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What is a whole frying chicken?

A whole frying chicken, also known as a broiler-fryer chicken, is a young chicken under 10 weeks old that has been raised specifically for meat production. Frying whole chickens has been a popular cooking method for generations thanks to their convenient single-serving size, delicious flavor, and crispy skin.

Where Do Frying Chickens Come From?

Commercial frying chickens are a crossbreed of the White Plymouth Rock and White Cornish breeds that have been selectively bred for rapid growth and meat yield. They are typically harvested around 5-7 weeks old when they reach an ideal market weight of 3-5 pounds. At this young age the bones are soft, the skin is tender, and the flavor is mild.

After harvest, frying chickens are cleaned, chilled, and sold whole. They can be found fresh or frozen in markets worldwide. Fresh chickens must be cooked within 2 days while frozen ones can keep for 9-12 months in the freezer.

Benefits of Frying Whole Chickens

There are several advantages to frying whole chickens compared to other cuts or preparation methods:

  • Convenience – A whole chicken serves 2-4 people perfectly for a meal.
  • Flavor – The skin crisps up deliciously when fried.
  • Juiciness – The bones and skin help retain moisture.
  • Value – Whole chickens cost less per pound than other cuts like breasts.
  • Nutrition – Chicken is a lean source of protein that is lower in fat than red meat.

Frying allows you to enjoy these benefits while also adding in delicious crispy skin and rich brown fried flavors.

Selecting a Whole Fryer Chicken

Follow these tips when selecting your frying chicken:

  • Size – Choose a chicken between 3-5 pounds to serve 2-4 people.
  • Color – Look for a creamy off-white skin tone.
  • Pack date – Select one with a recent pack date for freshness.
  • Fat – Some fat is good but avoid excessively fatty areas.
  • Smell – Fresh chicken has a mild smell. Avoid any off odors.
  • Expiration – Use fresh chicken within 2 days or frozen within 9-12 months.

Preparing a Whole Fryer Chicken

Proper preparation is key for successfully fried chicken. Follow these steps:

  1. Wash the chicken under cold water and pat dry.
  2. Trim off excess fat and skin.
  3. Remove giblets from the cavity.
  4. Dry the skin thoroughly for crisping.
  5. Season the outside with salt, pepper, spices.
  6. Allow to rest for 20-30 mins to absorb seasoning.

You can rub the chicken with spices, marinate it in buttermilk, or dredge it in flour before frying for added flavor.

Frying Methods

There are a few common methods for frying a whole chicken:

Pan Frying

This traditional method uses a skillet with 1-2 inches of vegetable oil heated to 325-375°F. Gently place the seasoned chicken in the hot oil, breast side down. Fry for 15-20 mins, flipping halfway until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined plate.

Deep Frying

Deep frying requires more oil but crisps up the skin beautifully. Use a deep pot or deep fryer filled with 4-6 inches of oil heated to 350-375°F. Carefully lower the chicken in and fry for 20-25 mins, turning occasionally until cooked through.

Air Frying

Air frying is the healthiest method using just 2 tablespoons of oil. Preheat air fryer to 380°F then cook a 3 lb chicken for 30-40 mins, flipping halfway. The skin gets nice and crispy!

Oven Frying

For oven “frying”, preheat oven to 425°F. Coat chicken with oil then cook breast side up for 30 mins. Flip and cook 30 mins more until browned and cooked through. The skin won’t be quite as crispy.

Internal Temperature

The only way to ensure your fried chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat is to use a meat thermometer. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh but not touching bone. The internal temperature should reach 165°F.

Serving Suggestions

Your freshly fried chicken is now ready to serve! Try these tasty accompaniments:

  • Mashed potatoes
  • Biscuits or cornbread
  • Coleslaw
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Fried okra
  • Collard greens
  • Mushed peas or beans
  • Corn on the cob
  • Potato salad
  • Fruit salad

For convenience, pair your fried chicken with instant or pre-made side dishes. Enjoy!

Leftover Fried Chicken

Properly stored, leftover fried chicken will keep 3-4 days refrigerated. Reheat in the oven at 350°F until hot and crispy, about 20-30 mins. Fried chicken also freezes well up to 2-3 months. Simply thaw overnight in the fridge then reheat.

Try these tasty ways to use up leftovers:

  • Chicken sandwiches
  • Chicken salad
  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Chicken tacos or quesadillas
  • Chicken pizza topping
  • Chicken casserole
  • Chicken pasta dish
  • Shredded chicken BBQ

Common Questions

What size chicken should I buy?

For 2-4 servings, choose a 3-5 lb chicken. Larger chickens are tougher while smaller ones fry too quickly.

Is there a difference between broiler, fryer, and roaster chickens?

Broilers and fryers are both young chickens under 10 weeks ideal for frying. Roasters are larger over 5 lbs.

Can you freeze raw chicken to fry later?

Yes, raw chicken freezes well up to 9 months. Thaw completely before frying.

Is fried chicken healthier than roasted?

Roasting uses less oil so is a bit healthier. But fried chicken cooked properly is still a good lean protein source.

How long does fried chicken last?

Freshly fried chicken keeps 3-4 days refrigerated. It can be frozen for 2-3 months.

Nutrition Information

Here are the nutrition facts for a 3 oz serving of fried chicken thigh according to the USDA:

Calories 184
Fat 12g
Carbs 0g
Protein 15g

As you can see, fried chicken is a high protein, low carb food. The fat and calorie content is moderate compared to other fried foods. Chicken is an excellent lean protein source, even when fried!


Frying whole chickens is a quick, convenient, and delicious cooking method perfect for weekend dinners or special occasions. Look for high quality fresh or frozen fryer chickens 3-5 pounds in size. Prepare the chicken by washing, trimming, drying, and seasoning before frying to crispy perfection. Fried chicken can be served with classic Southern sides and makes for great leftovers too. Follow proper food safety guidelines and fried chicken can be a tasty and safe dinner option.