What to Look for in the Best Fried Chicken

By Eric Elkins

Can you believe it? Chicken Fight Presented by Bud Light is only a week away! It’s the first true summer festival of the season, with all the fried chicken and wings from Denver’s best restaurants, paired up with cocktails and beer (and if you opt for VIP, champagne, live music, and Denver’s most beautiful people feeding their souls with poultry and bourbon. 

 

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As you prepare for a night of food and fun, it may be helpful to decide just how you’re going to approach the evening. Will you just drink and eat with abandon, hopping from booth to booth, filling your belly with fried goodness and tasty spirits? Or will you stop and consider each bite, keeping yourself in that magical moment, assessing just what you like about that particular preparation?

 

We recommend the latter. Savor every moment. Enjoy each taste. Follow with a sip of something refreshing. Repeat.

 

And don’t forget: Your vote matters at Chicken Fight Presented by Bud Light. Forty-plus restaurants are vying for awards, and your vote could be the one that results in bragging rights for the whole next year. Categories include: Best Fried, Best Wings, Best Creative Chicken Dish, and Best Cocktail.

 

But how do you break down just how good that fried chicken really is? How do you compare one bite to the other?

 

Here’s a handy guide to get you started.

 

The visuals

Your evaluation should start before you even slip that chicken into your mouth hole. How does it look? Does the plated bite have a gorgeous golden hue? Is it more of a buttery brown? Or maybe it’s pale and unappetizing (very unlikely, of course). How does that first look (and smell) make you feel? Does it remind you of childhood summers past? Does it take you back to that road trip through the South? Make you think of a 2am stumble into a fried chicken joint after a sloshy night out? Associations matter.

 

That bite

So now you dig in, taking a tentative taste to make sure you’re getting the most of that first impression. How’s the skin? From crispy to crunchy to soft, each consistency has something to say. How does that first bite feel in your mouth? Does the crunch give way to perfect tenderness? Is it juicy all the way through? Or is it a little too slimy for your taste? 

 

And speaking of taste, how’s the flavor? Does the seasoning go down to the bone, or do you lose the thread once you’re past the crispy skin? Can you still taste the chicken, or is it overpowered by spiciness or salt? Was this chicken sauced? How did that go?

 

Embrace it

With your second bite, put all of those disparate elements together and think about the full experience — how’s the chicken? Do you love it? Hate it? Someplace in between? Is it better than the last sample you tried? Not as tasty? What was different and why?

 

Stop a sec. Close your eyes. Chew. Enjoy.

 

Now pair it with that cocktail. 

A sip, a bite, a swallow. 

 

Okay, maybe you’ll take this whole fried chicken competition seriously, or maybe you’re just going to go eat and drink and randomly vote for the last dish you remember. 

 

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to buy your ticket today so you don’t miss out next Thursday.

Jeff Suskin