Make Ahead

Classic Southern Buttermilk Bathed Fried Chicken

September  6, 2009
Photo by Alpha Smoot
Author Notes

This fried chicken was nearly two decades in the making. Growing up in the panhandle of Florida before spending 8 eight years cooking in Birmingham, AL this recipe has been tested, tweeked, refined and perfected through out the years. The spice rub and buttermilk brine give the chicken flavor and tenderness like no other. And the trick to frying is starting with a lower temperature that increases through coking to insure perfect crispness and the right amount of browning. —Chef James

Test Kitchen Notes

Chef James writes that this recipe took nearly 20 years to develop, and we think it shows. The result is intensely flavorful and expertly spiced chicken with a crisp, dark skin reminiscent of parchment. The meat gets coated in a lively spice rub before being doused with buttermilk and hot sauce, which adds another layer of heat. The brine tenderizes the dark meat, and then it’s time for a quick dusting of flour and a date with the fryer. Chef James calls for oil that starts at 325 degrees and gradually climbs to 350, but we found that our chicken ended up a bit dark. For our second batch we started at 300 degrees and maxed out at about 340, which produced a perfect mahogany crust. All fryers are different, though, so just keep an eye on the browning and adjust your temperature accordingly. – A&M —The Editors

  • Serves 6
  • Spice Rub
  • 6 chicken leg quarters (leg and thigh separated)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • Butter milk Brine
  • 1-2 quarts buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons vinegar-based hot sauce
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • peanut or canola oil for frying
In This Recipe
  1. In a medium bowl, mix all of the dry spices. Add chicken and toss until well coated. Let the mixture stand at room temp (if cooking within 4 hours) or refrigerated in a large bowl for one hour.
  2. Pour enough buttermilk over the chicken to cover completely and stir in the hot sauce. Leave on the countertop for one to three hours, or refrigerate up to 24 hr. Pour chicken legs into colander and allow excess buttermilk to drain.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour with salt and pepper to season well. One-by-one add the chicken pieces, making sure they are thoroughly coated with flour on all sides. Leave them in the bowl with the excess flour while you wait on the oil.
  4. Fill a very large pot 4-6 inches deep with oil and heat to 325 degrees. Grab each piece of chicken and slap it back and forth between your hands a few times to knock off the excess flour before slipping it into the oil. As the legs go into the oil, the temperature will drop. Turn the flame to high to increase the temperature to 350 as the chicken cooks. Cook 12-18 minutes until golden brown and at least 160 degrees at the bone, Remove to a rack to drain and season immediately with salt. Cool a few minutes and serve.
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