Classic Southern Buttermilk Bathed Fried Chicken

September 6, 2009


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

Food52 Review: 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&MThe Editors

Serves: 6

Ingredients

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

Directions

  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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Reviews (24) Questions (2)

24 Reviews

Austin B. July 8, 2018
Judging from his comments below, and the recipe itself, the salt and pepper get added with the flour, which could probably be cut to 3 cups, maybe 4 at most. I'd scale the salt/pepper to match with the flour.
 
jessbair October 26, 2016
I have the same question about the salt, did we ever solve this?
 
Amanda S. April 3, 2015
This was just amazing. AMAZING! Make it now. I even tripled the recipe and it worked. I did use less salt, overall, but it wasn't noticed. So good. MAKE IT! :)
 
okaykate April 29, 2014
did anyone ever clarify or amend the recipe about the when the salt should be added?
 
ErinC September 30, 2013
I made this last night and it was delicious! I used bone-in chicken thighs and subbed herbs de provence for the marjoram, since it's what I had on hand. The chicken was so tender and had a nice spice to it! Will definitely make this again! Thanks Chef James!
 
Von S. April 13, 2013
This was very good. I doubled the recipe for 12 drumsticks and brined for 24 hours. The result was a bit salty for my taste. Looking back at the recipe, I see that it was not necessary to double the recipe because the original does call for 12 pieces. However, I really liked the herb flavor, so next time I just wont double the salt. Thank you! It was delicious, and I will definitely make again!
 
mojo November 8, 2012
I would love to know what hot sauce you think makes the best fried chicken. Pretty please!
 
csemsack July 26, 2013
Tabasco
 
Rob H. May 6, 2012
This was hands down the best fried chicken preparation I've tried yet! I was a little cautious about the time leaving the chicken out to brine, but it turned out to be exceptional. The hardest part was finessing the oil temperature. <br />Thank you Chef James your accuracy is profound.
 
mmsoden February 20, 2012
I just made this and it was amazing. My first time making fried chicken and it was as goof if not better than any I've ever had. I have a few questions: 1) Was there ever clarification on when to add the salt? I had mine as part of the brine (included in the "add all the dry spices" step), but I'm reading here that some were unclear. 2) Why 6 cups of flour? I used 6 and ended up with A LOT leftover. 3) Recommendation on "double dipping" i.e. fry, then re-coat with flour, and re-fry? would I need to re-dip in buttermilk as a binder or is the oil enough to get a good coat of flour for the second time around? Thanks! This was a really fun cooking experience.
 
chef.luis February 19, 2011
Chef James... Excellent recipe!! I used your buttermilk recipe and marinated/brined the chicken with it overnight, and the cooking day (today) when I tryed to make the rub, I found out that I didn't have a couple of ingredients, but since I have already my own rub, also a very southern one, I used mine but following your instructions and the chicken was an absolute succes with my friends. Thanks for sharing!
 
mcd9600 December 30, 2010
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. <br /> <br />In the above step is this the ONLY time salt and pepper should be added? In step 1 you say mix all of the dry ingredents then in step 3 you say mix with salt and pepper. Please let me know.
 
TexInTheKitchen September 12, 2010
I just told KFC to suck it! I just made this and I will never buy fried chicken again. EVER.
 
Laurel W. June 1, 2010
Made this for me and the hubby this Memorial Day weekend as part of our "picnic" dinner....Recipe turned out awesome!!!! We really enjoyed it!!! When we make it again, will likely use less salt/no salt on the chicken with the rub. Chicken turned out very salty after frying. I mean, I know its fried chicken and its supposed to be salty, but I lean on the edge of always having things be shy of salt. Might even add a bit more hot sauce!
 
lksugarman September 23, 2009
Buttermilk and hot sauce is a marinade, not a brine. A brine, by definition, has to include salt.<br /><br />http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brine<br />Brine (lat. saltus) is water saturated or nearly saturated with a salt (usually sodium chloride).<br /><br />I know this does not affect the recipe, unless salt was left out of it. Accuracy is critical in every successful recipe and many other aspects of life.
 
Author Comment
Chef J. October 26, 2009
Thank you for thoughts on this. However, Using a vinegar based hot sauce and cultured buttermilk (naturally containing sodium and sugar in the form of lactose) it does act as brine by creating osmotic movement from the liquid to the meat. Those same elements have the flavoring and tenderizing effect of marinade as well.
 
Author Comment
Chef J. October 26, 2009
Thank you for thoughts on this. However, Using a vinegar based hot sauce and cultured buttermilk (naturally containing sodium and sugar in the form of lactose) it does act as brine by creating osmotic movement from the liquid to the meat. Those same elements have the flavoring and tenderizing effect of marinade as well.
 
Gale February 14, 2010
Are we being just a bit anal here? Accuracy is only critical in horseshoes (and baking) - a bit more or less buttermilk might not be accurate, but it's hardly fatal. Loosen up, you might like it.<br /><br />This is a great recipe for Southern Fried and works perfectly - thanks for all your hard work.
 
Rokovak August 24, 2011
Most major brands of hot sauce DO contain salt. Tobasco, RedHot, etc.
 
BoulderGalinTokyo February 9, 2012
No buttermilk here. For baking I usually sub lemon juice and milk. Would that work in this step or not? Thank you.
 
alisafoodista September 19, 2009
I love this and thank you for sharing this recipe! There's really nothing like some good ol southern fried chicken! I hope you could also drop by www.foodista.com and share your wonderful recipe with us! Thanks!
 
Francesca September 16, 2009
I lived in New York for many years and loved eating at KFC...here in Sicily we don't have it and I really miss southern fried chicken...you can imagine how happy I was to find this recipe. Just today I bought some chicken pieces so now I know how to cook it! Francesca, Sicily
 
Francesca September 16, 2009
I lived in New York for many years and loved eating at KFC...here in Sicily we don't have it and I really miss southern fried chicken...you can imagine how happy I was to find this recipe. Just today I bought some chicken pieces so now I know how to cook it! Francesca, Sicily
 
Maria T. September 16, 2009
I admire your love in perfecting this recipe. I will give it a try. Thank you for sharing your recipe. <br />Maria Teresa Jorge - Italy