Tips and tricks for how hot should oil be for fried chicken legs, a fish fry or frying foods of any kind on the stove. So important for perfection
Fried foods are great if you can obtain the perfect crispy golden exterior and tender insides. Achieving that ideal texture and flavor requires getting the oil temperature just right, and what to do when done too. Here are step by step instructions on cooking fried foods perfectly. (affiliate links present)
If the oil is too hot or not hot enough, your fried chicken (or other goods) may end up greasy or undercooked. Let’s explore a bit of the science behind the perfect oil temperature for fried chicken and offer some tips for achieving the ideal texture both inside and out no matter what you’re making.
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How to Tell if Oil is Hot
Whether you are cooking meat or Fried Green Beans it is essentially the same process. Cooking food submerged it in hot oil makes it crispy and delicious if done right. When the food comes into contact, the water inside it turns into steam, creating tiny pockets of vapor that make the outside crunchy. This hot liquid also helps to seal in the food’s moisture, resulting in a juicy interior…but the temperature is key to it’s success.
How to Tell When Oil is Hot Enough to Fry
The ideal oil temperature for frying chicken is in the mid 300 degree range, but there is a very small range you really want to hit. In order to check you need to do this often after about 15 minutes over medium high heat with an instant read thermometer. Why is the optimal temp. so important??
- At the ideal temp. the moisture in the chicken (specifically) turns into steam, creating steam pockets in the batter or breading. This leads to that sought after crispy exterior.
- Whether you are cooking pieces or a Whole Fried Chicken recipe, getting it to the right temperature ensures that the meat cooks through evenly.
- In the case of poultry you need to ensure that you reach a safe internal meat temperature of 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part or it won’t be safe to consume, period.
- When the oil is at the correct heat level, the food absorbs less oil, resulting in a less greasy end product.
With this and even Fried Cornbread, you will still want to drain on a cooling rack or on top of a bed of paper towels to absorb the excess but the less that is absorbed into the center of the food itself the better the flavors will be.
Oil Temperature Frying Chicken
Achieving and maintaining the correct oil temperature for frying is essential to perfection. If you do not have a thermometer I highly suggest you buy one.
The only way to test it otherwise is not super accurate but you could drop a bit of batter into it and if it immediately fries, doesn’t burn, but cooks rather quickly and doesn’t sink to the bottom it’s basically ready. All of these tips are for meat and anything else submerged like Fried Red Tomatoes.
- BEST method to checking though is to invest in a good-quality kitchen thermometer. This helps to monitor the oil temperature accurately.
- Clip the thermometer to the side of your frying pot or use a digital probe thermometer.
- Heating it up gradually to the desired temperature is important too. Starting with hot oil ensures that you will get perfect fried chicken wings if it begins to cook immediately to prevent oil absorption.
- Fry foods in batches to prevent overcrowding the frying vessel, which can cause the temperature to drop.
- Consider using a deep fryer with a built in thermostat for the most accurate way to maintain a consistent oil temperature automatically.
To ensure foods are cooked to perfection, test with your probe inserted it into the thickest part of the meat, making sure poultry reaches 165° F. Here is a deep fried temperature chart for all other foods you may be cooking. Lift piece out of hot liquid with a wooden spoon to test in the thickest part.
Oil Temperature for Fish Fry
Frying at a Fish Fry to perfection requires the right oil temperature too. You want to achieve a crispy, golden exterior while ensuring that the fried fish remains moist and tender on the inside. The ideal oil temp is the same for other meats; 350° F to 375° F. Here’s why this is essential and some tips for maintaining it;
- The water content in the fish will turn into steam at this heat level, creating small vapor pockets within the batter or breading. This process contributes to the crispy texture, better than oven fried fish but not as healthy.
- You always want to minimize oil absorption. If it is too cold, the meat will soak it up to become greasy and heavy.
- Frying with the correct heat level ensures that the fish cooks through evenly, reaching an internal temperature of at least 145° F or 63° C.
Directions really aren’t any different for Frying Coconut Shrimp or any other foods.
How to Maintain the Right Oil Temperature for Frying Food
Achieving the perfect oil temperature for frying foods is a crucial factor in creating the crispy, juicy, and flavorful. These tips and paying close attention to your oil temperature, you can master the art of frying anything in your own kitchen and enjoy this classic comfort food at its best.
- Use a digital kitchen thermometer to monitor the oil temp accurately. Check often without touching the sides of the pan.
- Preheat slowly so top to bottom it is the same heat level to achieve an even cooking once food is dropped inside the pot.
- Fry in smaller batches to prevent overcrowding in the Dutch Oven or other pan / vessel. Too may pieces in there at the same time will cause the temperature to drop significantly, resulting in uneven cooking.
- Adjust the heat to maintain the temperature of the oil as needed, if the oil becomes too hot, briefly reduce the heat, and if it cools too much, increase the heat.
- You can also test the oil temperature without a thermometer by using a small piece of bread or a wooden chopstick. If the bread sizzles and turns golden within 10-15 seconds or if bubbles form around the chopstick, the oil is likely in the correct temperature range.
NO need to use oils with high smoke point but if you should choose to do so choose coconut, avocado or grapeseed cooking oils. Most of the time vegetable or peanut frying oils are best so it doesn’t alter the flavor of your golden brown legs and thighs.
Want to see a few of my favorite things that I am totally obsessed with?? Take a peek and see how many you might already have…twinsies!
How Hot Should Oil be for Fried Chicken
- 1 dutch oven or pan with high sides
- 2 shallow bowls
- Mix together flour and seasonings in a shallow bowl or plate. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and whisk eggs together.
- Dip each piece of chicken into buttermilk and egg mixture, coat completely. Place into the flour and seasoning mixture and coat well. Repeat this again, returning the chicken to the milk mixture and the flour mixture and placing onto a plate or lined baking sheet to rest.
- Continue with remaining pieces and let stand for 5 minutes more to rest. Heat about 2 inches of oil into a skillet or 1/3 of the way full in dutch oven until hot oil reaches ideal temperature of 350 – 370 degrees F. Canola oil is best.
- Place chicken into the oil carefully keeping space between each piece. Do not overcrowd or they won't turn out as crispy. Work in batches.
- Fry pieces on each side for about 4 minutes at a time, flipping over 3 times for a total cooking time of about 12-16 minutes total until outside is golden brown and internal temperature is 165 degrees F.