Saturday, November 21, 2020

Eating in lockdown: Fried vs baked chicken thigh sammies

 I've written about chicken sammies a bit lately, and I did finally get around to trying Popeye's new fancy chicken sandwich after some customer service foul-ups -- more on that soon. But after behaving myself this week, for the weekend I wanted to try making at home versions but with a twist -- I would deep fry some and bake the rest and compare the results.

Spoiler alert: deep fried was better. I mean, of course it was. We all knew that already. It's also horrible for me. And we knew that too. Still, we'll press ahead. Because science is testing your hypothesis, no matter how obvious.

The finished products. Guess which one is which?

I had defrosted a package of Ontario chicken thighs from my TruLocal meat subscription -- thighs being on trend right now for being jucier and more flavourful -- and proceeded to make a buttermilk dredge. Not having buttermilk, I made it by adding vinegar to milk. And not having white vinegar, I used balsamic. Probably not ideal, but seemed a better choice than wine vinegar. I added Frank's Red Hot, paprika and cayenne, and poured it into a zip lock bag to marinade in the fridge overnight.

Marinaded chicken thighs ready to dredge

Retrieving it the next day when ready to cook, I made a dredge of flour, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Moving the marinade into another contained. I proceeded to do a double dredge -- dry, wet, dry, moving half to a plate and the other half to my funky new baking tray with rack.

My oven pre-heated to 450 degrees, in the chicken went for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, I heated vegetable oil in my deep dryer to 350 degrees to deep fry the other half of the chicken.

Ready for the oven.

After 12 minutes, I opened the oven and took out the chicken to turn it over and put it back in to bake for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, all the smoke inevitable set off my smoke alarm, making me race to open my balcony door to the eight degree Ottawa afternoon and begin waving my jacket in the direction of the smoke detector, which is on the ceiling far to high to hit the button on. I retrieved standing Costco fan and turned it on 15 minutes later with the door open when it was time to open the oven again -- this time, stress-inducing alarm averted.

With both batches of chicken done, I surveyed the results.

Not hard to tell which is which, though the pan does give it away.

Meanwhile, I had two brioche buns from TruLoaf, my local bakery, then I had buttered and toasted in my cast iron pan. I also mixed mayo with hot sauce, garlic power, paprika and cayenne that I smeared on the top and bottom buns. And it's not traditional, but some aged sharp cheddar on the bottom buns.

Baked and fried chicken sammies.

So, as we sat at the outset, the fried chicken was obviously better. The meat was jucier, the batter adhered better and was crispier and crunchier. The baked still had a smidge of flour in spots, lost some of the coating, and the chicken wasn't as juicy. 

In fairness, I baked a kind of dredge that was designed to be fried. If I had done a spiced flour, egg wash, bread crumb dredge, the results would likely have been more conducive to baking. But I wanted to keep the prep the same as a control -- you know, science. 

Anyway, a tasty lunch either way. And I don't deep fry very often, not to worry. I don't even care for french fries. Smash burgers tomorrow, and then back to healthy for the work week. Stay healthy and stay safe.

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