Shhhh...It's a Secret Buttermilk Fried Chicken

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"This is a fried chicken recipe that starts with a brine and is meticulously written for the cook to achieve superb results. How does one say "COMFORT FOOD". Though the instructions makes this recipe seem long, it's quite easy for the fact that it is prepared ahead and then finished the next day. On the second day, I had dinner ready in no time. It also achieved great results when I used chicken tenders (refer to the Note at the end of the recipe regarding skinless/boneless pieces before proceeding with the recipe). Source: Thomas Keller with modification of my own"

Original recipe yields 10-12 servings
  • FOR BRINE - It is enough for 10 lbs. of chicken, therefore you may want to adjust the amount of brine to match the amount of chicken you are making)


  • Serving Size: 1 (1322.4 g)
  • Calories 631.6
  • Total Fat - 7.6 g
  • Saturated Fat - 2.9 g
  • Cholesterol - 282.9 mg
  • Sodium - 23573 mg
  • Total Carbohydrate - 110 g
  • Dietary Fiber - 10.3 g
  • Sugars - 22.9 g
  • Protein - 37.2 g
  • Calcium - 327.9 mg
  • Iron - 7.8 mg
  • Vitamin C - 79.4 mg
  • Thiamin - 0.3 mg

Step by Step Method

Step 1

Cut each chicken into 10 pieces: 2 legs, 2 thighs, 4 breast quarters, and 2 wings. Pour the brine into a container large enough to hold the chicken, add in the chicken, and refrigerate for 12 hours (no longer, or the chicken may become too salty).

Step 2

Remove the chicken from the brine (discard the brine), removing any herbs or spices sticking to the skin. Pat dry with paper towels, or let air-dry. Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature. (NOTE: I didn't let it rest due to my personal schedule).

Step 3

If you have two large pots (about 6 inches deep) and a lot of oil, you can cook the dark and white meat at the same time; if not, cook the dark meat first, then turn up the heat and cook the white meat. No matter what size pot you have, the oil should not come more than one-third of the way up the sides of the pot. Fill the pot with at least 2-inches of peanut oil and heat to 320-degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 4

Set a cooling rack over a baking sheet. Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Meanwhile, combine all the coating ingredients in a large bowl.

Step 5

Transfer half the coating to a second large bowl. Pour the buttermilk into a third bowl and season with salt and pepper. Set up a dipping station; the chicken pieces, one bowl of coating, the bowl of buttermilk, the second bowl of coating, and the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Step 6

Just before frying, dip the chicken thighs into the first bowl of coating, turning to coat and patting off the excess; dip them into the buttermilk, allowing the excess to run back into the bowl; then dip them into the second bowl of coating. Transfer to the parchment-lined pan.

Step 7

Carefully lower the thighs into the hot oil. Adjust the heat as necessary to return the oil to the proper temperature. Fry for 2 minutes, then carefully move the chicken pieces around in the oil and continue to fry, monitoring the oil temperature and turning the pieces as necessary for even cooking, for 11-12 minutes, until the chicken is a deep golden brown, cooked through, and very crisp. Meanwhile, coat the drumsticks and transfer to the parchment-lined pan.

Step 8

Transfer the cooked thighs to the cooling rack skin side up and let rest while you fry the remaining chicken. (Putting the pieces skin side up will allow excess fat to drain, whereas leaving them skin side down could trap some of the fat.) Make sure that the oil is at the correct temperature, and cook the chicken drumsticks. When the drumsticks are done, lean them meat side up against the thighs to drain, then sprinkle the chicken with fine sea salt.

Step 9

Turn up the heat and heat the oil to 340-degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, coat the chicken breasts and wings. Carefully lower the chicken breasts into the hot oil and fry for 7 minutes, or until golden brown, cooked through, and crisp. Transfer to the rack, sprinkle with salt, and turn skin side up. Cook the wings for 6 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer the wings to the rack and turn off the heat. Arrange the chicken on a serving platter. Add the herb sprigs to the oil (which will still be hot) and let them cook and crisp for a few seconds, then arrange them over the chicken.

CHICKEN BRINE (makes 2 gallons)

Step 10

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and cool completely, then chill before using. The brine can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

BRINE NOTE: The key ingredient here is the lemon, which goes wonderfully with chicken, as do the herbs: bay leaf, parsley, thyme, and rosemary. This amount of brine will be enough for 10 pounds. If using another brand of kosher salt, use exactly 10 ounces.

General NOTE: Let the chicken rest for 7-10 minutes after it comes out of the fryer so that it has a chance to cool down. If the chicken has rested for longer than 10 minutes, put the tray of chicken in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for a minute or two to ensure that the crust is crisp and the chicken is hot

NOTE (when using skinless/boneless chicken pieces): I've made this recipe using chicken tenders. When doing this, make sure to cut the amount of salt in the brine by half because the chicken pieces are smaller and the fact that there is no skin will penetrate the salt much deeper.

Tips & Variations

No special items needed.


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