Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Back when I was in college, fried chicken was just as much a “thing” as pizza, wings and (for some) Chinese. My freshman year, a girl that lived on my floor worked at a local Kentucky Fried Chicken, usually the night shift since she had classes during the day. On the nights that she worked, she would get back to the dorm around midnight with the leftover food from the end of the night. Six of us girls would sit in the hallway, with all of the food in the middle, gossip and snack on fried chicken, potato wedges, biscuits and chocolate chip cake. In case you’re wondering, yes, I did in fact gain the freshman fifteen. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade those late-night snack sessions for anything. It was about forming bonds, friendships and alliances as we were all trying to navigate college life.

I’ve long since wanted to make my own fried chicken. The problem? For as many pieces of amazing, juicy chicken with crunchy breading that I’ve had, I’ve experienced a greater number of disappointing fried chicken with dry meat and soggy breading. I wanted to make sure I created the former, not the latter. I’m happy to report that this recipe nails it!

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I settled on Thomas Keller’s recipe from At Hoc at Home for one primary reason: it included an overnight brine of the chicken. After making a brined and deep-fried turkey for the first time this past Thanksgiving, I was 100% sold on the process. I reasoned that doing the same thing to fried chicken would no doubt have the same amazing result. My gamble paid off big-time. I bit into my first piece of chicken – a breast – and there was literally juice dripping out of it. I have never known white meat to be so tender and juicy. The brine not only added juiciness, but wonderful flavor as well. It was subtle enough to not overpower the chicken or the breading, yet you could taste it, and it was the perfect complement to the breading.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Speaking of the breading, I changed up the original recipe a bit to create more of a shaggy, extra-crispy exterior very similar to the General Tso’s Chicken and Sesame Chicken I’ve made. Adding some liquid to the final dry breading makes all the difference in the world. The breading on the chicken is thick and extra-crunchy, just how I like it!

Now if you don’t mind, I’m going to grab another drumstick (my favorite part!) and maybe whip up some macaroni and cheese to go along with it. I love when college memories and grown-up cooking collides, don’t you?

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

One year ago: Key Lime Pie
Two years ago: Raspberry Streusel Bars
Three years ago: 7 of the Best Ice Cream Recipes
Six years ago: Cheesy Baked Ziti with Sausage

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 15 hours

An out-of-this-world recipe for buttermilk fried chicken, which includes a 12-hour brine.

Ingredients:

2 (2½ to 3 pound) chickens, cut into breasts, thighs, drumsticks and wings

For the Brine:
5 lemons, halved
24 bay leaves
1 bunch (4 ounces) fresh parsley
1 bunch (1 ounce) fresh thyme
½ cup honey
1 head garlic, halved horizontally
¾ cup black peppercorns
2 cups kosher salt
2 gallons water

For the Coating and Dredging:
6 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup garlic powder
¼ cup onion powder
4 teaspoons paprika
4 teaspoons cayenne
4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart + 6 tablespoons buttermilk, divided

For Frying:
2 to 3 quarts peanut or canola oil

Directions:

1. Prepare the Brine: Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large stockpot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Pour the brine into a large container, add the chicken pieces and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours (don't refrigerate for much longer, or the chicken will be too salty).

2. Prepare the Chicken: Remove the chicken from the brine and rinse under cold water, washing off any particles from the brine stuck to the chicken. Pat dry with paper towels and let sit at room temperature for 1½ hours, or until it reaches room temperature.

3. Prepare the Coating and Dredging Station: Fill a large pot with at least 2 inches of frying oil, place it over medium heat and heat to 320 degrees F. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and place it to the side of the pot of oil to drain the cooked chicken.

4. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Divide the mixture between two shallow bowls. Pour 1 quart of the buttermilk into a third shallow bowl. Add the 6 tablespoons of buttermilk to one of bowls with the flour mixture and use a fork or your fingers to toss the mixture together - all of the moisture from the buttermilk should be absorbed and the mixture should look a little shaggy. Set up the station in this order: chicken pieces, dry flour mixture, buttermilk and shaggy flour mixture, then a parchment-lined baking sheet.

5. Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of shaggy coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.

6. Fry the Chicken: Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11 to 12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through (should register 170 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the chicken drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

7. Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin-side-up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. Ensure that the oil has returned to 320 degrees F, and cook the chicken drumsticks for about 8 minutes, checking for doneness as you did with the thighs. When the drumsticks are done, transfer them to the cooling rack skin-side-up.

8. Increase the heat slightly and bring the oil up to 340 degees F. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through (should register 165 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer), and crisp. Transfer to the rack, skin-side-up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat. Allow the chicken to rest for about 10 minutes before serving. If made ahead, the chicken can be placed in a 400 degree F oven for a few minutes to warm up.

