Not to toot my own horn or anything but – Beep Beep! I just made the best fried chicken EVER last weekend! I mean chicken so good it’ll make you slap your sweet southern grandma from Georgia.
It all started when I received my new issue of Bon Appetit magazine – there’s a beautiful fried chicken drumstick right on the cover, and inside the issue is all about savoring the South. It has been a long time since I’ve made anything fried (getting healthy with the new year and all), but this just sounded too good to pass up.
I deviated from the Bon Ap recipe in a few ways – 1st I brined my bird. I’m a big believer that all dry meats like pork, chicken and turkey can benefit from a good salty brine before cooking. And for this soul food Saturday of course I pulled out my secret weapon- the Pickle Juice Brine. Some like to soak their chicken in buttermilk, but even Bon Ap recommends against this because “the danger of brining in buttermilk is you can never get the skin crispy enough”. My 2nd deviation was that I added a greater amount of seasoning to the flour, so that each crunchy bite was packed with spicy flavor. The Bon Ap recipe also calls for frying in Peanut oil, well I didn’t have any, but like every good southern girl I had some lard in the fridge and vegetable oil to supplement, so I fried my chicken in a blend of the two (which is probably a sin in some grandmothers cookbook, but I just had to use what was on hand). The result was raved about for the rest of the weekend.
Skillet Fried Chicken
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 3–4-lb. chicken (not kosher), cut into 10 pieces, backbone and wing tips removed
1 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
1 1/2 – 2 cups dill pickle juice (I prefer Vlasic)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
(for frying) Per Bon Ap- use Peanut oil, or Per Ang- use equal parts lard & vegetable oil
Place chicken in a medium bowl with enough pickle juice to soak, cover and leave at room temperature for at least one hour.
Place all dry ingredients (flour, spices, and starch) in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
Whisk buttermilk and egg in a medium bowl.
Pour oil into a 10″–12″ cast-iron skillet to a depth of 3/4″. Prop deep-fry thermometer in oil so bulb is submerged. Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°. Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet to the side.
Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place 4-5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry chicken, turning with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and 12 minutes for thighs, legs, and breasts.
Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack.
Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
- Work with room temperature chicken. It will fry much more evenly
- Don’t crowd the pan, you’ll bring down the oil heat too quickly
- It really helps to use a thermometer so you can adjust the heat of the oil accordingly
- Resist the urge to double coat in flour. You want the flour to season and the skin to get crispy, not soggy skin underneath thick batter, yuck!
- As you pull each cooked piece out of the oil, gently shake it and let it drain off the excess for about 10-20 seconds. You’ll be amazed at just how much oil comes off, and less oil left on the skin makes a crispier bite for you.
Follow these tips and you’ll be in southern fried heaven in now time!