Yep, I said it…Gluten-Free Fried Chicken. Health food it isn’t, but the best version of a summer picnic favorite and perfect make ahead for July 4th parties? YES! It is.
I’ve tried GF fried chicken before with little success. But then one day I was wondering about Williams Sonoma and saw a GF fried chicken coating mix for $16.95!!! What??? Does it contain gold leaf as part of the coating? Or maybe hand-fed, lovingly cuddled, free-range 1000% organic chicken that has somehow been preserved to be shelf-stable? No and no. It contained the same gluten-free flours and spices I had hanging out in my pantry and you still had to buy the chicken separately. (Note: I didn’t REALLY think there was chicken in there!) What it did have was a blend of gluten free flour and cornstarch. I had tried with one or the other and had never found the goldilocks option. I couldn’t get that out of my head so I decided to make it happen. Armed with my newfound knowledge of this blend, I created the coating mixture.
Next hurdle – I had to come to grips with frying. Frying isn’t a normal cooking method at my house, as I cannot quite get the 1990’s fat-free thing out of my head completely. But there are just some things that don’t come out as good when you “Oven-Fry” them. “KFC” style fried chicken is one of those. The slightly crunchy, flour-y, flavorful coating along with juicy chicken just doesn’t happen when the chicken hangs out in the oven. It will be soggy. Every time! You need the quick, intensive heat that a cast-iron skillet and hot oil (please never shortening! See my recommended oil below) can provide.
Since I’ve worked out most of the kinks, here is my step by step process…but keep reading because I also have the full recipe and some of July 4th favorite recipes below.
The photo quality you are about to see is hideous. I was working with end-of-the-day light (due to poor planning on the “artist’s” part) and taking photos with one hand on a phone while cutting with the other.
Step One: Cut the chicken into strips.
I made this with boneless skinless chicken breasts that I cut down. You can buy chicken tenders or you can even use a whole cut-up chicken. For those that only keep around boneless, skinless chicken, I’m starting with the steps to cut it into tenders.
Step Two: Brine the Chicken
In order to make your chicken juicy (especially boneless chicken breasts) you need to brine it in either a salt and sugar brine or some sort of acid. Most Southern cooks will use buttermilk. I used whey left over from making yogurt which is very similar but you can also use yogurt and water in a 1:1 ratio or a mixture of 2 tbsp vinegar and enough milk to make 2 cups to make a buttermilk substitute. I seasoned it with a bit of garlic powder, salt, cayenne and pepper. An hour-long brine is plenty, but you can leave the chicken in the brine for up to 8 hours.
Step Three: Dredge the Chicken
With a blend of my typical GF flour mix and a few other ingredients, I created a simple flour dredge. I usually use a glass pie plate, but you can also use the shaking method. Mix the dredge ingredients in a gallon freezer bag then after shaking off excess brine, place chicken pieces in the bag and shake around until they are covered. This method also leaves you with some “crunchies” – the little coating pieces that aren’t connected to chicken. I toss them in at the end and let them get brown and crunchy then toss them on the platter.
Step Three: Fry (and Bake) the Chicken
Cast-iron is the best and most even conductor of heat. If you have the family heirloom cast-iron skillet, this is when you want to pull it out. If not, any large skillet will work, but just watch the heat to avoid burning the chicken. I do initially fry the chicken, then bake it for ten minutes or so to make sure it’s cooked through and to get the coating a little crisper. If you choose to use bone-in chicken pieces, you will follow these same directions but bake for a little longer.
The best oil to use is coconut oil, I’m still doing research on the other oil that I have typically used (grapeseed) because as it is with most things, it seems this oil which used to be considered one of the healthiest to cook with at high heat is now just as bad as canola or corn oil! YIKES! When I know I will let you know. (Another reason to “Like” us on FB and sign up for our email list at the right!)
Heat the oil until it shimmers before adding chickn and only do as many pieces as will fit in a single layer. Place them on an oven-proof rack over a cookie sheet and place in a 350 degree oven for 10 or more minutes. (Depending on how big pieces are and if they are bone-in.) You are looking for a temperature of 160 for white meat and 170 for dark meat.
Step Four: Serve
Serve hot or cold. I sprinkled mine with a little extra oregano and black pepper. If not serving right away, let it cool then place in a resealable container and keep cold. Reheat at 350 until at least 160 degrees internally or keep cold if serving cold.
Now for some of my other summer favorites:
- Grilled Corn with Compound Butter – Grilled corn is SOOOOO easy. Bring it home, throw it on the grill until the outer husk is blackened. Compound butter is a fancy way of saying butter with good flavors mixed in. Also useful for an instant sauce on steaks, fish and veggies.
- Watermelon anything – From my new favorite cocktail Watermelon Gin Punch (which can easily be made into a mocktail by leaving out gin) to Watermelon and Feta Salad (sounds strange but Really Good!)
- Red, White and Blue Potato Salad – The classic is good, but I love to mix it up with this recipe using blue cheese and bacon.
- Grain Free Chocolate Chip Blondies – So easy and minimal ingredients. Plus, they only bake for 15-20 minutes so less heat from your oven.
- 1½ pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or tenders (If using bone-in chicken get 3-4 pounds of pieces)
- 2 cups buttermilk (or any of the substitutes I mentioned)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp each black pepper, garlic powder and paprika
- ½ tsp each oregano, dill, red pepper flakes and/or cayenne (hot stuff can be left out)
- 2 tsp hot sauce (just for fun if you want extra spicy)
- 1½ cups gluten-free flour mix*
- ¾ cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp xantham gum or 1½ tsp guar gum
- 1 tbsp sea salt
- 1 tsp each black pepper, garlic powder and paprika (yes again)
- ½ tsp each oregano, dill, red pepper flakes and/or cayenne
- Cut the chicken into pieces if using whole breasts.
- Place chicken in brine and refrigerate for at least an hour.
- Place all Dredge Mix ingredients in a zip top bag or in a pie plate and mix well. Add a few pieces of chicken at a time and coat evenly. Set aside on a cookie sheet until all pieces are coated.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
- Heat ½" of oil in a heavy skillet (the bigger the better). If you are using bone-in chicken pieces heat 1" of oil.
- When the oil is shimmering, add enough chicken to make one single layer with no pieces touching. Cook until the bottom starts to turn golden around the edges then carefully turn over with tongs or a slotted spatula. Cook until golden and crispy on all sides then transfer to a wire rack on cookie sheet.
- When all the chicken is golden, bake for 10 minutes or until chicken registers 160 at the thickest point. (For bone-in, this will take considerably longer. Start checking at 20 minutes.)