This post is not about some fried chicken that is so insanely delicious it should be illegal….okay it is, but really its about how we lost our ability to cook. We take no responsibility if you run “afowl”with the law. Read on.
I’m always on the hunt for hidden treasures when I go antiquing, and on a recent trip to Healdsburg, I discovered a pressure cooker under a mound of other collectables. Since we do a pressure cooker class and I’m always one or two short, I picked it up and viola. Lo and behold a vintage Wear-Ever Chicken Bucket.
This pot is designed to be used under low pressure to mimic the commercial cookers used in the big chain chicken places. Its simple design belies its ability to produce delicious mouthwatering chicken in only a fraction of the time of the normal process, but it also makes it relatively fool proof. It was complete with recipe book and with the pot safely under my arm, I could not wait to get back home to whip up a batch of chicken.
For those who know, I’ve been deep frying things (professionally) as an early teen, so I know my way around hot oil. After a bit of research, I found this unit was banned and taken out of production. There were lots of posts about how dangerous these units were and why people should destroy them if they still have them. After reading all these stories I tried to find a current model pressure cooker. The exhaustive search produced only two other pressure fryers out there currently. So how could such an innoccoulous looking pot be so dangerous? Seems that some people are not good about either:
1. Reading the instructions booklet
2. Following directions
3. Using common sense
Now after seeing hundreds (if not thousands) of people cooking, I can attest that there is a smattering of truth in each category, or as I like to think more likely:
4. No one taught them any better
So lets dissect what we’re dealing with. First off, heat can hurt , so pay attention to that. Second oil and water do not like one another; be aware. Third, heat and cold are polar opposites. Lastly take the proper precautions.
Armed with a chicken (more on boning a chicken vs. buying parts in the next post), I cut it up into fryer pieces and a quick dunk in salted buttermilk. Buttermilk introduces a great tanginess without being too sour and its a great flavor for chicken. Let it soak for at least an hour and preferably 2-3. Some of my chefs say never let it go overnight….its up to you, but play around with it.
During this stage its important make sure the chicken is toweled off and very dry before doing the first coat. If not, your coating will not stick. Also, bring the chicken to room temp before cooking. If you’ve taken a class here, you’ve heard me preach why. After a second coating, allow the chicken to hang out for a bit on a cooling rack. This allows the moisture to work with the flour and help it adhere to the chicken.
Next, make sure your oil is 350 degrees. Higher and you’ll end up burning the coating, lower and the oil will drop too low once to begin frying. If you don’t have a thermometer, buy one. Do not get water and sprinkle it into the oil. You will create spatters and likely burn yourself. Now the important part….do not TOSS the chicken into the hot oil. Gently submerge the first part into the oil then release the chicken. It will glide into the oil without spattering unless you’re working with wet hands or wet chicken. Remember what I said earlier.
Now, fasten the lid to the pressure cooker and let the magic happen. Per the instruction book, I let it go for 15 minutes and here is the part of experience that comes into play. I don’t put the unit under cold water or anywhere near the sink to bring the pressure down. Instead, I don safety goggles, and gloves. Secondly, I turn off the flame (important). Next, I slowly release the pressure by unscrewing the knob. Its like letting the pressure out of a champagne bottle without it popping. Now with the pressure released, off come the lid. I drain the chicken over the pot for a bit, then onto a blotter.
Here are the results. Yes it was delicious and cooked perfectly through and incredibly juicy. So I can only surmise that lots of people did not follow the directions and with a few lawsuits, Alcoa decided the public didn’t deserve tasty fried chicken with a simple tool if they can’t follow directions. I can see my future….”Put down the chicken and step away from the fryer with your hands in the air.”