Monday 1 August 2016

Buttermilk Fried Chicken

New and improved recipe! I shared a post on how to make this 2 or 3 years ago but I encountered an issue with the temperature of my oil and I've been meaning to make a redemption post ever since. I actually removed the original post so it's no longer on the site. This is the recipe you want to follow. I mean, is there anybody in the world who eats chicken and doesn't like fried chicken? Classic, southern, soulful comfort food at its finest. Crispy on the outside, hot and juicy on the inside... Umph! Many cultures around the world have their own traditional version of this dish. This is closest to the American method.

It's called buttermilk fried chicken because it's marinated in buttermilk before it's breaded and fried. Buttermilk is essentially milk that is partially fermented and therefore thicker in texture and sour in flavour. It's often used in baked goods, pancakes and dumplings as a flavour enhancer. In this recipe however, the lactic acid in the buttermilk helps to tenderize the meat and helps it to retain juices, almost like a brine. You can always skip the buttermilk step and still make some very nice fried chicken. But it's a worthy step! If you don't have any buttermilk you can cheat by making a substitute out of whole milk and either fresh lemon juice or white vinegar. For every cup of milk whisk in one tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar. Let it stand for 10 minutes. It will curdle slightly. It won't end up as thick as real buttermilk, but it works just the same. The real stuff also helps the breading to stick to the kitchen. If you skip the buttermilk step completely, you'll need to dip your pieces of chicken in a couple of beaten eggs instead. 

Feel free to add whatever spices to your breading. Some people add dried herbs in their breading. I've had fried chicken with Indian spices and Chinese 5-spice, both of which were interesting. You can do whatever you like. The spices in this recipe work very well I find. If you'd rather no heat at all then you can omit the cayenne. I used a bit of ground cumin in this recipe which isn't exactly a traditional spice for this, but cumin always goes so well with chicken and it adds a nice smoky flavour. 



1 chicken, whole
2 cups buttermilk
2.5 quarts (10 cups) oil for frying
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Cayenne, optional or to taste


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional or to taste)

Rinse the chicken with cold water and then thoroughly pat it dry with paper towel. 

Cut off the wing tips and set aside. Remove the spine and ribs of the chicken in one piece. A cleaver works best for this job. Don't be too discouraged if it doesn't come out perfectly. The back piece and wing tips can be discarded or reserved for stock. 

The rest of the chicken we're going to use for this recipe. Pop each wing out of the socket. You can feel around to find the joint and cut accordingly. I like to keep both parts of the wing intact (flat and drum). Pop each leg out of the socket and cut along the joint. If you squeeze each knee you can feel where the thigh bone meets the bone of the drumstick. Cut along the seam of the joint to separate the two pieces. Then chop the two breasts apart and each breast into two halves again. It's easier than it sounds. By the end you should have something that looks like this, (from left: 4 chicken breast halves, 2 drumsticks, 2 thighs, 2 wings). 

Season the chicken pieces generously but to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne. Mix to incorporate evenly. 

Cover the chicken in buttermilk. Allow to marinate in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, overnight is preferred. 

Combine all of the ingredients for the breading and whisk them together to evenly incorporate.

Remove the seasoned pieces of chicken from the buttermilk and roll in the breading mixture a few at a time. Be sure to coat evenly and get every nook and crevice. 

Meanwhile, heat 2.5 quarts (10 cups) of oil over medium heat in a large pot or dutch oven. The hot oil will displace when you add the chicken so ensure that you have at least 1/4 width between the oil and the rim of the pot. Cast iron works best. Use an oil suitable for frying, meaning it has a high smoke point. Canola, peanut, vegetable and grapeseed are all good options. Ideally you want the oil to reach 350 Fahrenheit/177 Celsius. If you don't have a thermometer, test the oil with the tip of wooden spoon or a sprinkling of flour. When the oil just starts to sizzle (similar to the bubbles in soda) the oil is ready. I fried the chicken in 2 batches of 5 pieces each. 

Once in a while use a pair of metal tongs to carefully move the chicken around a little just to ensure they aren't sticking. It takes about 15-20 minutes to cook all the way through. Your second batch will cook a bit faster. Rather than time it, use your eyes as your guide. The chicken is ready when it begins to float in the oil and has a golden, brown colour all over. 

Carefully remove the chicken from the oil and place on a wire rack lined with paper towel beneath it. While they're hot season with a little more salt. Let them rest for at least 10 minutes (or you risk burning your mouth). 

There you have it! This is not a very complicated recipe. Always be sure to be careful when you deep fry anything. Kitchen safety is paramount. If you can handle that, you can handle this dish. It's great any time of year. It's a crowd-favourite the world over. It doesn't fall into either the clean or healthy eating categories but once in a while it's a real treat! Fried chicken goes with all kinds of great sides like mashed potatoes, yams, coleslaw, potato salad, rice, corn, green beans, biscuits and two of my personal favourites: mac n cheese and collard greens.

Now that is a beautiful plate of soul food, don't you think? Time to get some fried chicken in your life!


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