I started cooking in restaurants when I was fourteen. My mom was able to land me a job at MP’s Chicken where the only items on the menu were fried chicken, coleslaw, French fries and honey buns. Although it wasn’t fancy, I learned to cut a chicken in seconds and how to perfectly fry chicken.
I loved working in restaurants, so I decided to go to culinary school at the Iowa Culinary Institute where I graduated in 1996. Shortly after I graduated, I moved to San Diego, and although I was still pretty green in the kitchen, I had six years of restaurant experience by the time I got there. I scoured the paper looking for chef positions, and I saw one for Milligan’s restaurant in La Jolla, California. I landed an interview and was lucky enough to get the job.
The restaurant's owner and namesake, Mr. Milligan was a rich oilman from Oklahoma. He built a stunningly beautiful restaurant, glowing with amber lights, hand-carved woodwork, sultry original nudes on the walls and the San Diego Padres' old grand piano in the bar which was humming every night of the week. The restaurant was a shrine to everything he loved, which included fried chicken. So just out of culinary school, it seems I ended up moving to California to fry more chicken. It was Mr. Milligan himself who taught me how to make the fried chicken we served. He wanted that chicken to be just like his mother's, which was the same as her mother's and that is just how we made it.
One of the things I love about this recipe is the simplicity of it. If you are looking for a healthy version of fried chicken, this absolutely isn’t that, but it can be easily made gluten free and it can also be made start to finish in 25 minutes. The downsides of this recipe are that you will need a deep cast iron skillet with a lid, you can only fry one batch at a time and the breading is very light. If you are cooking for a big crowd or really love an extra crispy thick breading, this is not that recipe.
Oklahoma Style Fried Chicken
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
Yield: 8 pieces
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
1 whole fryer chicken cut into 8 pieces: 2 breasts, 2 thighs, 2 legs and 2 wings
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or cup-for-cup gluten free flour
Approximately 6 to 8 cups of lard or shortening
Step 1: Pack the Pan
At Mulligans, we referred to the first step of this recipe as "packing the pan." What that means is that we would pack about 2 inches of cold shortening into a deep cast iron pan. I prefer to use lard now since it is an all-natural fat and has a lot of great flavor, but you can use either. This recipe is unusual in that the fat is not preheated; the pan with the fat and chicken are placed on the stove completely cold.
Step 2: Season and Flour the Chicken
Take the chicken pieces and toss them with the seasonings first until they are evenly coated.
Feel free to shake up the seasonings: add a little cayenne or more black pepper, garlic powder or onion powder to season more intensely. If you have time, you can also leave the seasonings on the chicken up to 24 hours to more intensely season the chicken from the inside out.
Toss the chicken in the flour and coat the pieces with an even light layer before putting into the pan.
Step 3: Place the Chicken in the Pan
The chicken is placed in the pan in this specific arrangement, skin side down place 2 breasts on the side, 2 thighs in the center, 2 legs at the top and the 2 wings at the bottom of the pan.
Step 4: Cook the Chicken
Put the lid on the packed pan and turn the heat on high. No need to look or mess around with the chicken, just leave it alone until 14 minutes have passed. After 14 minutes, turn the chicken over and return the lid to the pan and continue to cook for the additional 3 minutes. Start to finish, the chicken takes 17 minutes.
If you have any trepidation about your chicken being done, use a meat thermometer to double check, the breast should be 155 degrees and the thigh 165 degrees. With that said, I have made this recipe hundreds of times and never had undercooked chicken.
Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a paper towel lined plate.
You may not think that frying chicken for a dinner party would be an easy solution, but it is with this recipe. You can season and flour the chicken and put it into the pan and refrigerate the whole thing up to a day in advance. Simply pull the pan out of the refrigerator 17 minutes before you want to eat dinner and put it on the stove. The fact that this chicken is cooked with the lid on keeps the mess to a minimum and the smell of fried chicken is just enough to make your mouth water.
During the warm weather months, when you want a break from the grill or when the storm clouds are looming, try making your own plate of fried chicken, accompanied with your favorite summer side dishes. If you are looking for more ideas for your summer soirees, we know how to throw a mean party!
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