Sunday, April 28, 2013

Easy Buttermilk Fried Chicken


In my last post, I shared how I, successfully,  replicated Bacon & Cheddar Buttermilk Biscuits with a Maple-Chipotle Butter. This time, I'm going to share how I made my first crispy Southern Fried Chicken, that I served with the biscuits. 

It might surprise many of you that I've never made Southern-Style Fried Chicken.  Truthfully, I don't make a lot of fried foods. When I was about nine years old, the first dinner my mother taught me to cook was fried chicken.  She taught me how to season the chicken with salt & pepper, sprinkle some flour and cook the chicken in some oil. Easy Peasy.  I don't think I've made that dish since elementary school, which goes to show that it didn't leave any kind of nostalgic childhood memory for me.

The same restaurant that inspired me to make their signature biscuits, serves a Fried Chicken dinner, every Sunday.  From what I've read, reservations sell out fast--at the cost of $36.00 per person.  After reading reviews, most people said it was the best fried chicken "ever".  Ever is a word I take very lightly.   Compared to...?

Anyway, when I calculated what our dinner tab would be, after adding a salad, side dishes (not included), and beverages/cocktails, I figured the tab would be about $100.00 for the two of us. For fried chicken?! Ouch.

My husband smacked his lips, at the mention of Fried Chicken.    Before I knew it, I blurted out "I can make it for you"!  His smile made me realize that I had just challenged myself to something new to me.

For inspiration, I checked out Cook's Illustrated and immediately settled on their "Easier Fried Chicken" recipe. For starters, their recipes uses 1-3/4 cups vegetable oil, as opposed to five cups of oil. This is a good thing, as I don't often deep fry things in oil.   I also liked the idea of brining the chicken in salted buttermilk. (The buttermilk helps to tenderize the outside layer of chicken, and the salt ensures juicy chicken.) Win!  It goes without saying that I spend a few extra bucks to buy free-range hormone-free chicken that hasn't been brined in who-knows-what. 

The buttermilk brine is seasoned with garlic powder, hot sauce, paprika, cayenne and pepper. I did this early in the morning, but can also be done overnight.

If I'm going to eat fried chicken, I want a crunchy, golden coating. Once again, Cook's Illustrated has come up with a brilliant recipe.  The flour is seasoned with the same spices as the buttermilk brine, and baking powder is added to the flour.

That's because as the chicken fries, the baking powder releases carbon dioxide gas, leavening the crust and increasing its surface area, keeping it light and crisp.1/4 cup of reserved buttermilk  is added to the dredging flour to create an ultra-crisp coating.

I used a 12" Cast-Iron skillet, bringing the oil to 375F.  This is when you want to have a trustworthy digital thermometer.  My therma pen has become one of my indispensable kitchen tools. Pricey? Yes. Accurate? Every single time!

 It takes about 3-5 minutes, per side, to achieve a beautiful golden color.

The chicken is placed on a wired rack set and onto a baking sheet.  (I have three sets of these, and use them all the time. They are indispensable, in my kitchen!) The chicken is baked until an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160 degrees for breasts and 175 for legs and thighs, 15 to 20 minutes. (Smaller pieces may cook faster than larger pieces. Remove pieces from oven as they reach -correct temperature.) Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.

TASTING NOTES:  The cost of this chicken was about $15.00 for four servings.  The coating was, indeed, crunchy and delicious.  I usually don't eat chicken skin, but this time, I enjoyed every bite. The chicken, itself, was moist.   Yes, I would make this chicken recipe again, and again.  We have a dear friend, who is from the South. I can't wait to make this for him. He's going to love it, as well as the biscuits. I'm whistling Dixie over this recipe. It's truly easy, and Cook's Illustrated hits this one right out of the ballpark! Wow!

A printable recipe is at the end of this post.

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Joanne said...

These days I absolutely REFUSE to pay exorbitant prices for food i can make, probably better, at home. Good for you for conquering this classic dish!

Karen said...

$36 for a chicken dinner!? Yikes! I'm sure your chicken was just as good... it sure looks good and crispy.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Fried chicken has become way too upscale these days.

I love the stuff, although I don't dare make it on my current eating regimen (you're killing me here Deb!) :-D I made attempts to fry it the whole way through in the past and always ended up with the chicken cooking unevenly. Thank goodness for post-baking.

It's trendy to do a saltwater brine these days, but I prefer a buttermilk brine too! I like mine in buttermilk and sriracha!

Amy @ A Couple in the Kitchen said...

That second picture made me want to grab the screen and take a bit of that drumstick! Yum!

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

Looks like you've gotten southern fried chicken down to a science Debby. It's perfect, just like when I was growing up down south.

Roz Corieri Paige said...

I'm a huge sucker for buttermilk fried chicken. Living in the South, there are so many wonderful home style fried chicken restaurants. But there's nothing like homemade! Your chicken is just beautifully tempting Debby!

Bunny said...

You just gave me my dinner idea for tonight! I have a similar recipe for fried chicken that's partially baked in the oven but I can't resist trying a Cooks Ill. recipe!! Thank YOU!!!

AdriBarr said...

What beautiful fried chicken! It is one of my husband's favorite idshes. I have never tried the Cook's Illustrated recipe, although I always soak mine in buttermilk prior to frying. Thanks for the opush to make it again. I will have to try the Cook's Illustrated Method. I am sure my husband will thank you also!

Bunny said...

I made the fried chicken lastnight and it was fantastic! This will be the recipe I use from now on! Putting the buttermilk in the flour is genius, the crunch coating and the seasoning were PERFECT!!

Debby Foodiewife said...

Bunny, thank you so much for letting me know! How can one go wrong with Cook's Ilustrated?

bellini said...

I have never really made fried chicken either Debby but you do make it look easy!!

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

Your chicken is perfect...I would guess that you had been making it for years by the looks of it.

Bill said...

You've inspired this southern boy to post a fried chicken recipe. After all, it is the quintessential southern food, right? This recipe looks delicious! Cooks Illustrated always has good tips. I love the idea of baking powder and finishing the chicken in the oven. Thanks for a great post!!

Unknown said...

Buttermilk is ESSENTIAL to fried chicken! XOGREG

Sippity Sup said...

I recently went to a dinner party and was served fried chicken. Yum I thought to myself. It was golden and crackly and GORGEOUS. So I took one big bite of a leg, and it was raw inside. I ate anyway, but man I could see the hostess cringing. I bet hers was raw too. GREG