’s or Chick-Fil-A or Wendy’s or Bojangles makes it, or if THIS chicken sandwich literally makes you see the face of God. All you’ve done is added unneeded carbs and diluted the taste of really good chicken. Get a fork and knife, you fatass American, or just eat fried chicken with your hands like everyone else in the damn world.

As a response, I’d first like to say that this is B1G country. “Unneeded carbs?” No carb that has ever existed was unneeded. The trifecta of rice, wheat, and corn has more or less powered our civilization straight onto the moon. We as a people learned how to use glorified grass and turn it into both a crunchy coating for chicken and a pillowy, tasty delivery system that makes a combo of pickles, mayo, and fried chicken easy to eat using nothing but your hands.

Second, this take ignores the fundamental goodness of a fried chicken sandwich. Sure, fried chicken is great on its own. You can add some hot sauce or Cane’s Sauce or whatever you like to add a bit of flavor. But at the end of the day, fried chicken is fried chicken. A fried chicken sandwich, however, combines the greatness of fried chicken with an acidic vegetable (usually pickles), a creamy spread, and a toasted bun, into one perfect, awesome bite. A fried chicken sandwich is its own thing, and it cannot be questioned.

What MNW did get right is the nonsense around who makes the best chicken sandwich. Chik-Fil-A, or Popeyes, or whoever else - none can compare to the chicken sandwich you can generate in your own kitchen. Run out to the store and buy the following things:

  • Boneless, skinless, chicken thighs: These are perfect, because they are already about the size of a sandwich, and thighs are tastier and much harder to overcook than their more popular counterpart the breast. Chicken breasts are like the Iowa offense - very easy to screw up, and even if you get it right, they still come off as pretty unimpressive.
  • Self-rising flour: A good fry coating requires a bit more than flour. Self rising flour comes with a bit of baking powder and salt. The chemistry of this is unimportant - the result will be a tastier and crispier crust compared to regular flour.
  • Buttermilk: This is not an exotic ingredient. A half quart will set you back like 99 cents.
  • Oil: You know, for the frying. I usually go for vegetable or canola because they are cheap. Peanut is great.
  • Buns: There are a lot of bun options. Your basic Kroger brand hamburger buns will get the job done, though I usually upgrade to the potato buns for their larger size and softer texture.
  • Toppings: I go for mayo, kosher dill pickle slices, and Texas Pete hot sauce. Yours may vary. A Kirk Ferentz philosophy may work here - less is more.

The plan: Heat up your oil. I prefer a dutch oven here, but if you don’t have one any metal pot should do. The one thing important about frying is that you want your oil hot. Not smoking fire hazard hot, but really hot. If you have a thermometer then over 350 degrees should be good. If you don’t then you want to feel the heat from the oil and it should really sizzle when you throw something in it.

While the oil is heating, put your chicken in a bowl. Pour the buttermilk over it. In another bowl, pour in the flour. Put a few spoonfuls of the butter milk in the flour and mix it up a bit. Once your oil is hot enough, take a chicken thigh, throw it in the the flour, press it down and get it really coated, then shake off the excess flour, and gently lay it in the oil. It should sizzle pretty well. After a few minutes, turn it over. You want an internal temperature of around 165 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you at least want to cook the pink out (I recommend having a thermometer).

The other bit of cooking is going to be on the bun. You want to toast that bun. The tastiest way is to griddle it in a bit of butter over medium heat. The easiest way is to use your toaster. In any event, getting a bit of crunch on your bun is important. After that, simply assemble your sandwich. Bun, chicken hot sauce, pickle, mayo, bun. And then eat the delicious, wonderful meal you have created, that is infinitely superior to simple fried chicken.