Crispy Buttermilk Fried Chicken

feeds as many as you like

Music Pairing: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Marvin Gaye (with Tammi Terrell)

This really isn’t a recipe, but a rough meditation on making fried chicken. Whatever you’ve learned about fried chicken, I can promise you no one has shared the real secret to getting that crisp skin. In fact, when I told one very well known southern chef about the trick another chef told me, her eyes went wide as she said “wow, he really gave away the family secrets”.

These are the two.most.important things you need to know to make incredibly crisp fried chicken every time:

1) Pat your chicken dry before dredging it in flour.

2) Let the chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes after you’ve floured it, so the flour can set.

The type of flour you use is not as crucial as the resting time. I know, I was shocked by that, too. After years of being a White Lily devotee, I played around with other flours. Necessity was the mother of my recipe testing, after finding myself without a gram of White Lily in the house last week. I decided to give cake flour a try, figuring it was closer in texture to the holy grail of flour. It produced a lovely, light, crispy skin. Almost, too light, but we all devoured it. Even me, the girl who doesn’t like chicken, was lusting after it. A few days later, I made buttermilk fried chicken bites by simply cutting a few breasts into tiny, bite-sized pieces. For that batch, I used all-purpose white flour, and it was great. I have a hunch my “00” pizza flour would be incredible, but my supply is dangerously low. I’m not willing to risk incredible pizza and bread for this experiment. I’ll give that a try when I stock up on more flour.

So, what else do you need to make kick ass fried chicken?

Add some buttermilk to a bowl or heavy duty ziptop bag; the amount all depends on how much chicken you’re cooking. I use about 1 cup for a whole chicken. Add salt, pepper, and paprika, if using. Don’t fret so much about the pepper and paprika; go with an amount that suits your spice preference. Be careful with the salt— a generous pinch should be fine. Add the chicken to the buttermilk mixture. Cover the dish, or seal the bag closed, and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

When you’re ready to get frying, line a rimmed sheet pan with a few paper towels. Shake any excess buttermilk off the chicken, and lay it single layer on the pan. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel.

Add some flour to a pie plate; I use 1 1/2 to 2  cups for a whole chicken. Season with salt (a generous pinch), black pepper, and paprika, if using. Place a piece of chicken in the flour, toss some flour on top, and press the chicken down into the pan so it can get a good coating. Shake excess flour off, and place the chicken on a sheet pan or dish. Repeat with the remaining chicken.

Meanwhile heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium-low heat. The oil temperature should be 350F to 360F. Honestly, I never use a thermometer, and always eyeball it. Just don’t blast the heat, you need a slow, steady flame, or the outside will burn before the chicken is cooked. When the oil is shimmering, is a good indicator that it’s ready for frying.

Add the chicken, being careful not to crowd the pan (or else you’ll create too much steam). Better to fry in batches, or use two skillets if you want to cook it all at the same time. Resist the temptation to poke and prod it, too. Let it go until you see a deep golden outer edge. You only want to flip it once, and turning too soon might disturb the flour coating.

Drain fried chicken on a wire rack set over a sheet pan. Immediately sprinkle a few flakes of salt on top once the chicken comes out of the skillet. The heat helps the salt stick to it. Serve immediately.

Double Crispy Fried Chicken

Some times I give the chicken a second dredge in flour just before placing it in the oil. It makes for a thicker, double coating, which I especially recommend for making bite-sized pieces.