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Fried chicken marinated in Coca-Cola

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Marinating chicken in Coke before you fry it makes a uniquely moist and flavorful fried chicken. The trouble with occasional fried chicken at home is that it is hard to gauge how long to cook it, and you might end up with dried out chicken, or, less likely, undercooked chicken. The tricks in this marinated approach solve this pretty effectively. And this recipe would be great for a Valentine’s Day dinner!

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This recipe appeared, most recently, in the Seattle Times, and a day or so earlier in the New York Times, and so while we don’t claim original authorship, we do report on how it is done and what we experienced. Both recipes called for organic, free-range chicken, a set of pretensions we don’t think are necessary. Any well-raised chicken will do. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, and you should try to find ones that are similar in size so that the cooking times will be similar.

The only trick to marinating the chicken is to start in the morning, at least 5 hours before dinner and mix the Coke with the other marinade ingredients. Then, toss in the chicken, cover the dish and let it set in the refrigerator until dinner time.

For the marinade

  • 5 cups Coca-Cola
  • 10 sprigs thyme
  • 1 Tb kosher salt
  • 4 tsp hot sauce, such as Sriracha or milder
  • 8 cloves garlic mashed and minced
  • 8-12 chicken thighs

For the seasoned flour

  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tb kosher salt
  • 1 Tb medium hot paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 3 cups flour

For frying

  • 3-4 cups canola or peanut oil
  1. In a large covered container, add the Coke, hot sauce, salt, garlic and spices.
  2. Add the chicken thighs, and cover the container. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
  3. When you uncover the marinade, it will be much lighter in color. Remove the thighs and pat them dry with paper towels.
  4. Roll each thigh in the seasoned flour and shake off the excess.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  6. Heat the oil to 375° F in a large skillet or electric frying pan.
  7. Add the chicken, 3-4 pieces at a time, and fry for 3 minutes on each side. Be careful not to over cook, as the sugar from the marinade will cause a lot of browning. If they aren’t too brown, turn the chicken over and cook another 2-3 minutes.
  8. Remove to a parchment covered baking sheet and keep warm.
  9. When all the chicken is fried, put the chicken pieces in the oven for about 10 minutes until a meat thermometer shows at least 165° F.

This final oven cooking trick is what keeps the chicken from burning or drying out. You are actually undercooking the chicken a bit in the frying oil and finishing them in the oven.

Surprisingly, the chicken did not have much of a sweet taste. Any sweetness was quite subtle. But the chicken was incredibly moist and flavorful, and we’d make it again.

In fact, you could serve it very well to company, or to your loved one(s) for Valentine’s Day.

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