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Course: Mains
Keyword: Chicken, Comfort Food, Fried, Fried Chicken, Meats, Southern

Fried Chicken

Fried chicken frying in a cast-iron skillet on the set of Alton Brown's Good Eats.
ACTIVE TIME: 40 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 12 hours 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
Buttermilk is the ultimate chicken marinade because it changes the way the fatty skin responds to the hot fat, producing a crispy crust. Oh, and it tastes good, too.
What sets true Southern-fried chicken apart from deep-fried chicken is that the Southern variety is cooked in fat that's shallow enough to the pieces to actually tough the bottom of the pan, thus enhancing browning.
Note: Due to the paprika used in this recipe, the fried chicken will be very dark, even appearing burned. But do not dismay: It's still finger-licking satisfying!
This recipe first appeared in Season 4 of Good Eats and was updated in Season 1 of Good Eats: Reloaded.
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Software

  • 1 (3 1/2-pound) broiler/fryer chicken, cut into 8 pieces
  • 2 cups low-fat buttermilk
  • Vegetable shortening, for frying
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, for dredging

Specialized Hardware

  • 12-inch cast-iron skillet
  • Candy/fry thermometer
Fried chicken frying in a cast-iron skillet on the set of Alton Brown's Good Eats.
ACTIVE TIME: 40 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 12 hours 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Procedure

  • Put the chicken pieces into a plastic container and cover with buttermilk. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours, turning the meat at least once.
  • Add enough shortening to come 1/4 inch up the sides of a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Set over low heat. Once shortening liquefies, raise the heat to reach 325ºF on candy/fry thermometer. Do not allow oil to exceed 325ºF.
  • Drain chicken in a colander. Combine the salt, paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a shaker or small bowl. Liberally season the chicken with the spice mixture.
  • Put the flour in a bag or container with a lid and dredge the chicken in the flour. Shake off the excess and set aside for 2 minutes before frying.
  • Place chicken skin-side down in the pan. Put thighs in the center, and the breasts, legs and wings around the edge of the pan. The oil should come halfway up the pan. Cook chicken until golden brown on each side, 10 to 12 minutes per side. More importantly, the internal temperature should be right around 180ºF. (Be careful to monitor shortening temperature every few minutes.)
  • Drain chicken on a wire rack set over a paper towel-lined half sheet pan. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes before serving. If you need to hold the chicken before serving, cover loosely with foil but avoid holding in a warm oven.
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