Notes:

  • I bought a chicken that was already cut up into pieces from the grocery store. It's a little more expensive, but it definitely saves time (and some mess) if you're looking for a little shortcut.
  • If you don't have time for the brine (it needs to boil, then cool to room temperature, then be completely chilled before using), you could do the following: Place 1 quart buttermilk and the chicken in a resealable plastic bag, and refrigerate overnight, then proceed with the rest of the recipe as written. You won't get as much flavor this way, but it saves quite a bit of time.

(Recipe adapted Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller)

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45 Responses to “Buttermilk Fried Chicken”

  1. Pamela @ Brooklyn Farm Girl on May 14, 2013 at 12:11 am

    I have never made homemade fried chicken but always have wanted to try it. Drumsticks are my favorite part too, which is a good thing as my husband doesn’t like them at all. :) Pinning now – thanks!

    Reply

  2. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com on May 14, 2013 at 12:20 am

    I love the brine used here. Makes for a tasty and moist fried chicken! Yum!

    Reply

  3. Meg on May 14, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Oh gosh this looks incredible! I had a friend who worked at a bakery and thus would be the Bread Fairy after her shift and we thought THIS was a treat….why didn’t I befriend anyone from KFC, duh! This chicken looks finger-licking good!!! xx

    Reply

  4. Jarome on May 14, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Fried Chicken is my all time favorite and with this recipe you make it more delicious. Thank you for sharing this. XOXO

    Reply

  5. Marie @ Little Kitchie on May 14, 2013 at 6:45 am

    I’ve heard only the best things about this recipe, and yours does look absolutely divine! The crust is a gorgeous color! Yum!!!

    Reply

  6. Lori on May 14, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Thanks for sharing Michelle. I am going to make this recipe real soon.

    Reply

  7. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers on May 14, 2013 at 7:51 am

    Wow, looks amazing! I have to say I have never had homemade fried chicken, only KFC, if that is even real chicken. :) Awesome recipe!

    Reply

  8. Tracey on May 14, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Yum, fried chicken is the ultimate comfort food for me. I’ve heard Thomas Keller’s recipe is the very best, I can’t wait to try this!

    Reply

  9. Tieghan on May 14, 2013 at 8:13 am

    Looks perfect! I have to give this recipe a try!

    Reply

  10. Holly @ EatGreatBEGreat on May 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Fried chicken is the best! Great recipe!

    Reply

  11. Ellen @ The Baking Bluenoser on May 14, 2013 at 8:49 am

    That chicken looks so crispy and delicious! I haven’t had fried chicken in ages. And you’re right, the freshman fifteen are totally worth it if you’re making friends while you’re at it! Great recipe!

    Reply

  12. Leah | So, How's It Taste? on May 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Your fried chicken looks way better than KFC! You’ve got me craving it now!

    Reply

  13. Stephanie @ Girl Versus Dough on May 14, 2013 at 9:25 am

    This chicken looks AMAZING. I haven’t had fried chicken in so long but I need to remedy that ASAP with this recipe!

    Reply

  14. tracy duncan on May 14, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Is it okay to just use all breasts with no skin or bone?

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 15th, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Hi Tracy, I think you could, although it would affect the cooking time.

      Reply

  15. Nancy P.@thebittersideofsweet on May 14, 2013 at 10:09 am

    I never do KFC but fried chicken has to be one of my favorite things to eat!

    Reply

  16. JustDanae on May 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Husband and I had the good fortune of dining at Ad Hoc in Napa Valley last year. Simple goodness from the first bite and sip to the last. Fabulous fried chicken and worth the extra brine step.

    Reply

  17. Pam on May 14, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Can I use this same receipe for chicken tenders? Do I need to make any adjustments?

    Reply

    • Michelle on May 15th, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Hi Pam, I don’t see why not, although it may not take as long to cook chicken tenders.

      Reply

  18. nessa on May 14, 2013 at 10:53 am

    These look really yummy. I’m sure my whole family will love!

    Reply

  19. The Twilight Chef on May 14, 2013 at 11:01 am

    This recipe looks fabulous. I love KFC but am quite sure this homemade version will be far superior! Can’t wait to try it. Thanks!

    Reply

  20. Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes on May 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

    I was in Georgia last week and all the restaurants had amazing fried chicken! I bet yours lives up to theirs :)

    Reply

  21. Marcie @ Flavor The Moments on May 14, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I’ve been to Ad-Hoc, and it’s AMAZING, but I’ve yet to experience the fried chicken. I saw this recipe published in the newspaper and clipped it, because it sounds like the ultimate. You did a stand up job — your chicken looks so crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside! I’ve got to either (1) get over to Ad-Hoc, or (2) make my own!

