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Brined and Fried Chicken

Crunchy, juicy, flavorful…I mean, what more could you possibly want in a bite of homemade fried chicken?!

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Homemade fried chicken is a comfort food for the ages. A crispy-crunchy exterior, beautifully seasoned, and a tender, juicy interior is the combination to unlock a truly delicious fried chicken. I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with achieving the perfect fried chicken and I think this is well on its way to reaching that pinnacle status. At the very least, it’s pretty darn good, and that’s why it’s my go-to when I want to serve up this classic dish.

Brine and batter are the essential Bs to a crispy and juicy fried chicken. The brine begins with buttermilk, sugar, and salt and the chicken pieces spend a good amount of time in that brine. Buttermilk helps to tenderize the chicken and creates a surface upon which the batter will stick.

We can all appreciate how important the batter is to fried chicken, and to that end, I’ve got a combination of ingredients that help to achieve essential texture and flavor. Cornstarch and baking powder are a must as both work together to crisp the exterior as it fries. But the crunchy crust needs to also have flavor, and cayenne, garlic, onion, paprika, salt, and pepper do just the trick.

My fried chicken has three basic steps, the first two – brining and batter – have been done, and now it’s time for the final step: frying. I’ve got a pot filled with six cups of canola oil that’s been heated to 350°F. The temperature of the oil should be watched closely; the chicken needs to cook evenly at a consistent temperature to ensure that the meat is cooked through. You may need to lower the temperature as you work through the batches of chicken pieces.

Once cooked, I place the chicken on a wire rack that sits atop a sheet pan then put that sheet pan into the oven to keep the pieces warm. I will fry the chicken a second time, in the same oil, and very briefly, only about three minutes. I immediately sprinkle the warm chicken pieces with salt.

Just look at these golden beauties! I am so ready to dive right in and give these a try. Crunchy, juicy, flavorful…I mean, what more could you possibly want in a bite of homemade fried chicken?! If you’ve ever felt intimidated by making fried chicken at home, I suggest that you get brave and give this recipe a try! It’s a combination of simple ingredients and easy steps, and the end result is just too, too good. Enjoy!

I like to serve Brined Fried Chicken with Hot Pepper Cornbread and Honey Butter, Black-Eyed Peas and Collard Greens, Southern-Style Mac and Cheese, and Grilled Peaches and Ice Cream.

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For buttermilk brine:
  • 2 split chicken breasts, cut in two
  • 4 chicken legs
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
For spice blend:
  • 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cajun seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
For flour breading:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 6 cups vegetable oil
Preparation
  1. In a small bowl, combine your spice blend ingredients together and reserve 2 tablespoons of the spices in a separate bowl.
  2. Make the brine by whisking the buttermilk, sugar, and salt, reserving 2 tablespoons of the spice blend.
  3. Add the chicken pieces to the brine and let sit for at least 30 minutes, or up to 48 hours.
  4. Preheat a large Dutch oven with 6 cups of vegetable oil with a thermometer to 325° - 350°F.
  5. Mix the breading flour in a large mixing bowl combining the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and remaining spice blend then dredge the chicken in the flour and pat flour into every crevice. Shake off excess flour.
  6. Prepare a parchment-lined sheet tray to plate the raw breaded chicken.
  7. Fry chicken in preheated oil for 8 - 10 minutes. Only around 4 - 5 pieces at a time.
  8. Let the chicken drain on a wire rack atop a sheet tray and keep warm in a 200°F oven while frying the remaining chicken.
  9. Adjust heat for oil at a higher temperature and fry a second time for 3 minutes. Remove from oil and season with salt. Enjoy!