Crispy, juicy fried chicken at home is a cook’s crowning achievement. But even as a frying aficionado, the thought of buttermilk brining, dirtying multiple bowls for dredging, and getting every piece of chicken evenly coated is enough to keep me from firing up a pot of oil. That was, at least, until I learned about this smart tip. A single kitchen tool helped me make some of the best fried chicken I’d ever had—a thin, even, crispy exterior—without the dreaded batter coated fingers and less of a mess in my kitchen! You might even already have this tool at home.
The Secret to Better Fried Chicken? Use a Spider Strainer
I’m already a big proponent of frying in a Dutch oven rather than a skillet because it keeps your kitchen clean while frying; and I know some people swear that a brown paper bag is the best tool for coating (though no one speaks about the mess made by a burst bag), but my new favorite tool for better fried chicken at home is a spider strainer. You might know and love a spider for actual frying—it does an excellent job scooping up pieces of food and allowing excess oil to drip back into the pot—but have you considered using it for prepping the chicken too?
What Is a Spider Strainer?
Spiders or metal strainers are most often used for fried dishes like tempura or removing hard boiled eggs from a pot. Similar to a fine mesh strainer, spiders basket-like strainer with a long handle. Spiders can be all stainless steal or have an aluminum basket with a wooden handle They come in a variety of sizes from 4 1/2 inches in a diameter to 9 inches—most sizes fit readily inside a large mixing bowl or Dutch oven and can easily hold a large chicken breast.
How to Use a Spider Strainer to Make the Best Fried Chicken
Inspired by using a small mesh strainer to coat a chocolate cake with powdered sugar, I tried using my spider strainer as a tool for coating chicken evenly in the flour mixture for deliciously crisp fried chicken. What’s even better is that you can also use the spider strainer instead of fingers or tongs to move the chicken from the brine through the flour coating to frying. Here’s how you do it the next time you fry chicken at home.
- First, use the spider strainer to remove the chicken pieces from their buttermilk bath, shaking away as much liquid as possible. When you’ve got your brined chicken pieces ready for coating, put your dredge mixture in a large mixing bowl—this helps contain the flour while you dredge and makes using the spider even easier.
- Next, bury the scoop end of your spider in the flour mixture, add your chicken pieces and then lift up the spider, which should now hold all of your chicken. You can gently toss the chicken in the spider to make sure everything is coated before shaking the excess flour mixture off each piece.
- Then, move your coated chicken pieces to a cooling rack set in a baking sheet so the coating can set while you dredge the rest of the chicken pieces and set up a pot of oil from frying. The resulting chicken pieces will be perfectly coated with flour in a thin layer that gets delightfully crisp in the hot oil. As I mentioned, I also use the spider to collect the chicken after it’s done frying—this way you’ll avoid a soggy, oil-logged coating, even after the chicken rests to cool for a bit.
What Spider Strainer Should I Buy?
You want to look for something large enough to hold 2 to 3 pieces of chicken at once, while also being small enough to store, to fit easily inside your largest mixing bowl, and of course to fit comfortably inside your Dutch oven for scooping chicken pieces out of the hot oil. Some folks like the bamboo handled versions that you can find at most Asian markets for under $20, but I love a stainless steel version that is dishwasher safe for easier clean up.
The combination of a thin, even coating and less excess oil on each piece, makes the spider strainer an essential tool for making the best fried chicken at home.