    Reply

  22. Jerry | Simply Good Eating on May 14, 2013 at 11:46 am

    If Im going to splurge on fried food, this has got to be the one thing it will be on. This fried chicken looks amazingly delicious! Cant wait to try this out :)

    Reply

  23. Hillary on May 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I don’t know if I’d ever consider a Thomas Keller recipe to be a “gamble”. They are pretty much always home runs.

    Reply

  24. Joshua Hampton (Cooking Classes San Diego) on May 14, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Haven’t had good homemade fried chicken in a while. Will definitely try this, since the recipe is too pretty to resist. Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply

  25. Arthur in the Garden! on May 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Here in the South I grew up on this at least once a week! Its the best!

    Reply

  26. Katie @ Blonde Ambition on May 14, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    I love college memories like that. I wouldn’t take back my Freshman 15 either…the time I spent gaining that weight includes some of my fondest memories!
    Your description of this chicken is in-sane. Definitely have to add this to my Cooking Bucket List!

    Reply

  27. shelly (cookies and cups) on May 15, 2013 at 10:16 am

    I have always been a little scared of trying to fry chicken…you have inspired me!!

    Reply

  28. Laura Dembowski on May 15, 2013 at 9:57 pm

    Those freshman fried chicken sessions sounds like a blast! I’ve never actually had fried chicken! It’s on the list of foods I really want to try.

    Reply

  29. Angie on May 16, 2013 at 11:43 pm

    wow. these are the most awesome fried chicken I’ve ever seen. it’s lunch time for me! definitely will try it out.

    angie
    stylechats.com

    Reply

  30. Kim in RI on May 20, 2013 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing the recipe! While it certainly tasted good, the chicken was not nearly as pretty as yours! A little well done, but the chicken was still delicious!

    Reply

  31. Jocelyn (Grandbaby Cakes) on May 22, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    Your fried chicken looks so incredible, so crunchy on the outside and so moist on the inside!

    Reply

  32. Inggrid on June 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    i just made this, but in chicken strips version, woowwww… it’s the best fried chicken i’ve ever cooked. so crunchy on the outside n moist on the inside.. thx 4 recipe. i’m sure i will make this more often

    Reply

  33. Anthea Turner on June 16, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Wonderful recipe as always! One question: what would you recommend as side please? Thanks and keep up the yumminess!

    Reply

    • Michelle on June 17th, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      You could do anything that you like! Some of my favorites sides for fried chicken are mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, biscuits, etc.

      Reply

  34. Brad - Now that's good eatin' on March 5, 2014 at 6:36 am

    This looks sssoooooo good. Being from the south, I have eaten PLENTY of fried chicken, and the best I have ever had has always had the buttermilk coating. It really helps to hold things together and adds just the right amount of twang.

    Reply

  35. Shari on March 31, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Did you use two whole cut up chickens or one? Want to know if I need to halve the brine. Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on April 1st, 2014 at 5:31 pm

      Hi Shari, The brine recipe should not be altered if you use the amount of chicken called for in the recipe (5 to 6 total pounds).

      Reply

  36. Buck Ofama on April 9, 2014 at 1:33 am

    this chicken is so good that the first moooooch slapped Barry when he picked up a gizzard! It’s beeezed goods!

    Reply

  37. Lisa Haddad on April 17, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Do you strain the brine prior to adding the chicken?

    Reply

    • Michelle on April 18th, 2014 at 9:54 am

      Hi Lisa, No, don’t strain the brine.

      Reply

      • Lisa Haddad on April 18th, 2014 at 5:15 pm

        Thank you! Trying tonight :)

        Reply

  38. misshomecook on August 27, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Hi there!! :)
    Have question regarding your statement below:
    Speaking of the breading, I changed up the original recipe a bit to create more of a shaggy, extra-crispy exterior very similar to the General Tso’s Chicken and Sesame Chicken I’ve made. Adding some liquid to the final dry breading makes all the difference in the world. The breading on the chicken is thick and extra-crunchy, just how I like it!

    what did you change in the actual recipe? :) what do you mean by adding some liquid to the final breading? :) how’d you do it? :) thank you so much!! :)

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 27th, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Hi there, The directions for adding liquid to the breading are included in step #4. The original recipe only called for a dry final breading, I added some buttermilk. The recipe is written the way I made it, there was nothing changed from the way it is currently written.

      Reply

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