Fried Chicken Made Easy

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Time: About 30 minutes

You can skip the pepper and cinnamon here, but American fried chicken should have some punch, so I include them. Like all good fried chicken, this one is great hot or at room temperature.

1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 pounds, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces, or any combination of parts

Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, olive oil, or a combination of lard and butter, as needed

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Lemon wedges (optional)

1. Dry the chicken well with paper towels. Heat at least 1/2 inch of the fat over medium-high heat in a large, deep skillet, broad saucepan, or similar vessel with a lid. While it is heating, mix together the flour and seasonings in a plastic bag. Toss the chicken in the bag, 2 or 3 pieces at a time, until they are well coated with flour. Put them on a rack as you finish. (Or wait until the oil is hot, then toss the chicken with the flour one piece at a time and add the pieces directly to the fat one at a time.)

2. When the fat reaches 350°F, raise the heat to high and slowly but steadily add the chicken pieces, skin side down. When they have all been added (or, if you're working in batches, one batch), cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-high, and set a timer for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes, uncover the skillet, turn the chicken, and continue to cook, uncovered, for 7 minutes.

3. Turn the chicken skin side down again and cook for about 5 minutes more, turning as necessary to ensure that both sides are golden brown. As the chicken pieces finish cooking (to check for doneness, remove one piece and cut into it close to the bone; the juices should run clear), remove them from the skillet and drain them on paper bags or towels. Serve hot, warm (keep warm in a low oven if you like), or at room temperature, with lemon wedges if desired.

Chili-Spiced Fried Chicken.

Even more punch: Use neutral or peanut oil. Sprinkle the flour with 2 tablespoons each chili powder and ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional), and some salt and pepper; omit the cinnamon. Serve with lime wedges.

Fried Chicken with Bay Leaves.

Use olive oil and heat it with 10 bay leaves. When the bay leaves begin to sizzle, add 4 or 5 garlic cloves. Cook, moving the bay leaves and garlic around in the oil, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown, then remove the garlic and the bay leaves. Omit the cinnamon and add 1 tablespoon fresh (or 2 teaspoons dried) thyme leaves to the flour mixture.