Despite its strong association with the South, fried chicken has spawned gentle turf wars all across America, with cooks altering the seasonings in the flour to claim the dish as their own. If ever there was a dish deserving of your own “test kitchen” contest, fried chicken would win, wings down. Open your test kitchen with four classic seasoning combinations, adjusting and documenting the measurements as you go along. After you dredge your chicken pieces in seasoned flour and plunge them into a bath of hot oil, you'll know why part of the joy of cooking is bringing a multitude of ideas to the table—until you come up with a distinctive fried chicken recipe worthy of putting on yours.
1 Keep it simple by mixing salt, pepper and paprika with the flour. Paprika, a form of ground pepper, adds color and depth to the flavor of chicken. In addition to table salt, experiment with sea salt and kosher salt. Taste them first before adding them to your flour to see which you prefer.
2 Provide some zest to a simple seasoning mixture by adding some powdered ranch dressing mix to the flour. Fill some dipping bowls with creamy ranch dressing right from the bottle to accompany your crispy fried chicken, if you like.
3 Unleash Southern influences by adding paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, marjoram and ginger to the flour. Start with ½ teaspoon of each and add an extra ½ teaspoon of the seasoning -- or seasonings -- you especially prefer. If the mixture snaps more than a Southern alligator, temper it with a little sugar.
4 Give a nod to Cajun fried chicken by adding a teaspoon of Cajun seasoning to the flour. If you test the hotness of food by whether it puts sweat on your brow, try substituting cayenne pepper or even sprinkling some hot sauce in the flour.