How to Make Classic Fried Chicken
A recipe from The Southerner's Cookbook
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: if you are one of the fortunate ones whose grandmother showed you how to conjure crisp, golden delicious fried chicken from a cast-iron skillet and a can of Crisco, say a prayer of thanks. And please invite us over for dinner.
But if you’re not, this recipe should do the trick. Golden, crisp but not crunchy, and lightly seasoned with a little cayenne kick, this is fried chicken in its most fundamental form.
Classic Fried Chicken
Serves 4 to 6
1 (3 1/2-to 4-pound) whole chicken, with neck, liver, and gizzard removed, cut into 10 pieces (wings, legs, thighs, and quarter breasts)
For the Brine
1 gallon water
¾ cup kosher salt
1 tablespoon herbs or spices, such as poultry seasoning (optional)
For the Dip
1 quart buttermilk
2 tablespoons hot sauce
For the Dredge
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Peanut oil for frying
2 tablespoons bacon grease (optional, for flavor)
To make the brine, in a stockpot, bring 4 cups of the water to a boil over high heat and whisk in the salt until dissolved and herbs, if using. Remove the pan from the heat, add the remaining water, and let cool to room temperature. Place the chicken pieces in the stockpot or divide the chicken and brine between large zip-top bags and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. When you’re ready to fry, drain and rinse the chicken pieces thoroughly, then pat them dry with paper towels.
To dredge the chicken, set a wire rack over a baking sheet. Combine the buttermilk and hot sauce in a shallow pan or bowl. Mix the flour, salt, pepper, and cayenne in a second shallow pan or bowl. Dip the chicken pieces into the buttermilk mixture, then into the seasoned flour, shaking off excess. Set the breaded chicken pieces on the rack, transfer the baking sheet to the refrigerator, and let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour to set the crust.
To fry the chicken, fill a Dutch oven or a large, deep-sided cast-iron skillet with 1 inch of oil and the bacon grease, if using. Clip a frying thermometer to the side of the pot, place over medium-high heat, and bring the oil to 350˚F. (The temperature will drop considerably when the chicken is added; you’ll want to regulate the heat to maintain a temperature of about 325˚F as you fry the chicken.) Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and fry skin-side down in batches of no more than 4 pieces at a time for 8 minutes per side, until the meat registers 165˚F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken with tongs to a wire rack set over a paper towel–lined baking sheet. Repeat until all the chicken is fried. Let the chicken cool for 20 minutes before serving.